Sunday Reads: Lagos light rail, life in the UK

Plus: The climate comeuppance at Burning Man
Sunday Reads: Lagos light rail, life in the UK
Image: Sunday vibes (Shutterstock)

Hi Quartz members!

Welcome to another edition of Sunday Reads. Did you miss any of our other newsletters this week? Space Business looked at Amazon investors’ complaints about the relationship between the e-commerce giant and Jeff Bezos’s Blue Origin; The Memo from Quartz at Work shared in your post-Labor Day pain over return-to-office enforcement; and The Quartz Weekly Obsession invited you down a RuPaul’s Drag Race rabbit hole.

If you have any feedback for us, let us know; we’d love to hear from you.

5 things we especially liked on Quartz

🚊 Tackling the world’s worst traffic. Lagos, Nigeria, has 24 million residents and some of the most congested roads on the planet. There’s a bit of relief in sight, though. Ananya Bhattacharya has the stats on the city’s new metro system, which was built by China Civil Engineering Construction Corp. and opened to riders on Sept. 4 with an initial 13 km of light rail.

🏜️ A climate comeuppance. The mud that trapped thousands of well-to-do utopia seekers at Burning Man last weekend was certainly a metaphor for something. Might it be the weightiness of hope? Musician and climate activist Adam Met is deliciously critical of the scene at Black Rock City, but also optimistic that this year’s flooded-in gathering in the desert will help spur a more urgent and equitable response to climate change.

✈️ Plane genius. Airplane contrails aren’t just pretty streaks in the sky. They’re an estimated 35% of the aviation industry’s contribution to global warming. Tim Fernholz reports on a new contrail-reducing technology developed by Google and Bill Gates’ Breakthrough Energy, which has been successfully tested by American Airlines and, at $10 or less per ton of carbon removal, could be the world’s cheapest way to seriously fight climate change.

🚪On the way out. Forget the exit interviews. When good employees leave, it’s a wakeup call to do something different that might help them stay. Quartz at Work editor Anna Oakes draws on her past experience as a chief people officer and recommends four questions to ask employees while you still have them.

🎒 Why are more backpacks in America transparent these days? “The backpacks are clear because school shootings have been rising steadily, swiftly, perhaps staggeringly in recent years. They’re clear because while school shootings are merely one of the ways American children face gun violence, 2022 tallied an all-time high in bullets fired on school grounds. They’re clear because 2023 may mark a new record.” As back-to-school season gets underway, Gabriela Riccardi laments America’s gun problem and the stupefying decision to outsource solutions to the backpack industry.

5 great stories from elsewhere

Gif: Giphy

🕴️Design drama. The aging scions of Italy’s high-end fashion scene—Armani, Versace, Cuccinelli—aren’t just getting old. They’re getting lapped by French luxury conglomerates, which approach the business in a vastly different way. With colorful reporting and eye-catching photos, the Wall Street Journal examines the personalities and cultural histories that are shaping the industry’s future.

🤖 GPT and beyond. Wired explores the long-term aims of OpenAI, weaving together the stories of CEO Sam Altman and the rise of artificial intelligence. Those stories, of course, are converging now, as Altman and OpenAI seek to usher in a new era for humanity, with technology that is both safe and innovative enough for the job.

🗞️ Changing Times. In an exclusive excerpt of Adam Nagourney’s forthcoming book The Times: How the Newspaper of Record Survived Scandal, Scorn, and the Transformation of Journalism, Air Mail offers a peek at how the paper of record covered 9/11, and how decisions made that day preluded many more changes to come.

📓 Master class in schooling. How is it that Vietnamese students outscore peers in Malaysia, Thailand, the UK, and Canada on reading, math, and science tests? The Economist finds it comes down to smart management of teachers and a thorough understanding of the value of education.

🇬🇧 Life in the UK. On the occasion of his taking the UK’s citizenship test, American political scientist Brian Klaas riffs on some of the more curious exam questions, and on the advantages and oddities of living in Britain. (Pros include charming villages and the near-zero risk of getting shot; oddities include the preponderance of hot water bottles found in British homes.) The piece, in his Substack newsletter The Garden of Forking Paths, also includes a UK travel guide for paid subscribers.

🗓️ What to watch for this week

Here are some of the events our newsroom will be eyeing this week:

  • Monday: Oracle reports earnings
  • Tuesday: Apple reveals its iPhone 15; US Senate leaders discuss transparency in AI systems
  • Wednesday: Senate leaders host a closed-door meeting with Big Tech leaders to talk about AI; the latest US inflation numbers are released

Thanks for reading! Here’s to the week ahead, and don’t hesitate to reach out with comments, questions, feedback, climate disaster photos, and unique hotel site reviews. Sunday Reads was brought to you by Heather Landy, Susan Howson, and Morgan Haefner.