30 years after nuclear catastrophe, Chernobyl has a new energy mission.

The Chernobyl meltdown on April 26, 1986, remains the most ruinous nuclear catastrophe in world history.

More than 30 people died in the immediate aftermath, and cleanup costs ran into the billions of dollars.

After the meltdown, the city and surrounding areas were evacuated, leaving 1,600 square miles of radioactive real estate rotting away in what was then the Soviet Union, now Ukraine.


The abandoned town of Pripyat and the Chernobyl power plant, through scaffolding holding a remnant of the Soviet Union hammer and sickle. Photo by Daniel Berehulak/Getty Images.

30 years later, we're still discovering the long-term effects of this devastating fallout.

The total body count is estimated to be in the tens of thousands now, although it's difficult to determine exactly how many cases of cancer and other health complications in the surrounding areas can be attributed directly to the toxic waste still lingering in the ground.

To this day, the area remains abandoned except for occasional workers still struggling to contain the wreck in its concrete sarcophagus. But even the milk produced at the farthest edges of the disaster zone still contains 10 times the acceptable radiation limit.

On the bright side — which, ya know, is a pretty low bar here — the general lack of human activity means that wildlife in the area is thriving. So that's nice.

Horses in Belarus near Chernobyl. Photo by Viktor Drachev/AFP/Getty Images.

What do you do with 1 million acres of uninhabitable nuclear wasteland? It's no good as farmland, and you can't build houses...

But you can harvest sunlight.

These are actually in South Burlington, Vermont. But you get the idea. Photo by Robert Nickelsberg/Getty Images.

That's right: The Ukrainian government is turning Chernobyl into one of the world's largest solar farms.

"The Chernobyl site has really good potential for renewable energy," Ukrainian environment minister Ostap Semerak explained at a recent press conference in London. "We already have high-voltage transmission lines that were previously used for the nuclear stations, the land is very cheap, and we have many people trained to work at power plants."

As crazy as it might sound to build another power plant on the site of such a famously poisonous disaster, we can be fairly confident that sun fuel doesn't come with the same toxic risks.

Ostap Semerak (right) examines a hot cell on the construction site of a spent nuclear fuel storage facility next to the Chernobyl plant on the 30th anniversary of the disaster. Photo by Genya Savilov/AFP/Getty Images.

If this Chernobyl solar farm reaches fruition, it won't just energize the country. It'll dramatically transform it on a political level, too.

The estimated $1.1 billion project would produce 4 megawatts of energy, or enough to power up to 4,000 Ukrainian homes. "We want to be a successful Ukraine, to show people in the conflict zone that life is better and more comfortable with us," Semerak said at the press conference.

Clean, steady energy would obviously have a positive impact on the lives of those families. But it would also help the country wean off its reliance on neighboring Russia, which still provides Ukraine with much of its natural gas supply (except for when they don't, which is sometimes).

The relationship between Russia and Ukraine is complicated, to say the least. So in addition to the power-producing benefits of this potential new solar farm, energy independence offers an opportunity for the Ukraine to ally itself more closely with the European Union. As Semerak said, "We have normal European priorities, which means having the best standards with the environment and clean energy ambitions."

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko speaks at Chernobyl on the 30th anniversary of the disaster. Photo by Sean Gallup/Getty Images.

While Ukraine is still in the planning stages, this ambitious project represents a positive potential for a brighter, sun-fueled future.

There are still some hurdles to cross, of course. The big one right now is fundraising, which was the impetus behind Semerak's press conference in the first place. While solar power is undeniably more efficient and affordable, the up-front overhead costs run a little steep, even if they ultimately pay off.

There's also the fact that it'd be naive of Ukraine to enter into such a huge campaign without considering the full ramifications of nuclear fallout. Given the increased wildlife presence, it's entirely possible that the radioactivity has subsided enough that it would be safe to start a large-scale construction project — with proper precautions for the workers, just in case.

But this is definitely a situation where it's better to be safe than sorry.

Photo by Sergei Gapon/AFP/Getty Images.

Humans have done serious damage to the planet over the years. But if it does work out, the Chernobyl solar farm could be an inspiration for all of us.

This is not to the diminish the tragedy of April 26, 1986, of course.

But building a clean-energy plant on a radioactive graveyard is a strangely powerful reminder that our people and our planet can rebound from even the most terrible catastrophes.

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.

Photo by R.D. Smith on Unsplash

Gem is living her best life.

If you've ever dreamed of spontaneously walking out the door and treating yourself a day of pampering at a spa without even telling anyone, you'll love this doggo who is living your best life.

According to CTV News, a 5-year-old shepherd-cross named Gem escaped from her fenced backyard in Winnipeg early Saturday morning and ended up at the door of Happy Tails Pet Resort & Spa, five blocks away. An employee at the spa saw Gem at the gate around 6:30 a.m. and was surprised when they noticed her owners were nowhere to be seen.

"They were looking in the parking lot and saying, 'Where's your parents?'" said Shawn Bennett, one of the co-owners of the business.

The employee opened the door and Gem hopped right on in, ready and raring to go for her day of fun and relaxation.

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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."