+
Heroes

13 gorgeous photos of wild Florida that show why it's worth saving.

'I think if everyone would spend just a little bit of time experiencing our natural spaces, they would fall in love with them the way I have, and we’d have an unstoppable force for their protection.'

True
Nature Valley

"Half the time I’m making my best pictures, I’m waist-deep in water," says Floridian photographer Carlton Ward.

While that might sound strange for the average photographer, it makes sense given Ward's speciality, which is wilderness conservation.

Carlton Ward in his element. Photo via Upworthy.


Ward spends most of his time making his way through the lush Everglades of the Florida Wildlife Corridor in order to capture its majesty on camera in as many ways as possible.

And the corridor is no small territory. Its nearly 16 million acres are home to thousands of different species, including over 40 endangered or threatened animals, such as the whooping crane, the Florida panther, and the west Indian manatee.

Together with members of his conservation team, Ward has crossed 1,000 miles of it — twice.

Obviously Ward's not afraid to get his feet wet to save wild Florida from encroaching land developments.

Ward paddling through the glades. Photo via Upworthy.

According to Ward, 100,000 acres of land are given over to housing growth every year, which means pretty soon there won't be any room left for the wildlife living in the corridor.

But it's not just about the flora and fauna — the encroachment also threatens local residents' drinking water.

"The Everglades watershed provides water for 9 million people," Ward explains. "So this is our water tower. This is absolutely essential for humans to survive on this peninsula."

In order to further protect the corridor and all who rely on it, he created the Florida Wildlife Corridor organization.

Image via iStock.

FWC utilizes science and unforgettable imagery to raise awareness around the corridor's plight and to get people to realize why it needs to be saved.

Perhaps the most amazing aspect of Florida's wild territories is that they're mostly connected throughout the state. FWC is working tirelessly not only to protect that natural network, but restore it. They have a goal of conserving 10% of it every year so that 300,000 acres are saved by 2020.

Ward's photos have already inspired a network of devoted followers. Now he's rallying them to get out in the wild and share their own experiences.

"I think if everyone would spend just a little bit of time experiencing our natural spaces, they would fall in love with them the way I have, and we’d have an unstoppable force for their protection," Ward says.

He asks them to share their Florida photos under #KeepFLWild to help highlight the conservation mission.

And they're obliging.

A son took a photo of his father at Suwannee State Park.

Someone else captured a great egret on a branch.

Just take a look at Ward's incredible shots, and you'll understand why he's inspiring so many people to venture out into the glades.

Here's a 100-year-old long-leaf pine standing against the clouds:

And a couple of spoonbills taking flight.

These are marsh islands at sunset.

A scaly Florida resident makes an appearance.

This Ogeechee tupelo tree sits near the Florida-Georgia border.

Ogeechee Tupelo - one of my favorite landscape photos, shot on the Suwannee River near the Georgia Florida border on day 96 of the 2012 @fl_wildcorridor expedition from Everglades National Park to the Okefenokee Swamp. It was drizzling this day. A four second long exposure on a tripod soaked in the even light and vibrancy of the emergent spring leaves. A polarizing filter, partially turned, cut through sheen of the water to reveal the surreal orange of the shallow white sandbar glowing through tannin stained swamp water while retaining the reflection of the tree on the surface. Our original expedition route would have had us hiking the final week through the Pinkook Swamp but a 30,000-acre wildfire there pushed us further west to paddle upstream on the Suwannee. It was so shallow we had to drag our boats at times but the scenery was some of the most beautiful of the whole Expedition and this photograph became my most collected print. I heard the river water was 16 feet higher the next year. From the perspective of my current project, the Okefenokee is excellent panther habitat. Hopefully a breeding population can establish there someday. Please share. #suwannee #tupelo #hope #okefenokee #floridawild #keepFLWild #landscape #river

A post shared by Carlton Ward Jr (@carltonward) on

Finally, meet the elusive ghost orchid, which only blooms in the wild in Florida.

Thanks to Ward's talent and spirit, what makes wild Florida precious is crystal clear. He might very well be what saves it.

As long as other adventurers keep following in his footsteps, that is. After all, the Everglades may be his natural habitat, but he's only one man. More will have to step off the beaten path to keep Florida's wildlands safe.

"There’s a wild side to Florida that’s hiding in plain sight," Ward says. Sometimes you just have to get a little messy to find it.

Ward getting down into the glades with his assistant. Photo via Upworthy.

See more of Ward's amazing work here:

He goes to extreme lengths to get these stunning photos. And the results are helping to save hundreds of species.

Posted by Upworthy on Thursday, August 24, 2017

Corrections 8/30/2017: The post misstated the amount of land given over to housing growth each year. The correct number is 100,000 acres. It also misidentified a great egret as a whooping crane.

Education

Teacher of the year explains why he's leaving district in unforgettable 3-minute speech

"I'm leaving in hopes that I can regain the ability to do the job that I love."

Lee Allen

For all of our disagreements in modern American life, there are at least a few things most of us can agree on. One of those is the need for reform in public education. We don't all agree on the solutions but many of the challenges are undeniable: retaining great teachers, reducing classroom size and updating the focus of student curriculums to reflect the ever-changing needs of a globalized workforce.

And while parents, politicians and activists debate those remedies, one voice is all-too-often ignored: that of teachers themselves.

This is why a short video testimony from a teacher in the Atlanta suburb of Gwinnett County went viral recently. After all, it's hard to deny the points made by someone who was just named teacher of the year and used the occasion to announce why he will be leaving the very school district that just honored him with that distinction.

Keep ReadingShow less
Joy

Tea time: how this boutique blends cultures from around the world

Ethically sourced, modern clothes for kids that embrace adventure, inspire connections and global thinking.

The Tea Collection combines philanthropic efforts with a deep rooted sense of multiculturalism into each of their designs so that kids can grow up with global sensibilities. They make clothes built to last with practicality and adventure in mind. But why "Tea"?

Let's spill it. Tea is a drink shared around the world with people from all different cultures. It is a common thread that weaves the world together. The Tea Collection was born from a love of travel and a love of sharing tea with different people in different places. Inspired by patterns from around the world, these clothes help children develop a familiarity with global communities.

Tea sources their materials ethically and ensures that each of their partners abide to strict codes of conduct. They have a zero-tolerance policy for anything "even slightly questionable" and make sure that they regularly visit their manufacturing partners to ensure that they're supporting positive working conditions.

Since 2003, The Tea Collection has partnered with the Global Fund for Children and has invested in different grassroots organizations that create community empowered programs to uplift kids in need. They donate 10% of their proceeds and have already contributed over $500,000 to different organizations such as: The Homeless Prenatal Program (San Francisco, CA, USA), Door of Faith Orphanage (Baja California, Mexico), Little Sisters Fund (Nepal) and others in Peru, Sri Lanka, India, Italy and Haiti.

But the best part about the Tea Collection? They're also an official member of the Kidizen Rewear Collective, which believes that clothes should stretch far beyond one child's use. They have their own external site for their preloved clothes that makes rewearing affordable. Families can trade in gently used Tea clothes and receive discounts for future products. Shopping the site helps keep clothes out of land fills and reduces the environmental impact of the fashion industry.

By creating heirloom style clothing made to last families can buy, sell, and trade clothes that can be reworn again and again. Because "new to you" doesn't always have to mean never been worn. And let's be honest, we all know how fast kids grow! Shopping preloved clothes is a great way to keep styles fresh without harming the environment or feeling guilty about not getting the most out of certain styles.

But don't just take our word for it! Head over to the Tea Collection and see for yourself!

Upworthy has earned revenue through a partnership and/or may earn a portion of sales revenue from purchases made through links on our site.

Hold on, Frankie! Mama's coming!

How do you explain motherhood in a nutshell? Thanks to Cait Oakley, who stopped a preying bald eagle from capturing her pet goose as she breastfed her daughter, we have it summed up in one gloriously hilarious TikTok.

The now viral video shows the family’s pet goose, Frankie, frantically squawking as it gets dragged off the porch by a bald eagle—likely another mom taking care of her own kiddos.

Wearing nothing but her husband’s boxers while holding on to her newborn, Willow, Oakley dashes out of the house and successfully comes to Frankie's rescue while yelling “hey, hey hey!”

The video’s caption revealed that the Oakleys had already lost three chickens due to hungry birds of prey, so nothing was going to stop “Mama bear” from protecting “sweet Frankie.” Not even a breastfeeding session.

Oakley told TODAY Parents, “It was just a split second reaction ...There was nowhere to put Willow down at that point.” Sometimes being a mom means feeding your child and saving your pet all at the same time.

As for how she feels about running around topless in her underwear on camera, Oakley declared, “I could have been naked and I’m like, ‘whatever, I’m feeding my baby.’”

Keep ReadingShow less