Good morning, Quartz readers!
On the first Earth Day in April 1970, millions took to the streets to demand environmental protection. Nearly half a century later, things may not seem much better.
Nearly 80% of our energy still comes from fossil fuels—a figure that hasn’t changed since the first Earth Day. The atmosphere now has more carbon dioxide than any time in the past 800,000 years. The oceans are heating up, corals are dying, and natural disasters keep causing more damage. Oil and gas companies continue to be some of the most valuable in the world, and the warnings scientists give about climate catastrophe keep getting more urgent.
But all signs suggest the scale of the environmental movement has crossed a tipping point. It’s no longer just the woman on the street who seeks environmental justice. Instead, the movement now includes wealthy investors and powerful governments.
In the past year alone, activist shareholders, including trillion-dollar investors like BlackRock and Vanguard, have forced fossil-fuel companies like ExxonMobil and Occidental Petroleum to reveal the risks to their investments from climate change. In the face of Donald Trump’s retreat from the Paris climate accords, local governments have become stewards of the environment. Just this week, two counties in Colorado filed a lawsuit against ExxonMobil and Suncor Energy, seeking compensation for damages caused by wildfires, droughts, and storms on infrastructure, agriculture, and tourism.
There is good news from other corners, too. Government investment and regulations in developing and deploying clean energy have scaled well. In many parts of the world, it is cheaper to build renewable-energy projects than fossil-fuel power plants. This week, the UK went 55 hours without burning coal, which hasn’t happened since before the Industrial Revolution. Portugal produced more renewable energy in March than energy it consumed.
To top it all off, poor countries are investing billions more in renewable energy than rich ones. Though Tesla may be suffering another episode of hiccups, forecasters keep revising electric-vehicles sales figures upwards. Even technologies that were considered fanciful, such as carbon capture, are making a comeback. Progress is all around us. We don’t breathe the same dirty air or drink the same polluted water that we did back in the 1960s.
Flipping Michael Cohen. Adam Pasick interviewed a criminal-defense attorney with “extensive experience” dealing with prosecutors, who explained in detail how Donald Trump’s under-investigation personal attorney could be turned against the president. “Basically,” the lawyer sums up, “Bob Mueller is playing three-dimensional chess, and Trump is playing tiddlywinks.”
When noise pollution is also a call to God. Many places of worship across Africa are breaking legal noise limits with their sermons and calls to prayer. Yomi Kazeem and Abdi Latif Dahir describe how governments face a delicate and often strange balancing act. One example: In Accra, mosques have been asked to send WhatsApp messages as a substitute for the adhan.
Rethinking the resumé. A one-pager can tell a prospective employer where you went to school, but it’s a poor proxy for whether you’ll be a good fit in your next job. Oliver Staley looks at how technology is changing recruitment practices, and whether the future of the resumé will include resumés at all.
Starbucks as a public good. Historically, coffee houses have been communal spaces for gathering and sharing information. In the wake of the arrest of two black men at a Starbucks, Olivia Goldhill describes how the ubiquitous coffee chain, in trying to keep up the facade of that legacy, straddles the line of being a public and private space.
Greater homeownership won’t solve wealth inequality. It’s a common myth that the huge racial wealth gap in America can be addressed by increasing homeownership rates among black Americans. But Eshe Nelson explains why the large and persistent disparity in values between black and white homes needs to be addressed first.
“Högertrafikomläggningen” is easy for you to say. That was the name of the day in 1967 when Sweden switched from driving on the left to driving on the right. The process involved changing 360,000 street signs and cost $300 million in today’s money—and nobody died that day. The BBC’s Maddy Savage explains how Sweden pulled off its biggest infrastructure project ever.
How city birds got to be so smart. Crows in Japan crack nuts open by tossing them into traffic; tits in England learned to pry open milk-bottle caps. Menno Schilthuizen explains in Aeon that studies now suggest that evolution selects for city creatures to be brave, inquisitive problem-solvers.
Alexa, does this make me look fat? For Racked, Kyle Chayka uses the style recommendations of Amazon’s Echo Look, which will judge your wardrobe using AI, to examine the concept of taste and ask what happens when it is “dictated by data-fed algorithms controlled by massive tech corporations.” (Pro-tip: Alexa likes all black.)
The father of modern parenting. Why would parents spend $1,200 on a robotic bassinet? In this masterclass in profile writing for the New York Times (paywall), Ruth Margali casts Harvey Karp as a modern-day Dr. Spock who sits somewhere in between helicopter parents and the “cry-it-outers.”
How DNA can lead to wrongful convictions. Katie Worth, for The Marshall Project, traced a situation in which a suspect was wrongfully convicted for murder just because his DNA was found on the scene. The case raises the question of how trustworthy DNA can be as evidence in criminal justice, and what has (and hasn’t) been done about it.
Our best wishes for a relaxing but thought-filled weekend. Please send any news, comments, Amazon style reviews, and revamped resumés to firstname.lastname@example.org. You can follow us on Twitter here for updates throughout the day, or download our apps for iPhone and Android. Today’s Weekend Brief was edited by Kabir Chibber.