The top ten events of 2014
10) The Scottish vote to stay in the UK. A vote for independence would have encouraged other secessionist movements throughout Europe, spreading pointless conflict and distraction across a region already struggling with the disaster of austerity. Scotland's "no" was a vote for political sanity and much-needed stability.
9) The Rosetta/Philae mission to comet 67P. Landing a spacecraft on a relatively small object hundreds of millions of miles away demonstrated what human technology can do -- and helps debunk the meme that Europe is in some kind of "decline".
8) Ebola. A disease that was effortlessly swatted down in the US and Europe devastated three African countries, exemplifying how sub-Saharan Africa lags further and further behind the rest of the world.
7) The US election in November. The lowest-turnout US national election in 72 years allowed reactionaries to win widespread power. They'll make the next two years pretty nasty, but their displays of lunacy will set the stage for a Democratic sweep in 2016.
6) The resurgence of national consciousness in Britain and France. I posted about this here, here, and here. It's going to change the course of European history. Stop name-calling and groping for American analogies that don't apply; you'll just block yourself from understanding what's really happening.
5) Jihadism's atrocities provoking a Muslim backlash. The rise of ISIS, the most brutal religious-extremist movement in the world today, has brought together the Kurds, Iran, the West, and moderate Arabs in the struggle to defeat it -- an informal alliance with far-reaching implications. The Taliban's ghastly attack on the Peshawar school seems to have filled Pakistan with grim determination to crush them once and for all. By providing a horrible object lesson of religious fanaticism in action, these atrocities may help push the broad masses of the Middle East toward secularism -- a trend the secularist election victory in Tunisia suggests may already be under way.
4) Iran's opening to the world. The nuclear-negotiation breakthrough is just one of President Rouhani's initiatives, as he struggles to liberalize state and society in the Middle East's most important country, and reconcile it with the West.
3) Russia's attack on Ukraine and economic collapse under sanctions. The turn of the world's second-greatest military power to naked territorial expansionism is terrifying -- but the sanctions the West has used to punish the Putin regime have been devastatingly effective. If a country as mighty as Russia can be brought to its knees by non-military means, perhaps war really is becoming obsolete.
2) Ongoing global warming. 2014 is on track to be the hottest year since scientific temperature recording began -- though next year will likely be even hotter, and so on and so on.
1) Ongoing death by aging. This year we lost another fifty million or so irreplaceable human individuals to the aging process. We must solve this problem -- there is no higher priority.