The best of 2017, part 1

(image from Pixabay)

Today and tomorrow, I’ll share a couple of lists about the best of last year. Today is a list of “The 99 best things that happened in 2017” (from Quartz).

Some inspiring statistics on the list:

#27: Eleven countries are building a wall of trees on the border of the Sahara desert to slow desertification, and it’s already working. (video from BBC)

#38: 16,000 schools were built in Afghanistan, where the literacy rate increased by 5%, and the youth literacy rate increased by more than 16%. (from USAID)

#68: Almost a quarter (23%) of worlwide parliamentary seats are occupied by women. That’s up from 12% 20 years ago. (this and much more about gender equality from the World Bank)

#71: The number of biracial couples in the U.S. is now at 17%, five times as many as there were 50 years ago, when it was legalized in 1967. (from Pew Research)

#99: India and Italy banned the use of wild animals in circuses, making the total 40 countries which have done this. (from Inhabit)

Something you could do in your portfolio: make a list of a few of the best things that happened in Japan in 2017.


Past and present

Yesterday’s topic was about how our language affects our view of past and future. Today, here’s a video of the past and present of New York City. This won’t give you English input, but it might inpsire you to go in search of past/present photos or videos of Tokyo, your hometown, or another city you’re interested in.

100 Objects

The School of Public Health at Johns Hopkins University came up with a list of 100 things that have affected our health, in both positive and negative ways. Here’s a peek:


The list includes things we use every day and probably take for granted (shoes, facial tissue, cooking stoves), things most of us probably never use but are necessary for some people (hard hats, electron microscopes), and things we should never use (guns, cigarettes, asbestos). Some may argue that I should not put those three inventions in the same category.

There are lots of things you can do with this list:

  • make a list of things you always/sometimes/never/should but don’t use
  • categorize it in different ways (for instance, where the things were invented, how old the inventions are, things that are not as available in developing countries, things you can/can’t live without … Can you think of other categories?)
  • rank the 100 in one or more ways (best to worst, most to least expensive…) , or make a Top 10
  • find something on the list you’ve never heard of or never used and find out more about it

Governing Mars

According to this article from Quartz, missions to Mars will begin as early as 2018. When we get there, how shall we govern this new territory?

Getting there first will be Elon Musk and others from Silicon Valley, with regular “flights” possibly by 2020. NASA may not get there until 2030. But there are many things to think about before people start colonizing the planet.

  • Should there be a central government on Mars?
  • Should there be a Mars tax?
  • Who should control basic human rights of air and water?

The U.S. Congress has already passed one “space bill” into law and there are people who call themselves “space lawyers.”  The UN has an Office for Outer Space Affairs, and the Moon Agreement was reached way back  in 1979. Read about all this and think about what kind of government you’d like to see on Mars.