17 photos of people who know just how high the stakes of climate change are.

While world leaders were traveling to Paris to attempt to finally agree on what to do about climate change, people all over the world got together to hold their feet to the fire.

The ostensible goal of the COP21 conference in France is to produce a legally binding agreement that will help reduce emissions and slow down global warming. But climate change is already here, and the usual conference scenario — lots of important people talking a lot while getting little done — ain't gonna cut it anymore.

That's why this weekend, hundreds of thousands of people around the world gathered to send a message to their leaders:


Less talking, more doing.

1. Bogota, Colombia

A protestor holds up a heart-shaped sign that asks world leaders, "Are you ready for extinction?"

Photo by Guillermo Legaria/Getty Images.

Hopefully, she's exaggerating for rhetorical effect.

Hopefully.

2. New York

Everyone's favorite Science Guy, the one and only Bill Nye joined the crowd.

Bill! Bill! Bill! Bill! Bill! Bill Nye the Science Guy. Photo by Kena Betancur/Getty Images.

"The climate is changing. It's our fault, and we have to get to work on this now," Nye reportedly said at the rally, according to the New York Daily News. When even the best-case scenarios include scary outcomes like more flooding, bigger and badder droughts, and massive crop die-offs, it's hard to disagree with the (science) guy.

3. Sao Paulo

Photo by Nelson Almeida/Getty Images.

Hulk would very much like to smash climate change.

If only, Hulk. If only.

4. Oslo, Norway

Though Norwegian glaciers bravely held on until the late-1990s, they're now retreating just like in most of the rest of the world.


Photo by AFP/Getty Images.

Unless a comprehensive, binding climate agreement with teeth gets signed in Paris this year, the glaciers of Norway will likely be forever remembered as having peaked right around the time Smash Mouth did.

5. Santiago, Chile

Her sign reads: "People in charge: This is my Earth, and it's also yours and your children's. Don't destroy it."

Photo by Martin Bernetti/Getty Images.

Good — if dire — advice, Chile.

6. London

At the London rally, Welsh singer Charlotte Church performed a new song she wrote about confronting Earth's impending climate crisis.

Photo by Leon Neal/Getty Images.

The song is still untitled as of publication, but might I suggest, "Wake Up and Do Something, You Dolts?"

Has a nice ring to it, is all I'm saying.

7. Amsterdam

A Dutch man with a killer beard carries a sign that reads, "This road is a dead end" — and not only because it appears he's about to smash into a giant scale replica of the Eiffel Tower.

Photo by Bart Maat/Getty Images.

He's referring to this road. The one the Earth appears to be on. Turn around much, Team Paris?

8. Frankfurt, Germany

Frank Rumpenhorst/Getty Images.

Should the worst-case climate scenario come to pass (a temperature increase in excess of two degrees Celsius, a world-altering mega-sea level rise of 20 feet or more, and millions of displaced people around the globe) figuring out how to fit bugs with World War I-era gas masks will be the least of our problems.

9. Mexico City

Photo by Yuri Cortez/Getty Images.

This mask: precisely 150% less scary than the effects of a sea level rise that conforms to even the most conservative estimates.

10. Nantes, France

A few days before the climate talks were set to begin, folks all across France got together to protest a ban on large gatherings that was imposed after the Paris attacks.

Photo by Jean-Sebastien Evrard/Getty Images.

Though some of the marches devolved into clashes with police, this one manifested as a nice, chill circle.

11. Johannesburg

In South Africa, thousands marched to draw attention to the connection between climate change and worsening poverty.

Photo by Mujahid Safodien/Getty Images.

According to a World Bank report, rising global temperatures could help lead 100 million more people down the path to extreme poverty, unable to afford even the most basic spooky skeleton mask.

12. Dhaka, Bangladesh

Photo by Munir Uz Zaman/Getty Images.

World leaders planning to bulls*** their way through the climate meetings should think twice before messing with these women or their brighly-colored flowers.

13. Montevideo, Uruguay

As a result of climate change, Uruguay has been contending with increased rainfall and more intense storms.

Photo by Miguel Rojo/Getty Images.

Thankfully, these protestors chose one of the decreasing number of bright, near-perfect sunny days to send a message over to France.

14. Ottawa, Ontario

Photo by Patrick Doyle/Getty Images.

A protester on Canada's Parliament Hill, modeling what many in coastal cities around the world will be forced to wear just to say afloat if too many glaciers melt.

15. Vienna

Photo by Joe Klamar/Getty Images.

According to a 2014 study published in Nature Climate Change, climate change could reduce the Antarctic penguin population by up to one-fifth, rendering it no longer possible to make it through "March of the Penguins," without bursting into tears for the wrong reasons instead of the right reasons.

16. Madrid

Photo by Gerard Julien/Getty Images.

Estimates released by the UN in 2011 clearly demonstrate that, if we really wanted to, we could be using renewable energy to meet 80% of the world's power needs within the next 40 years — and that still wouldn't be enough for these Spanish marchers demanding 100% renewable energy with their delightful yellow sun placards.

17. Geneva

"Hey world leaders, what's good?" — this polar bear. Photo by Fabrice Coffrini/Getty Images.

If arctic sea ice continues to melt at current rates — up to 9% per decade — polar bears may be forced to move to major cities around the globe and march defiantly in parades. Which is why the world needs to act — now.

'Cause let's be honest, leaving aside all the grave consequences drastic climate change might wreak, that would be super weird.

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Judy Vaughan has spent most of her life helping other women, first as the director of House of Ruth, a safe haven for homeless families in East Los Angeles, and later as the Project Coordinator for Women for Guatemala, a solidarity organization committed to raising awareness about human rights abuses.

But in 1996, she decided to take things a step further. A house became available in the mid-Wilshire area of Los Angeles and she was offered the opportunity to use it to help other women and children. So, in partnership with a group of 13 people who she knew from her years of activism, she decided to make it a transitional residence program for homeless women and their children. They called the program Alexandria House.

"I had learned from House of Ruth that families who are homeless are often isolated from the surrounding community," Judy says. "So we decided that as part of our mission, we would also be a neighborhood center and offer a number of resources and programs, including an after-school program and ESL classes."

She also decided that, unlike many other shelters in Los Angeles, she would accept mothers with their teenage boys.

"There are very few in Los Angeles [that do] due to what are considered liability issues," Judy explains. "Given the fact that there are (conservatively) 56,000 homeless people and only about 11,000 shelter beds on any one night, agencies can be selective on who they take."

Their Board of Directors had already determined that they should take families that would have difficulties finding a place. Some of these challenges include families with more than two children, immigrant families without legal documents, moms who are pregnant with other small children, families with a member who has a disability [and] families with service dogs.

"Being separated from your son or sons, especially in the early teen years, just adds to the stress that moms who are unhoused are already experiencing," Judy says.

"We were determined to offer women with teenage boys another choice."

Courtesy of Judy Vaughan

Alexandria House also doesn't kick boys out when they turn 18. For example, Judy says they currently have a mom with two daughters (21 and 2) and a son who just turned 18. The family had struggled to find a shelter that would take them all together, and once they found Alexandria House, they worried the boy would be kicked out on his 18th birthday. But, says Judy, "we were not going to ask him to leave because of his age."

Homelessness is a big issue in Los Angeles. "[It] is considered the homeless capital of the United States," Judy says. "The numbers have not changed significantly since 1984 when I was working at the House of Ruth." The COVID-19 pandemic has only compounded the problem. According to Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority (LAHSA), over 66,000 people in the greater Los Angeles area were experiencing homelessness in 2020, representing a rise of 12.7% compared with the year before.

Each woman who comes to Alexandria House has her own unique story, but some common reasons for ending up homeless include fleeing from a domestic violence or human trafficking situation, aging out of foster care and having no place to go, being priced out of an apartment, losing a job, or experiencing a family emergency with no 'cushion' to pay the rent.

"Homelessness is not a definition; it is a situation that a person finds themselves in, and in fact, it can happen to almost anyone. There are many practices and policies that make it almost impossible to break out of poverty and move out of homelessness."

And that's why Alexandria House exists: to help them move out of it. How long that takes depends on the woman, but according to Judy, families stay an average of 10 months. During that time, the women meet with support staff to identify needs and goals and put a plan of action in place.

A number of services are provided, including free childcare, programs and mentoring for school-age children, free mental health counseling, financial literacy classes and a savings program. They have also started Step Up Sisterhood LA, an entrepreneurial program to support women's dreams of starting their own businesses. "We serve as a support system for as long as a family would like," Judy says, even after they have moved on.

And so far, the program is a resounding success.

92 percent of the 200 families who stayed at Alexandria House have found financial stability and permanent housing — not becoming homeless again.

Since founding Alexandria House 25 years ago, Judy has never lost sight of her mission to join with others and create a vision of a more just society and community. That is why she is one of Tory Burch's Empowered Women this year — and the donation she receives as a nominee will go to Alexandria House and will help grow the new Start-up Sisterhood LA program.

"Alexandria House is such an important part of my life," says Judy. "It has been amazing to watch the children grow up and the moms recreate their lives for themselves and for their families. I have witnessed resiliency, courage, and heroic acts of generosity."

When "bobcat" trended on Twitter this week, no one anticipated the unreal series of events they were about to witness. The bizarre bobcat encounter was captured on a security cam video and...well...you just have to see it. (Read the following description if you want to be prepared, or skip down to the video if you want to be surprised. I promise, it's a wild ride either way.)

In a North Carolina neighborhood that looks like a present-day Pleasantville, a man carries a cup of coffee and a plate of brownies out to his car. "Good mornin!" he calls cheerfully to a neighbor jogging by. As he sets his coffee cup on the hood of the car, he says, "I need to wash my car." Well, shucks. His wife enters the camera frame on the other side of the car.

So far, it's just about the most classic modern Americana scene imaginable. And then...

A horrifying "rrrrawwwww!" Blood-curdling screaming. Running. Panic. The man abandons the brownies, races to his wife's side of the car, then emerges with an animal in his hands. He holds the creature up like Rafiki holding up Simba, then yells in its face, "Oh my god! It's a bobcat! Oh my god!"

Then he hucks the bobcat across the yard with all his might.

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Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
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Since March of 2020, over 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the CDC. Over 540,000 have died in the United States as this unprecedented pandemic has swept the globe. And yet, by the end of 2020, it looked like science was winning: vaccines had been developed.

In celebration of the power of science we spoke to three people: an individual, a medical provider, and a vaccine scientist about how vaccines have impacted them throughout their lives. Here are their answers:

John Scully, 79, resident of Florida

Photo courtesy of John Scully

When John Scully was born, America was in the midst of an epidemic: tens of thousands of children in the United States were falling ill with paralytic poliomyelitis — otherwise known as polio, a disease that attacks the central nervous system and often leaves its victims partially or fully paralyzed.

"As kids, we were all afraid of getting polio," he says, "because if you got polio, you could end up in the dreaded iron lung and we were all terrified of those." Iron lungs were respirators that enclosed most of a person's body; people with severe cases often would end up in these respirators as they fought for their lives.

John remembers going to see matinee showings of cowboy movies on Saturdays and, before the movie, shorts would run. "Usually they showed the news," he says, "but I just remember seeing this one clip warning us about polio and it just showed all these kids in iron lungs." If kids survived the iron lung, they'd often come back to school on crutches, in leg braces, or in wheelchairs.

"We all tried to be really careful in the summer — or, as we called it back then, 'polio season,''" John says. This was because every year around Memorial Day, major outbreaks would begin to emerge and they'd spike sometime around August. People weren't really sure how the disease spread at the time, but many believed it traveled through the water. There was no cure — and every child was susceptible to getting sick with it.

"We couldn't swim in hot weather," he remembers, "and the municipal outdoor pool would close down in August."

Then, in 1954 clinical trials began for Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine against polio and within a year, his vaccine was announced safe. "I got that vaccine at school," John says. Within two years, U.S. polio cases had dropped 85-95 percent — even before a second vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin in the 1960s. "I remember how much better things got after the vaccines came out. They changed everything," John says.

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