"5 COOL THINGS" - weekly emails

5 Cool Things  😎
5 Cool Things:
Hi, this is Greg Powell. I hope you'll enjoy one or more of these interesting topics from the world of business and beyond. Dan Powell, my son and collaborator, has researched the articles and written the summaries, so this is not a boilerplate message. We'd like to give you a weekly break to learn about something cool or, better yet, 5 Cool Things.

The Great Green Wall of Africa: Is This the Next Wonder of the World? (Euronews)

As the immense Sahara desert continues to grow with the effects of a warming world, communities in Africa’s Sahel region — the western area of the southern Sahara from Senegal to Djibouti — are feeling the brunt of the pain. For over 13 years, a project called the Great Green Wall has been underway to combat this desertification, starting as an ambitious proposal by 30 African nations to plant a line of trees across the center of the continent. Now, after tens of millions of trees planted over tens of thousands of acres, the project is only about 15 percent complete, as the focus has shifted to restoration efforts tailored for each region. With a recent contribution of over 14 billion dollars by the government of France, Great Green Wall is set to continue into the 2020s. The project “represents the best kind of international cooperation that will be required in this century,” in the words of Irish President Michael Higgins. It’s the type of project that may become increasingly commonplace this century. Read more…

Paris Agrees to Turn Champs-Élysées into ‘Extraordinary Garden' (The Guardian)

Not satisfied just with aiding green projects abroad, France is looking to transform the heart of its great capital into “an extraordinary garden”. The Champs-Élysées, something of a Times Square analog running from the Jardin des Tuileries to the Arc de Triomphe, can be a wild, cacophonous place, choked with traffic and tourists, the kind of boulevard that true Parisians don’t dare to visit. All of that will change in the coming decades with a €250 million plan to transform the Champs-Élysées into an urban park some 1.2 miles long. In addition to renovating the storied avenue, plans call for a rethinking of the Place de La Concorde at its south-east end, a project due for completion in advance of the 2024 Paris Olympic Games. Read more…

The U.S. Has a Lottery Problem. But It’s Not the People Buying Tickets. (The Washington Post)

State lottery programs promise something — increased revenue for schools, tax cuts, and public services — in exchange for the money of gamblers and those who, seemingly, can’t understand how much the odds are hopelessly stacked against them. Leaving aside the ambiguous ethics of legalized gambling, do lotteries actually provide us what they promise? Decades after the first lottery companies made their sales pitches to cash-strapped state governments, there’s still no evidence that these programs are making a difference for the communities they claim to help, with many states failing to improve education rankings over the last two decades. Meanwhile, citizens have become addicted to the lottery, spending over $70 billion per year on tickets. Read more…

Dire Wolves Aren’t Wolves At All — They Form a Distinct Lineage With Jackals (ARS Technica)

In recent years, the hit TV series Game of Thrones has revived interest in an ancient species known as dire wolves. While these ancient species, which once far outnumbered the species of wolves we know today, look a lot like modern wolves (albeit enormous ones), DNA analysis shows that they didn’t have a lot in common with them. Researchers, working with extremely ancient and fragile samples, have determined that dire wolves were in fact a part of a branch including jackals, separate from other canid species. It’s part of a larger puzzle by which geneticists mean to trace the entire history of canid species, from the most ancient ancestors all the way up to present-day wolves, coyotes, and domestic dog breeds. Read more…

Visingsö Oak Forest (Atlas Obscura)

On an island called Visingsö in a lake in the south of Sweden stand hundreds of acres of tall stately oaks, stretching skyward with perfect, straight trunks. Planted during the 1830s, the trees once promised to constitute the pride of a nation, perfectly cultivated for use as timber for the Swedish navy. The process, which took almost 150 years to reach maturity, involved the careful planting of other species to force growth upwards for maximum height. But, of course, all those years later, the world had moved on. Steel and steam replaced the wood and sail ships of the 19th century, and the navy no longer had use for the trees, which today are something of a minor tourist attraction. Read more…

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See you next week!
            - Greg
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