2 big environmental problems you probably don't know about — and 1 you should care more about.
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The Wilderness Society

The Earth.

Photo by NASA.


It's probably fair to say that most of us enjoy the experience of living on it.

Unfortunately, all of us continuing to do so might take more work than previously thought. There are lots of forces conspiring to screw up the environment.

And not all of them get great press.

At the 2015 Aspen Ideas Festival, four experts were asked to name the "biggest environmental problem most people don't know about."

These were their answers:

1. How little water there is for all of us to drink.

Here in the U.S., we're pretty cavalier about our fresh water use.

How cavalier, you ask?

Pretty much sums it up. Photo by David Shankbone/Flickr.

But the abundance of clean water in the United States — and most of the Western world — obscures an important reality.

There really isn't all that much water on Earth to go around. And the more we pollute it, the bigger a disaster we're courting.

Because there's really no alternative.

Sadly "I'll just drink beer" is not a scalable solution. Photo by Nejmlez/Wikimedia Commons.

Oceanographer David Gallo explains it thusly:

The amount of fresh water on the Earth would fit into...

GIFs via The Atlantic/YouTube.

And over 7 billion people have a straw in the same grain of salt. Some speculate that competition for control of this limited supply between countries could eventually lead to famine, war, or worse. There's some evidence it's happening already.

Making sure we preserve clean drinking water for future generations, and figuring out how to distribute it to the people who need it most, are huge challenges that we've only just begun to address.

2. How acidic the oceans are becoming.

Earth's oceans, artist's rendering. Photo by Chris Metcalf/Flickr.

For the past 200 or so years, humanity has basically behaved like a drunk, entitled teenager with regard to the health of the planet, spewing trillions of tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, consequences be damned. And the oceans have graciously taken on the role of our beleaguered parents, constantly bailing us out by absorbing much of that CO2, slowing down the process of global warming.

It's an unhealthy arrangement, but so far, it's worked.

Unfortunately, it's looking more and more like our sweet setup is unsustainable.

When the oceans absorb CO2, they become more acidic in a process known — creatively — as ocean acidification. And while minor changes in the pH of the ocean might not seem like a big deal to a bunch of hulking land apes, they are a huge deal if you're a tiny sea creature.

Higher ocean acidity makes it more difficult for shelled organisms like sea butterflies and oysters to calcify their shells. When these creatures die off, it trickles up the food chain — with potentially disastrous consequences for the larger creatures who eat them. Like fish. And whales. And, um. A certain primate species that loves its seafood. Not going to name names. Not going to say who.


Looking at you, Jeremy. Photo by torbakhopper/Flickr.

But you know who you are.

3. How hot the Earth is getting and how quickly.

Keep cool, dude. Photo by Ash Photoholic/Flickr.

Climate change. The big Kahuna. The whole banana. D-Day. Yahtzee.

And yes, I know. You're thinking, "Ugh. I know about this already." And maybe you do. But according to survey after survey after survey, too many of us don't. Not really, anyway. So the experts think, anyhow.

This year alone, unprecedented heat waves killed thousands in South Asia. Major changes in ocean currents are already afoot. Some scientists are predicting that sea levels could rise 10 times faster than previous thought by 2016.

A Pew Research Center poll from September 2014 found that action on climate change was near the bottom of most Americans' priorities lists. There's some evidence that people are finally starting to pay more attention, but even caring a lot might still not be enough. Because holy crap, it could be bad.

We need to take action, and we need to take it now. In so many ways, climate change isn't just an issue, it's the issue. Call up your senators and representatives and tell them to get it on the agenda. Spread the word! Get in the streets!

The Earth is pretty darn great. Let's make sure it doesn't go away.

But don't take it from me.

Take it from the experts.

Seriously. Listen. To. Them. These folks know what they're talking about:

Images courtesy of Mark Storhaug & Kaiya Bates

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The experiences we have at school tend to stay with us throughout our lives. It's an impactful time where small acts of kindness, encouragement, and inspiration go a long way.

Schools, classrooms, and teachers that are welcoming and inclusive support students' development and help set them up for a positive and engaging path in life.

Here are three of our favorite everyday actions that are spreading kindness on campus in a big way:

Image courtesy of Mark Storhaug

1. Pickleball to Get Fifth Graders Moving

Mark Storhaug is a 5th grade teacher at Kingsley Elementary in Los Angeles, who wants to use pickleball to get his students "moving on the playground again after 15 months of being Zombies learning at home."

Pickleball is a paddle ball sport that mixes elements of badminton, table tennis, and tennis, where two or four players use solid paddles to hit a perforated plastic ball over a net. It's as simple as that.

Kingsley Elementary is in a low-income neighborhood where outdoor spaces where kids can move around are minimal. Mark's goal is to get two or three pickleball courts set up in the schoolyard and have kids join in on what's quickly becoming a national craze. Mark hopes that pickleball will promote movement and teamwork for all his students. He aims to take advantage of the 20-minute physical education time allotted each day to introduce the game to his students.

Help Mark get his students outside, exercising, learning to cooperate, and having fun by donating to his GoFundMe.

Image courtesy of Kaiya Bates

2. Staying C.A.L.M: Regulation Kits for Kids

According to the WHO around 280 million people worldwide suffer from depression. In the US, 1 in 5 adults experience mental illness and 1 in 20 experience severe mental illness, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness.

Kaiya Bates, who was recently crowned Miss Tri-Cities Outstanding Teen for 2022, is one of those people, and has endured severe anxiety, depression, and selective mutism for most of her life.

Through her GoFundMe, Kaiya aims to use her "knowledge to inspire and help others through their mental health journey and to spread positive and factual awareness."

She's put together regulation kits (that she's used herself) for teachers to use with students who are experiencing stress and anxiety. Each "CALM-ing" kit includes a two-minute timer, fidget toolboxes, storage crates, breathing spheres, art supplies and more.

Kaiya's GoFundMe goal is to send a kit to every teacher in every school in the Pasco School District in Washington where she lives.

To help Kaiya achieve her goal, visit Staying C.A.L.M: Regulation Kits for Kids.

Image courtesy of Julie Tarman

3. Library for a high school heritage Spanish class

Julie Tarman is a high school Spanish teacher in Sacramento, California, who hopes to raise enough money to create a Spanish language class library.

The school is in a low-income area, and although her students come from Spanish-speaking homes, they need help building their fluency, confidence, and vocabulary through reading Spanish language books that will actually interest them.

Julie believes that creating a library that affirms her students' cultural heritage will allow them to discover the joy of reading, learn new things about the world, and be supported in their academic futures.

To support Julie's GoFundMe, visit Library for a high school heritage Spanish class.

Do YOU have an idea for a fundraiser that could make a difference? Upworthy and GoFundMe are celebrating ideas that make the world a better, kinder place. Visit upworthy.com/kindness to join the largest collaboration for human kindness in history and start your own GoFundMe.

The year 2018 was a pivotal one in the produce industry, the Red Delicious was supplanted as the most popular apple in America by the sweeter, crisper Gala.

It was only a matter of time. The Red Delicious looked the part of the king of the apples with its deep red, flawless skin. But its interior was soft, mealy, and pretty bland. The Red Delicious was popular for growers because its skin hid any bruises and it was desired by consumers because of its appearance.

But these days it's having a hard time competing with the delectable crunch provided by the Gala, honeycrisp, and Fuji.

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When a pet is admitted to a shelter it can be a traumatizing experience. Many are afraid of their new surroundings and are far from comfortable showing off their unique personalities. The problem is that's when many of them have their photos taken to appear in online searches.

Chewy, the pet retailer who has dedicated themselves to supporting shelters and rescues throughout the country, recognized the important work of a couple in Tampa, FL who have been taking professional photos of shelter pets to help get them adopted.

"If it's a photo of a scared animal, most people, subconsciously or even consciously, are going to skip over it," pet photographer Adam Goldberg says. "They can't visualize that dog in their home."

Adam realized the importance of quality shelter photos while working as a social media specialist for the Humane Society of Broward County in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

"The photos were taken top-down so you couldn't see the size of the pet, and the flash would create these red eyes," he recalls. "Sometimes [volunteers] would shoot the photos through the chain-link fences."

That's why Adam and his wife, Mary, have spent much of their free time over the past five years photographing over 1,200 shelter animals to show off their unique personalities to potential adoptive families. The Goldbergs' wonderful work was recently profiled by Chewy in the video above entitled, "A Day in the Life of a Shelter Pet Photographer."