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The 21st century is the current century of the Christian Era or Common Era in accordance with the Gregorian calendar. It began on January 1, 2001 and will end December 31, 2100.

Turn of the 21st century (2001–present)

In contemporary history, the 21st century began with the United States as the sole superpower in the absence of the Soviet Unionmarker, with several other entities, such as Chinamarker, Indiamarker and the European Union as potential superpowers in the coming decades.As the Cold War was over and terrorism said to be on the rise , the United States and its allies turned their attention to the Middle East.

Digital technology, in its early stages of mainstream use in the 1980s and 1990s, became widely accepted by most of the world, though concerns about stress and antisociality from the overuse of mobile phones, the Internet and related technologies remains controversial.

In 2008, 3.3 billion people globally, or nearly half the world's population used cell phones, and in 2005, over a billion people worldwide used the Internet.


Regarding pronunciation of 21st century years, academics suggest that since former years such as 1805 and 1905 were commonly pronounced as "eighteen oh" or "nineteen oh" five, the year 2005 should naturally have been pronounced as "twenty oh-five". A less common variation would have been "twenty nought-five". Many experts agree that majority usage of "two thousand (and) X" is a result of influences from the Y2K hype.

Many people , ranging from linguistic and academic experts to Internet bloggers, predict that the "twenty X" pronunciation method will eventually prevail, but a time frame as to when this change will occur often differs. The year 2010 "twenty ten" is suggested by many, with the "two thousand x" pronunciation reserved only for the "two thousands" decade of 2000s and the Vancouver Olympics, taking place in 2010, is being officially referred to by Vancouver 2010 as "the twenty-ten olympics", while 2011 and 2013 are popular as well. The latest timeframes for change are usually placed at 2020.

According to The Stanley Kubrick archives, in the press release for his film 2001: A Space Odyssey, film director Stanley Kubrick included specific instructions for journalists to refer to the movie as "two thousand and one" instead of the commonplace pronuciation of "twenty-oh-one". Kubrick said he did this in the hope that if the film became popular, it would influence the pronuciation of that year.

Significant events

Politics, war, and genocide

Politics in this century have so far been divisive, in the United Statesmarker and to a lesser degree the whole Western World between the ideologies of liberalism and conservatism; more precisely, the Democratic Party vs the Republican Party.

Genocide still remains a problem in the century with the concern of the situation in Darfur and the growing concern in Sri Lankamarker. Low estimates on the deaths in Darfur stand around 200,000 deaths with 2.5 million in displacement, there has been much outrcy against the perpetrators, the Sudanese government, and the very weak international response. Also controversies from past genocides remain commonplace in the minds of victims and average people alike.

  • 1998–2002 – The Second Congo War continued into the early 21st century. A 1999 ceasefire quickly broke down and a UN peacekeeping mission, MONUC, was unable to control the fighting. Troops from Rwandamarker and Uganda continued to support rebel groups against the Democratic Republic of the Congomarker and rifts also grew between Rwanda and Uganda as they accused each other of supporting rival rebel groups as well. Laurent Kabila, president of the DRC, was assassinated in January 2002 and his son, Joseph Kabila, took power. Throughout 2002 steps were made towards peace and Rwanda and Uganda both removed their troops from the country. On December 17, 2002, a massive treaty officially ended the war. However, the DRC only holds power in less than half of the country, with most of the eastern and northern portions still controlled by rebel groups, where there is still significant infighting. In addition, Rwanda still supports anti-DRC rebels and anti-Rwandan rebels continue to operate from the DRC. The war killed an estimated 3.9 million people, displaced nearly 5.5 million, and led to a widespread and ongoing famine that continues to result in deaths. Severe human rights violations continue to be reported.
  • 2001 – George W. Bush becomes the second president of the United States to be the son of a former president, when he is inaugurated on January 20, 2001.
  • 2001 – Al-Qaeda terrorists hijacked 4 commercial airliners and crashed 3 of them into the World Trade Centermarker and the Pentagonmarker in the United States on September 11, killing nearly 3,000 people. The United States subsequently declared a War on Terrorism.
  • 2001–present – The U.S. and NATOmarker invaded Afghanistanmarker on October 7, 2001 and overthrew the Al-Qaeda-supportive Taliban government. Troops remained to install a democratic government, fight a slowly escalating insurgency, and to hunt for Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden.
  • 2002 – The International Criminal Court (ICC) was established on July 1.
  • 2002 – A series of bombingsmarker carried out by Islamic militants killed 202 people at the resort of Kutamarker, Balimarker, Indonesiamarker on October 12.
  • 2003–present – In February 2003, a conflict in Darfurmarker, Sudanmarker began and soon escalated into full-scale war. It is soon considered the worst humanitarian crisis in the world. By 2008 it is believed that up to 400,000 people have been killed and over 2.5 million displaced. In 2005, the ICC decided that Darfur war criminals would be tried, and on July 14, 2008, Sudanese president Omar al-Bashir was charged with 5 accounts of crimes against humaninty and 2 accounts of war crimes, although the ICC currently has no power to enforce these charges.
  • 2003–present – The U.S.-led coalition invaded Iraq on March 20, 2003 and overthrew the government of Saddam Hussein (who was executed by the Iraqi government on December 30, 2006). Coalition troops remain in the country to install a democratic government and fight an escalating insurgency. In addition to an insurgency against the American presence, Iraq also suffered from a civil war for several years. The war was soon seen as the central front of the War on Terror by many governments, despite growing international dissatisfaction with the war. The total death toll has been estimated at near 150,000 but these estimations are highly disputed. After the U.S.-led coalition initiated a troop surge in 2007, casualty numbers have decreased significantly.
  • 2003–2005 – A series of nonviolent revolutions known as the colour revolutions overthrew governments in Georgiamarker, Ukrainemarker, Kyrgyzstanmarker, and Lebanonmarker.
  • 2004 – The European Union expanded by 10 countries, including 8 former communist countries, plus Maltamarker and Cyprusmarker.
  • 2004 – On March 11, bombings carried out by Islamic militants killed 191 people on the commuter rail system of Madridmarker, Spain.
  • 2005 – A series of bombings carried out by Islamic militants killed 56 people in London on July 7.
  • 2005 – Israelmarker withdrew from the Gaza Stripmarker on September 11.
  • 2006–2008 – The dismantling of former Yugoslavia continues after Montenegromarker gained independence on June 3, 2006 and Kosovomarker declared independence on February 17, 2008. However, Kosovo's independence is disputed by Russia and many of its allies and is currently only partially recognized.
  • 2006 – On July 12, Hezbollah militants crossed the border of Lebanonmarker and captured two Israeli troops. Israel responded by sending troops across the border and bombing Hezbollah strongholds, while Hezbollah fired missiles on towns in northern Israel, approximately 6 each day. At the end of the war 300–450 Lebanese civilians, 600 Hezbolla troops, 44 Israeli civilians and 121 Israeli soldiers died. A ceasefire was signed on August 14, after which Israeli troops withdrew from Lebanon. Many military sources in Israel have warned about the danger of a new Israeli-Lebanese conflict back in the year 2000, when Israel has withdrawn from Lebanon.
  • 2006 – On July 11, bombs planted on the train system in Mumbaimarker exploded, killing 209 people.
  • 2006 – North Koreamarker conducted its first nuclear testmarker on October 9. This was preceded by years of political wrangling with the U.S. over the status of their nuclear program.
  • 2007 – A civil war escalated in the Gaza Stripmarker throughout June, which resulted in Hamas eventually driving most Fatah-loyal forces from the Strip. In reaction, Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas dismissed Hamas prime minister Ismail Haniyeh and dissolved the Hamas-ruled parliament. Scattered conflict continues.
  • 2008 – Armed conflict in August 2008 between Georgia on one side, and the Russian Federationmarker together with Ossetiansmarker and Abkhaziansmarker on the other. Russia officially recognized independence of Abkhaziamarker and South Ossetiamarker.
  • 2008–2009 – Israelmarker launches a military campaign on the Gaza Stripmarker, due to continuous rocket launching on south Israeli cities, in a period of 8 years, endangering the lives of 1.5 million civilians.
  • 2009 – North Koreamarker tests a Nuclear bomb beneath the ground in North East of the nation, which creates an earthquake that shows as 4 on the Richter scale.

Science and technology

Space exploration


Personal technology


  • 2003 – Discovery of an old dwarf human species, Homo floresiensis by modern humans (published October 2004).
  • 2004 – The first ever recorded hurricane in the South Atlantic forms.
  • 2007 – The IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) releases its Fourth Assessment Report.
  • 2009 – Details of Darwinius, a vital ‘missing link’ in human evolution dated to 47 million years ago, are published.


Worldwide deaths from war and terrorist attacks

  • Second Congo War, approximately 1.8 million deaths (3.8 million since 1998)
  • Iraq War, a wide variation in the number of casualties quoted, ranging from the tens of thousands, up to approximately 1 million deaths, Iraq Body Count project, ORB survey of Iraq War casualties.
  • Darfur conflict, approximately 400,000 deaths
  • Civil War in Côte d'Ivoiremarker, 3,000 deaths
  • September 11, 2001 19 members of al-Qaeda hijacked four commercial airliners, intentionally crashing two of them into The World Trade Centersmarker in New York City, and one into the Pentagonmarker in Arlington, Virginiamarker. The fourth plane was intended for the White House, but the passengers took the plane back and crashed it in a field in Pennsylvania. 2,997 people from 90 different countries died. It remains the worst terrorist attack in world history.
  • December 13, 2001 attacks, Terrorist attack on Indian Parliament, terrorists storm the Indian Parliament Building in New Delhi and kill six police officers.
  • October 12, 2002 Bali terrorist bombingsmarker kill 202 people.
  • March 11, 2004 terrorist attacks shake several train stations on Spain's capital Madridmarker, killing 191 people and injuring 1,247.
  • 7 July 2005 London bombings, Suicide terrorist attacks shake Londonmarker transport system killing 52 people and injuring 700.
  • 29 October 2005 Delhi bombings, terrorists attack various markets in New Delhi, killing 61 people and injuring 188 more, right before the start of the festival season in India.
  • July 11, 2006 six bombs explode in train stations in Mumbaimarker, killing 190.
  • November 2008 Mumbai attacks, a series of ten coordinated terrorist attacks across Mumbai, India, killing 195 people and injuring 290 more.

Civil Unrest

Natural disasters

New countries

Some territories have gained independence during the 21st century. This is a list of sovereign states that have gained independence in the 21st century and have been recognized by foreign governments.

1: Both Abkhazia and South Ossetia are disputed regions in Georgiamarker and have been recognized as independent states by Russiamarker, Nicaraguamarker and Venezuelamarker.

2: Kosovo has been recognized by 60 UN member nations and the Republic of Chinamarker.

3: The Federal Republic of Yugoslaviamarker was reconstituted as the State Union Serbia and Montenegro in 2003. But split apart into Serbiamarker and Montenegromarker in 2006.


Business and industry

  • Music Industry: The early 21st century has had a profound impact on the condition of music distribution. Recent advents in digital technology have fundamentally altered industry and marketing practices as well as players in unusual rapidity.
  • Many American auto brands have been phased out such as Plymouth by Chrysler in 2001 and Oldsmobile by General Motors in 2004. General Motors will also be phasing out Pontiac by 2010. There has been speculation that Mercury by Ford could be phased out in the near future.

Issues and concerns

There are several points-of-view pertaining to the following items, all of which should be considered accordingly.

Issues that have been frequently discussed and debated so far in this century include:
  • Globalization. Advances in telecommunications and transportation, the expansion of capitalism and democracy, and free trade agreements have resulted in unprecedented global economic and cultural integration. This has caused (and is continuing to cause) economic and cultural shifts which have been the subject of considerable controversy.
  • Overpopulation. The United Nations estimates that world population will reach 9.2 billion by mid-century. Such growth raises questions of ecological sustainability and creates many economic and political disruptions. In response, many countries have adopted policies which either force or encourage their citizens to have fewer children, and others have limited immigration. Considerable debate exists over what the ultimate carrying capacity of the planet may be; whether or not population growth containment policies are necessary; to what degree growth can safely occur thanks to increased economic and ecological efficiency; and how distribution mechanisms should accommodate demographic shifts. Evidence suggests that developed countries (such as Japan) suffer population implosion, and the population debate is strongly tied with discussions about the distribution of wealth.
  • Authoritarianism. Some currently democratic states, such as the United Kingdommarker, are felt by some to be moving quickly in the direction of a police state, with biometric identity cards, continuous surveillance and long term detainment without trial all having been introduced by the government. A shift in education can be noticed towards more emphasis on discipline and control mechanisms by the state. A good indicator of authoritarianism being a serious concern for the 21st century are the recent anti-authoritarian protests staged around the world. Examples include the 1999 Carnival Against Capitalism, the protest activities surrounding the 2001 Genova G8 Summit and the 2007 Heiligendamm G8 Summit, as well as the 2008 civil unrest in Greece, all with strong anarchistic and thus anti-authoritarian character.
  • Abortion. Debates between "Pro-choice" and "Pro-life" factions on the controversial procedure continue. The approximate number of induced abortions performed worldwide in 2003 was 42 million.
  • Dysgenics. Due to the negative correlation between fertility and intelligence, human genetic integrity may be deteriorating, lowering the intellectual capacity of the average human.
  • Poverty. Poverty remains the root cause of many of the world's other ills, including famine, disease, and insufficient education. Poverty contains many self-reinforcing elements (for instance, poverty can make education an unaffordable luxury, which tends to result in continuing poverty) that various aid groups hope to rectify in this century. Microcredit lending has also started to gain a profile as a useful anti-poverty tool.
  • Disease. AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria each kill over a million people annually. HIV remains without a cure or vaccine, and is growing rapidly in India and much of the African continent. Antibiotic resistance is a growing concern for organisms such as tuberculosis. Other diseases, such as SARS, ebola, and flu variations, are also causes for concern. The World Health Organization has warned of a possible coming flu pandemic resulting from bird flu mutations. In 2009, the outbreak of swine flu in Mexicomarker and later around the world caused widespread panic and concern, and is currently still a problem.
  • War and terrorism. Active conflicts continue around the world, including civil wars in the Democratic Republic of the Congomarker (the largest war since World War II), Chechnyamarker, Côte d'Ivoiremarker, Somaliamarker, Senegalmarker, Colombiamarker, and Sudanmarker (mainly in Darfurmarker). The 9/11 terrorist attacks triggered invasions of Afghanistan and partially and controversially Iraq. The War on Terrorism has seen controversies over civil liberties, accusations of torture, continued terrorist attacks and ongoing instability, violence, and military occupation. Violence continues in the Arab–Israeli conflict. Considerable concern remains about nuclear proliferation, especially in Iranmarker and North Koreamarker, and the availability of weapons of mass destruction to rogue groups.
  • Global warming. Climate scientists have postulated that the earth is currently undergoing significant anthropogenic (human-induced) global warming. [701887] The resulting economic and ecological costs are hard to predict. Some scientists argue that human-induced global warming risks considerable losses in biodiversity and ecosystem services unless considerable sociopolitical changes are introduced, particularly in patterns of mass consumption and transportation. Others, however, doubt or deny human influence and counter-action were in effect significant, or question whether global warming will actually be a significant detriment to the planet.
  • Power in international relations. Issues surrounding the cultural, economic, and military dominance of the United States and its role in the world community have become even more pointed given its recent military activities, problematic relations with the United Nations, disagreement over several international treaties, and its economic policies with regard to globalization. Integration of the European Union and the African Union have proceeded.
  • Intellectual property. The increasing popularity of digital formats for entertainment media such as movies and music, and the ease of copying and distributing it via the Internet and peer-to-peer networks, has raised concerns in the media industry about copyright infringement. Much debate is proceeding about the proper bounds between protection of copyright, trademark and patent rights versus fair use and the public domain, where some argue that such laws have shifted greatly towards intellectual property owners and away from the interests of the general public in recent years, while others say that such legal change is needed to deal with a perceived threat of new technologies against the rights of authors and artists (or, as others put it, against the outmoded business models of the current entertainment industry). Domain name "cybersquatting" and access to patented drugs and generics to combat epidemics in third-world countries are other IP concerns.
  • Technology developments show no sign of ending. Communications and control technology continues to augment the intelligence of individual humans, collections of humans, and machines. Cultures are forced into the position of sharply defining humanity and determining boundaries on desire, thought, communication, behavior, and manufacturing. Some, notably Ray Kurzweil, have predicted that by the middle of the century there will be a Technological Singularity if artificial intelligence that outsmart humans is created. If these AIs then create even smarter AI's technological change could accelerate in ways that are impossible for us to foresee. (However, gradual and simultaneous use of AI technology to increase our own intelligence might prevent this from ever occurring.)
  • Fossil fuels are becoming scarce and more expensive, due to the escalating demand for petroleum ("oil") and oil-based products such as gasoline and kerosene, unmatched by production. Discovery of new oil fields has not been sufficient to sustain current levels of production, and some fear that the earth may be running out of economically viable oil, pressing for alternatives. As Agrofuel, one possible alternative, yields further hazards for the environment and endangers food security, debate is far from over.
  • NATO–Russia relations seem to remain strained as the "Western Alliance" and NATO square off with Russia and other nations over international policy and the future of the ex-Soviet sphere. An Eastern Europe Missile Defense Shield, military and social conflicts in former Yugoslavia and the Caucasus (particularly Georgia and Chechnya), fossil fuel infrastructures like the Nabucco pipeline and the future of nuclear arsenals are among the topics that have strained the relations between the two sides with eerie reminders reminiscent of the Cold War.

The United Nations lists global issues on its agenda and lists a set of Millennium Development Goals (MDG) to attempt to address some of these issues.

Astronomical events (passed or to come) in the 21st century

List of the long total solar eclipses

  • July 22, 2009: Solar eclipsemarker, saros 136. The longest of the century.
  • August 2, 2027: Solar eclipse, of 6 min 23 s, saros 136.
  • August 12, 2045: Solar eclipse, of 6 min 06 s, saros 136.
  • August 24, 2063: Solar eclipse, of 5 min 49 s, saros 136.
  • May 11, 2078: Solar eclipse, of 5 min 40 s, saros 139.
  • May 22, 2096: Solar eclipse, of 6 min 07 s, saros 139.

Other phenomena

  • Wednesday, May 7, 2003: Transit of Mercury, the first of this century.
  • Wednesday, August 27, 2003: Closed approach of Mars, closest since the middle Paleolithic.
  • Tuesday, June 8, 2004: First transit of Venus for 122 years.
  • November 8, 2006: Transit of Mercury.
  • December 23, 2007: grand conjunction a galactic conjunction which happens every 26,000 years.
  • 2009: Triple conjunction JupiterNeptune.
  • 2010/2011: Triple conjunction Jupiter-Uranus.
  • July 12, 2011: Neptune completes its first orbit since its discovery in September 23, 1846.
  • Wednesday, June 6, 2012: Transit of Venus to occur a second time (and last time) this century.
  • May 9, 2016: Transit of Mercury.
  • Monday, August 21, 2017 [701888] : First total solar eclipse of the 21st century for the United States, and the first visible in the continental US since February 26, 1979 [701889].
  • November 11, 2019: Transit of Mercury.
  • 2024 (plus or minus 5 years): Next predicted return of Comet 12P/Pons-Brooks.
  • 2025/2026: Triple conjunction Saturn-Neptune.
  • Friday, April 13, 2029: The asteroid 99942 Apophis (previously better known by its provisional designation 2004 MN4) will pass within 30,000 km (18,600 mi) of the Earth.
  • November 13, 2032: Transit of Mercury.
  • 2037/2038: Triple conjunction Jupiter-Uranus.
  • November 7, 2039: Transit of Mercury.
  • 2041/2042: Triple conjunction Mars-Uranus.
  • October 1, 2044: Occultation of Regulus by Venus. The last was on July 7, 1959. After 2044, the next occultation of Regulus by Venus would occur on July 22, 3126, although some sources claim it will occur again on October 6, 2271.
  • 2047/2048: Triple conjunction Jupiter-Neptune.
  • May 7, 2049: Transit of Mercury.
  • November 9, 2052: Transit of Mercury.
  • July 2061: Next return of Halley's Comet.
  • 2063: Triple conjunction Mars-Uranus.
  • November 11, 2065: Transit of Mercury.
  • November 22, 2065: At 12:45 UTC, Venus will occult Jupiter. This event will be the first occultation of a planet by another since January 3, 1818. This event will be very difficult to observe, because the elongation of Venus and Jupiter from the Sun on that date will be only 7 degrees.
  • 2066: Triple conjunction Jupiter-Uranus.
  • July 15, 2067: At 11:56 UTC, Mercury will occult Neptune. This rare event will be very difficult to observe, because of the constant low elongation of Mercury from the Sun, and the magnitude of Neptune always under the limit of visibility with the naked eye.
  • 2071/2072: Triple conjunction Mars-Neptune.
  • November 14, 2078: Transit of Mercury.
  • 2079: Triple conjunction Saturn-Uranus.
  • August 11, 2079: At 01:30 UTC, Mercury will occult Mars.
  • Friday, November 10, 2084: Transit of Earth as seen from Mars, the first and the only one in this century.
  • November 7, 2085: Transit of Mercury.
  • 2085/2086: Triple conjunction Jupiter-Neptune.
  • October 27, 2088: At 13:43 UTC, Mercury will occult Jupiter.
  • 2088/2089: Triple conjunction Mars-Neptune.
  • 2093: Triple conjunction Jupiter-Uranus.
  • April 7, 2094: At 10:48 UTC, Mercury will occult Jupiter.
  • May 8, 2095: Transit of Mercury.
  • November 10, 2098: Transit of Mercury.

Pop cultural references to the remaining years of the 21st century

Television and film

Computer and video games


  • Stinkoman 20X6, of Homestar Runner fame, takes place in the seventh year of an unspecified decade in the 21st century.


Decades and years


  1. Experts clash over millennium bugbearThe Times
  3. The Naughty Noughties, or something
  4. The Stanley Kubrick Archives
  5. Update on Iraqi Casualty Data by Opinion Research Business, January 2008
  6. Grolier- the new book of knowledge, section "E"
  7. William Shockley, Roger Pearson: Shockley on Eugenics and Race: The Application of Science to the Solution of Human Problems Scott-Townsend Publishers, ISBN 978-1878465030
  8. Eclipse of July 22, 2009
  9. Eclipse of August 2, 2027
  10. Eclipse of August 12, 2045
  11. Eclipse of August 24, 2063
  12. Eclipse of May 11, 2078
  13. Eclipse of May 22, 2096

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