14 eerie photos show how this sea became a desert, and how it's finally being revived.

This is a land without water.

Image from Arian Zwegers/Flickr.


Lines of old fishing boats sit abandoned.

Image from Arian Zwegers/Wikimedia Commons.

Decaying like ruins from a Percy Bysshe Shelly poem.

The water they once depended on is nowhere in sight.

Image from Vyacheslav Oseledko/AFP/Getty Images.

Now there is just sand. And scrub. And the slow decay of time.

Image from Gilad Rom/Flickr.

This is the former Aral Sea.

Image by Russians in Central Asia/Wikimedia Commons.

The Aral Sea, which lies between Southern Kazakhstan and Northern Uzbekistan, was once one of the world's largest saltwater lakes. Tens of thousands of people fished in its waters, producing one-sixth of the Soviet Union's fish intake.

But decades of mismanagement have destroyed it.

Beginning in the 1960s, Soviet engineers diverted the rivers that fed the Aral Sea, using their water to irrigate vast agricultural projects. And, without water, the Aral slowly began to dry out and disappear.

GIF from NordNordWest/Wikimedia Commons.

Leaving behind nothing.

Image from Staecker/Wikimedia Commons.

This was once a harbor.

Nothing but ruins...

Image from AFP/Victor Vasenin/Getty Images.

... and dust ...

Image from Martijn.Munneke/Flickr.

...and poison.

Image from Sebastian Kluger/Wikimedia Commons.

As the waters receded, they left behind vast plains covered in salt and toxic chemicals. And without plant life to hold it in place, winds spread the noxious mix of pesticides, industrial runoff, and other chemicals into the air.

Cancer and illness are sadly common here.

The land has a new name now: the Aralkum Desert.

Image from upyernoz/Flickr.

But, among all this, there is a glimmer of good news.

Starting in the 1990s, the nations around the Aral Sea began working on restoration projects. And while many of these projects have ended in failure, a few have succeeded.

In Kazakhstan, the government built a massive dam, called Dike Kokaral, around one of the remnants of the original Aral Sea.

Image by Antoine Lambroschini/AFP/Getty Images.

The dam holds back water from one of the major rivers, sacrificing the larger basin's water supply in order to replenish a smaller area known as the North Aral Sea.

Because of Dike Kokaral, the North Aral Sea is rising again.

The black outline shows the original coastline. GIF from Sibom/Wikimedia Commons.

Fish stocks have returned as well, helping to revive the fishing industry.

Image by Antoine Lambroschini/AFP/Getty Images.

The water's return even affected the local climate, returning rain to the area. This is just a tiny modicum of healing in a gravely ill region. But it's something.

Water is a precious resource and it's easy to forget how much we depend on clean, accessible water. These images show what can happen when we disregard it.

The next time someone claims there's no way humans can affect the environment, show them the desert that was once a sea.

True

When Sue Hoppin was in college, she met the man she was going to marry. "I was attending the University of Denver, and he was at the Air Force Academy," she says. "My dad had also attended the University of Denver and warned me not to date those flyboys from the Springs."

"He didn't say anything about marrying one of them," she says. And so began her life as a military spouse.

The life brings some real advantages, like opportunities to live abroad — her family got to live all around the US, Japan, and Germany — but it also comes with some downsides, like having to put your spouse's career over your own goals.

"Though we choose to marry someone in the military, we had career goals before we got married, and those didn't just disappear."

Career aspirations become more difficult to achieve, and progress comes with lots of starts and stops. After experiencing these unique challenges firsthand, Sue founded an organization to help other military spouses in similar situations.

Sue had gotten a degree in international relations because she wanted to pursue a career in diplomacy, but for fourteen years she wasn't able to make any headway — not until they moved back to the DC area. "Eighteen months later, many rejections later, it became apparent that this was going to be more challenging than I could ever imagine," she says.

Eighteen months is halfway through a typical assignment, and by then, most spouses are looking for their next assignment. "If I couldn't find a job in my own 'hometown' with multiple degrees and a great network, this didn't bode well for other military spouses," she says.

She's not wrong. Military spouses spend most of their lives moving with their partners, which means they're often far from family and other support networks. When they do find a job, they often make less than their civilian counterparts — and they're more likely to experience underemployment or unemployment. In fact, on some deployments, spouses are not even allowed to work.

Before the pandemic, military spouse unemployment was 22%. Since the pandemic, it's expected to rise to 35%.

Sue eventually found a job working at a military-focused nonprofit, and it helped her get the experience she needed to create her own dedicated military spouse program. She wrote a book and started saving up enough money to start the National Military Spouse Network (NMSN), which she founded in 2010 as the first organization of its kind.

"I founded the NMSN to help professional military spouses develop flexible careers they could perform from any location."

"Over the years, the program has expanded to include a free digital magazine, professional development events, drafting annual White Papers and organizing national and local advocacy to address the issues of most concern to the professional military spouse community," she says.

Not only was NMSN's mission important to Sue on a personal level she also saw it as part of something bigger than herself.

"Gone are the days when families can thrive on one salary. Like everyone else, most military families rely on two salaries to make ends meet. If a military spouse wants or needs to work, they should be able to," she says.

"When less than one percent of our population serves in the military," she continues, "we need to be able to not only recruit the best and the brightest but also retain them."

"We lose out as a nation when service members leave the force because their spouse is unable to find employment. We see it as a national security issue."

"The NMSN team has worked tirelessly to jumpstart the discussion and keep the challenges affecting military spouses top of mind. We have elevated the conversation to Congress and the White House," she continues. "I'm so proud of the fact that corporations, the government, and the general public are increasingly interested in the issues affecting military spouses and recognizing the employment roadblocks they unfairly have faced."

"We have collectively made other people care, and in doing so, we elevated the issues of military spouse unemployment to a national and global level," she adds. "In the process, we've also empowered military spouses to advocate for themselves and our community so that military spouse employment issues can continue to remain at the forefront."

Not only has NMSN become a sought-after leader in the military spouse employment space, but Sue has also seen the career she dreamed of materializing for herself. She was recently invited to participate in the public re-launch of Joining Forces, a White House initiative supporting military and veteran families, with First Lady Dr. Jill Biden.

She has also had two of her recommendations for practical solutions introduced into legislation just this year. She was the first in the Air Force community to show leadership the power of social media to reach both their airmen and their military families.

That is why Sue is one of Tory Burch's "Empowered Women" this year. The $5,000 donation will be going to The Madeira School, a school that Sue herself attended when she was in high school because, she says, "the lessons I learned there as a student pretty much set the tone for my personal and professional life. It's so meaningful to know that the donation will go towards making a Madeira education more accessible to those who may not otherwise be able to afford it and providing them with a life-changing opportunity."

Most military children will move one to three times during high school so having a continuous four-year experience at one high school can be an important gift. After traveling for much of her formative years, Sue attended Madeira and found herself "in an environment that fostered confidence and empowerment. As young women, we were expected to have a voice and advocate not just for ourselves, but for those around us."

To learn more about Tory Burch and Upworthy's Empowered Women program visit https://www.toryburch.com/empoweredwomen/. Nominate an inspiring woman in your community today!

Vanna White appeared on "The Price Is Right" in 1980.

Vanna White has been a household name in the United States for decades, which is kind of hilarious when you consider how she gained her fame and fortune. Since 1982, the former model and actress has made millions walking back and forth turning letters (and later simply touching them—yay technology) on the game show "Wheel of Fortune."

That's it. Walking back and forth in a pretty evening gown, flipping letters and clapping for contestants. More on that job in a minute…

As a member of Gen X, television game shows like "Wheel of Fortune" and "The Price is Right" send me straight back to my childhood. Watching this clip from 1980 of Vanna White competing on "The Price is Right" two years before she started turning letters on "Wheel of Fortune" is like stepping into a time machine. Bob Barker's voice, the theme music, the sound effects—I swear I'm home from school sick, lying on the ugly flowered couch with my mom checking my forehead and bringing me Tang.

This video has it all: the early '80s hairstyles, a fresh-faced Vanna White and Bob Barker's casual sexism that would never in a million years fly today.

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