10 captivating photos show why people are leaving Panama's Guna Yala islands.

Photojournalist Greta Rybus visited two remote island communities off the northeast coast of Panama in April 2016.

Looking out to the Caribbean. All photos from Greta Rybus, used with permission.

She wanted to go because of a weird reason: Many of the people who lived on these islands were making preparations to leave them.


As the island's population has grown, living spaces have become crowded. Worse, climate change is creeping into daily life, affecting everything from rainfall to fish numbers.

Rybus stayed there for a month, spending most of her nights camping on an uninhabited island. During the day, she photographed the islanders, who told her their thoughts and stories.

She visited two small island communities — one called Gardi Subdub and a more remote island called Coetupu. The islands are home to about 900 people each. This is what Rybus saw and what the people there had to say about their changing way of life:

“As children, we learned through songs," said Joanna Robinson, who lives on Coetupu.

A family house in Coetupu.

"These days, there’s only few people in the community who sing the old songs. My Aunt Rosa was told a lot of knowledge when she was young, so now she can teach and sing to the young girls. We sing things like: 'When you grow up, you’ll help your mother, and you’ll see papa when he comes back home from the mountain.'

Naidi Robinson also remembered growing up and learning through song.

"When I was a little girl, I loved to go to our farm on the mainland and learn about how to plant things," she said.

Climbing one of Coetupu's trees.

“I spent many good times planting things, harvesting mangoes. It is a Guna tradition to teach these things," Naidi said. "As children we are taught to plant things, especially boys. Mostly it’s men who plant trees, and we women go to help and pick things. They plant trees to be healthy, to give us food."

Leonidas Perez, a tribal leader from Coetupu, has watched how things have changed: "The sea can't heal the way it used to."

Perez in his home on Coetupu.

Perez is a saila, or tribal congressman, which means he's one of the people responsible for making decisions for the community.

"In the past, they used to catch a lot of fish," said Perez. "Nowadays, there is not much fish. And before, there were a lot of coconuts and bananas. But not now, because of the changes with the sun. And it used to rain like for about a week long. Now, if it rains, it rains only one hour and then it stops.”

"We are alive thanks to the rain," said Joanna.

People have to travel to other islands to get fresh water.

Changing weather patterns have made it harder for the community to get fresh water.

“We have more and more problems with water. It’s getting worse," she said. "We have always gotten water from rivers on the mainland. Now the rivers have dried up because of the lack of rain. Every five days, we have to go to another island to get water from their community water source."

Jugs are used to store and transport the water.

But rain isn't the only thing the islands are struggling with.

“Parts of the island that normally didn’t flood are often covered in water," said Asterio Ramirez, a teacher in Coetupu.

Rising waters are threatening to flood parts of Coetupu.

For an island struggling to get enough drinkable water, rising sea levels must seem like a cruel joke. As sea levels rise, salt water has begun to inundate low-lying areas. This can be a problem, since it means potential flooding, polluted drinking water, and drying plants.

On Coetupu, they're planning to build a bridge to another nearby island.

On Gardi Subdub, they're planning to leave entirely.

"We, the community, have to be prepared for a new life on the mainland," said Ascanio Martinez, a health educator in Gardi Subdub.

The construction site at Nueva Barria.

Gardi Subdub has started building a new community on the mainland, which they're calling the Nueva Barria. So far, there's a community center and a half-completed health center. Soon they'll start building the houses.

Rybus says she wasn't sure whether everyone on Gardi Subdub would move to the new community, or just some.

"Young people, they are going to suffer the consequences," said Guillermo Archibold.

Boys playing on the docks of an island near Gardi Subdub. Traders from the mainland bring goods for sale.

Archibold is an agronomist from Gardi Subdub. "Governments, politicians, big countries should think about the relationship between people, not only indigenous people but all around the world," he said.

"The problem is that as long as the social system doesn’t change, we will continue to have problems. The rich countries only work to [get] more and more money, and they want to dominate. There’s no equality. Poor countries are becoming even poorer. The system has to change. The resources, the wealth that God created, only few are taking advantage of it and only a few are protecting it."

After a month living with and photographing these communities, Rybus headed back home to the United States to share these stories of how climate change is affecting real people.

Rybus has said that she wants to visit more small communities and learn how their lives are changing in response to climate change. She's already done one series of shoots in Senegal, on the west coast of Africa.

"I really hope that people will start to understand climate change as a human rights issue or a human issue, rather than just an environmental issue," says Rybus.

It's going to affect people's health, security, migration, even what foods they eat. But part of what photographers do, says Rybus, is try to show people a different point of view. "You just keep doing your best to share that, those different perspectives."

Heroes

Here's to the stepdads who step in and step up to fatherhood.

Happy Father's Day to all the stellar stepdads.

Some fathers are there at the starting line. And some fathers step in partway through the race.

My biological dad left my mom when I was a toddler. I don't even remember living with him, and my memories of weekend visits throughout my early childhood are vague. He loved me, I'm sure, but he eventually slipped off the radar. He wasn't abusive or a massive jerk or anything. He just wasn't there.

Who was there was my Dad. My stepdad, technically, but for all intents and purposes, he was and is my Dad. He stepped in when I was four, and stepped up to raise two kids who weren't his. He went to the parent-teacher conferences, attended the school plays, surprised us with trips to the ice cream shop, taught us how to change a tire. He loved us, not just in word but in action.

As a parent myself, I now understand how hard it must have been to step into that role. Step-parenting involves unique relationship dynamics, and you have to figure a lot of things out as you go along.

My Dad had his own demons from his own childhood to deal with on top of that, and his cycle-breaking parenting still awes me. But he was always there to cheer me on, comfort me, and talk me through life's challenges. He wasn't perfect, but he was there, actively engaged in the marathon of fatherhood every step of the way.

Stepparents are often vilified in stories, but there are millions of awesome stepdads out there.

Without a doubt there are some terrible stepdads (and stepmoms) out there, just as there are some terrible parents in general. But there are a lot of great ones, too.

Alison Tedford's 11-year-old son Liam is lucky to have such a stepdad. Liam shares his time between his mom's and dad's house equally, but when he is with his mom, he's also with his stepdad, Paul. Alison says that Liam adores Paul, who stepped into the stepdad role when Liam was 7. Paul spent the first couple of years carrying Liam to bed every night, per Liam's request. Now that he's too big for that, they practice lacrosse and play video games together.

"To support Liam in his love of lacrosse, Paul took a lacrosse coaching course and is the team statistics manager," says Tedford. "They are best buds and Paul treats him with all the love and kindness he does his own kids. He drives him all sorts of places, goes on field trips, and makes sure he has everything he needs and is having fun. He's a really great stepdad."

These aren't the kinds of stories that make the news. But millions of stepdads dive into supportive, involved parenting as they fall in love with their loved ones' kids.

Having a stepparent is now about as common as not having one.

According to the US Census Bureau, half of the 60 million kids in the U.S. live with a biological parent and the parent's partner. And the most common stepfamily configuration—85% of them—is a mom, her biological kids, and a stepfather. That's a whole lot of stepdads.

Blending families can be complicated, and figuring out how to navigate those waters isn't easy. But family counselor and researcher Joshua Gold calls becoming a stepdad both "a challenge and an opportunity."

"The challenge comes in rejecting previously held beliefs about what it means to be a father," Gold wrote in The Conversation. "Stepfathers – and I count myself as one – must avoid outmoded notions of compensating for the absent biological father or paternal dominance."

"The opportunity comes in devising a parenting role that expresses the best and fullest aspects of being a man and a father figure," he wrote. "Done consciously and deliberately, the role and function of the stepfather can be tremendously fulfilling for all, and a source of lifelong joy and pride."

Here's to the stepdads who step into that role, step up to the challenge, and make the most of the opportunity to have a positive, nurturing influence in children's lives.

Family

'Love is a battlefield' indeed. They say you have to kiss ~~at least~~ a few frogs to find your prince and it's inevitable that in seeking long-term romantic satisfaction, slip ups will happen. Whether it's a lack of compatibility, unfortunate circumstances, or straight up bad taste in the desired sex, your first shot at monogamous bliss might not succeed. And that's okay! Those experiences enrich our lives and strengthen our resolve to find love. That's what I tell myself when trying to rationalize my three-month stint with the bassist of a terrible noise rock band.


One woman's viral tweet about a tacky mug wall encouraged people to share stories about second loves. Okay, first things first: Ana Stanowick's mom has a new boyfriend who's basically perfect. All the evidence you need is in the photograph:

Keep Reading Show less
Family



The Poison Garden of Alnwick www.youtube.com


Plants have the power to heal us, yet plants have the power to harm us. There's an unusual garden that's dedicated solely to the latter. The Poison Garden located on the grounds of Alnwick Castle in Northumberland, England is the deadliest garden in the world. In the Poison Garden, you can admire the plants with your eyes, but you're not allowed to touch or smell anything, because every plant in the garden is poisonous, and can possibly even kill you. The name of the garden should be a dead giveaway.

The garden was created in 2005 when Jane Percy, the Duchess of Northumberland, wanted to show people the scariest plants around. "I wondered why so many gardens around the world focused on the healing power of plants rather than their ability to kill," the Duchess said. "I felt that most children I knew would be more interested in hearing how a plant killed, how long it would take you to die if you ate it, and how gruesome and painful the death might be." Honestly, she's got a point.

Keep Reading Show less
Planet

I had a strange experience in the Vancouver, B.C. airport last week that I can't stop thinking about.

I was on my way to the Women Deliver conference—the largest international conference on the rights, health, and well-being of women and girls. As a woman and an American, I was excited to be immersed in conversations about improving gender equality globally. I was excited to meet people leading movements to improve the lives of women and girls around the world. Justin Trudeau, Melinda Gates, Tarana Burke, and other major movers and shakers were going to be there. The conference had been sold out for months.

As I made my through customs at the Vancouver airport, I expected to feel some excitement about being there. I did not, however, expect to feel what I felt as I left the terminal.

The signs for exiting the Vancouver airport don't say "Exit," they say "Way Out." And as I walked toward the Way Out sign, something about those two words and the realization that I had just left American soil hit hard. A wave of unexpected emotion washed over me.

Relief.

Scenes from The Handmaid's Tale—of people fleeing the hellscape the U.S. had become and seeking asylum in Canada—flashed through my mind. A mere few years ago, such scenes would have felt like far-fetched fiction. But walking toward the Way Out signs in the Vancouver airport, it felt too close to home. For a moment, I had an urge to run toward those signs like my life depended on it. To run toward sanity—toward freedom.

We have "American freedoms" drilled into us from the time we're children. Right now, it feels like a lie.

I hadn't fully realized how psychologically oppressive the U.S. had become until I left it, even just temporarily. The steady drip of regressive policies, the erosion of facts and denial of science, the resurgence of racist and nationalist movements, the daily insanity coming from the highest levels of our government, and the intensely polarized atmosphere here has worn on me more than I realized.

And I'm generally a super positive person. Seriously, I'm like the Pollyanna of politics—if I'm struggling here, what are other people feeling? (I'm also a middle-class white lady whose privilege has prevented me from fully grasping the fear and angst marginalized communities have been feeling for, well, ever. I'm well aware that I'm late to the game of uncertainty.)

Stepping into Canada, I felt like I could fully exhale for the first time in several years, only I didn't even know I had been holding my breath. Ironically, leaving "the land of the free" gave me a keen feeling of freedom and a sense of safety I didn't know I'd lost. I never expected to feel that way leaving my own country.

My internal dialogue has always been, "America, I love you. You aren't perfect, but your positives outweigh your negatives." Now it's, "America, I want to love you. But it's clear that our relationship has become toxic and I'm not sure how much longer I can do this."

Attending a women's rights conference as an American right now was surreal.

The Women Deliver conference was a powerful four days filled with people from 165 countries working to empower women and fight for their health and well-being. Heads of international aid organizations, heads of women's associations, heads of movements, Heads of State, and thousands of others all gathered together to discuss the state of the world's women and girls.

And you want to know the biggest contribution my country made to that conversation? A litany of regressive policies and legislation that prompted a collective, international rallying cry: "We refuse to go backwards."

I got to see some of the ways our current policies affect women not just in the U.S., but outside of it. For example, I was embarrassed by our reimplementation and expansion of the "global gag rule," which removes funding from any organization that so much as mentions abortion—even in countries where abortion is legal—and puts the lives of women and girls at risk.

I don't think most average Americans understand how harmful the global gag rule is. I watched a woman from Kenya share her story of escaping female genital mutilation at age 8. I heard from a woman in Pakistan who escaped child marriage at 11 years old. I watched an 18-year-old from Nigeria who had been kidnapped by Boko Haram at 14 and repeatedly raped until she escaped at 16—eight months pregnant. The organizations that helped these girls focus their work on sexual and reproductive health, including ending child marriage and genital cutting, educating communities on safe sex, and providing resources to prevent unwanted pregnancy. And if any such organization were to inform a child bride whose body would be ravaged by childbirth or a Boko Haram escapee impregnated by violence that abortion was one possible option for them, they would lose all funding from the U.S.

That is criminal. And it is happening. And it's just one backwards policy America is responsible for.

However, I left the conference—and Canada—with a strong sense of hope.

One thing stepping out of the U.S. and meeting agents of change from around the world showed me was that there are so many incredible people doing important, world-changing work out there. The Maasai woman who has helped save 17,000 girls from genital cutting by helping transform coming-of-age rituals into celebrations of girls' hopes and dreams, for example. Orhe 18-year-old Zambian girl who earned a standing ovation from four heads of state after eloquently calling out politicians for being all talk and no action. Or the organizers who pulled together all of these individuals to help women support one another, to stand in their power wherever they live.

I returned to the U.S. not with a sense of dread, but with a sense of purpose. Women are making waves in the world, pushing back against centuries of inequality and patriarchal norms. Naturally, there will be pushback against that pushback, but we will not go backwards.

Everything isn't okay, and we are living in strange times. But there are positive things happening. Old systems have to be broken down in order to build something new. Sometimes a step back clears the way for two steps forward. I have to believe that's where we are right now—poised for a great leap into a better future, where all of us feel free and safe on our own soil.

Culture