5,000 people drown in Lake Victoria each year. A single text message could help save them.

Lake Victoria is a rich fishing ground in eastern Africa, but it's also stormy — very stormy. In fact, lightning has been recorded 4 out of every 5 days of the year in Kampala, the Ugandan capital city situated along the lake's northern edge.

And without reliable, accessible weather forecasts, these storms can catch fishermen and other boaters off guard. About 5,000 people drown every year because of them.


Storms like this can be deadly. Image from Martin Richardson/YouTube.

"There are people who need this information, but because of poverty they can't afford it," Frank Annor, field director for the Trans-African HydroMeterological Observatory (TAHMO), told New Scientist. "People's lives could change for the better if they are given some knowledge about the weather."

TAHMO is an organization dedicated to improving weather forecasting in Africa. They're already setting up a huge network of weather stations across the continent. Now they'll help get that information to the people who need it.

A new text message program the organization is set to unveil in eastern Africa could help save lives.


Image from Ken Banks/Flickr.

More than 19 million Ugandans have cellphones. They're not usually smartphones, so no Internet or complex apps, but they do get text messages. That's how some of them will be able to get that on-demand weather information they need.

Over the next two years, TAHMO will roll out a text message program that can warn people of incoming storms. People can call or text the service to hear weather forecasts. They can also opt-in to get push messages whenever the system detects and approaching storm. The messages will be free to users.

The program will start in Uganda, and the service should be operational by April.

The text messages will be part of a larger program called 3-2-1. The system is a research project led by TAHMO in collaboration with the Uganda National Meteorological Authority and partnered with a number of different organizations such as Human Network International (HNI).

The text message platform was developed by HNI and Airtel, a cell phone provider. At first, only the 8-million Airtel subscribers will have access to the program, but TAHMO hopes to expand it to all carriers. If everything goes according to plan, they can extend the service to people in nearby countries as well.

The undertaking comes after TAHMO was selected by the Global Resilience Project, which helped give them funding to start it.

Similar text message warning programs have been unveiled in the past, but TAHMO's weather monitoring stations set it apart.

The stations will power an incredible information-gathering network.

This is an older version. Installing them at schools helps protect the stations and also provides a learning opportunity for the kids. Image from TAHMO/Flickr.

Built to be cheap and low-maintenance, these weather stations will measure temperature, humidity, air pressure, wind speed, and rainfall. TAHMO wants to set up 20,000 of them across Africa.

The new generation of stations are designed to be as robust as possible. They have no moving parts or open cavities, so things can't break and critters can't get in. They have both batteries and small solar panels, so they won't run out of power, either.


This is more like what the new stations will look like. Image from TAHMO/Flickr.

TAHMO hopes to install many of these stations at local schools, but the stations can be placed anywhere they can get a mobile phone signal. They'll use the mobile phone service to send the information back to weather forecasters. The forecasters can use this extra information to make weather predictions a lot more accurate and timely.

A simple, clever idea can make a difference in countless lives.

The weather data wouldn't just be useful for fishermen. Private companies partnered with TAHMO could use it to offer services to other people as well. For example, though farmers aren't usually in danger of drowning, a bad storm could damage crops.


A rainstorm did this to a corn crop in India. Image from IITA/Flickr.

Also, at a larger scale, farmer's insurance companies might be interested in TAHMO's more accurate weather data because it could help them offer better insurance coverage for farmers. Construction companies, schools, and airports might also benefit from this data.

The two ideas — better weather monitoring and early warnings — are a magical mix.

Better data, safer boating, and a clever use of technology? Sign me up.

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Amazon

Shopping sustainably is increasingly important given the severity of the climate crisis, but sometimes it's hard to know where to turn. Thankfully, Amazon is making it a little easier to browse thousands of products that have one or more of 19 sustainability certifications that help preserve the natural world.

The online retailer recently announced Climate Pledge Friendly, a program to make it easier for customers to discover and shop for more sustainable products. To determine the sustainability of a product, the program partnered with third-party certifications, including governmental agencies, nonprofits, and independent labs.

With a selection of items spanning grocery, household, fashion, beauty, and personal electronics, you'll be able to shop more sustainably not just for the holiday season, but throughout the year for your essentials, as well.

You can browse all of the Climate Pledge Friendly products here, labeled with an icon and which certification(s) they meet. To get you on your way to shopping more sustainably, we've rounded up eight of our favorite Climate Pledge Friendly-products that will make great gifts all year long.

Amazon

Jack Wolfskin Women's North York Coat

Give the gift of warmth and style with this coat, available in a variety of colors. Sustainability is built into all Jack Wolfskin products and each item comes with a code that lets you trace back to its origins and understand how it was made.

Bluesign: Bluesign products are responsibly manufactured by using safer chemicals and fewer resources, including less energy, in production.


Amazon

Amazon All-new Echo Dot (4th Gen)

For the tech-obsessed. This Alexa smart speaker, which comes in a sleek, compact design, lets you voice control your entertainment and your smart home as well as connect with others.

Reducing CO2: Products with this certification reduce their carbon footprint year after year. Certified by the Carbon Trust.


Amazon

Burt's Bees Family Jammies Matching Holiday Organic Cotton Pajamas

Get into the holiday spirit with these fun matching PJs for the whole family. Perfect for pictures that even Fido can get in on.

Global Organic Textile Standard: This certifies each step of the organic textile supply chain against strict ecological and social standards. Each product with this certification contains 95%-100% organic content.

Amazon

Naturistick 5-Pack Lip Balm Gift Set

With 100% natural ingredients that are gentle on ultra-sensitive lips, this gift is a great gift for the whole family.

Compact by Design (Certified by Amazon): Products with this certification are packaged without excess air and water, which reduces the carbon footprint of shipping and packaging.


Amazon

Arus Women's GOTS Certified Organic Cotton Hooded Full Length Turkish Bathrobe

For those who love to lounge around, this full-length organic cotton bathrobe is the way to go. Available in five different colors, it has comfortable cuffed sleeves, a hood, pockets, and adjustable belt.

Global Organic Textile Standard: This certifies each step of the organic textile supply chain against strict ecological and social standards. Each product with this certification contains 95%-100% organic content.

Amazon

L'Occitane Extra-Gentle Vegetable Based Soap

This luxe soap, made with moisturizing shea butter and scented with verbena, is perfect for the self-care obsessed.

Compact by Design (Certified by Amazon): Products with this certification are packaged without excess air and water, which reduces the carbon footprint of shipping and packaging.

Amazon

Goodthreads Men's Sweater-Knit Fleece Long-Sleeve Bomber

For the fashionable men in your life, this fashion-forward knit bomber is an excellent choice. The sweater material keeps it cozy and warm, while the bomber jacket-cut, zip front, and rib-trim neck make it look elevated.

Recycled Claim Standard 100: Products with this certification use materials made from at least 95% recycled content.

Amazon

All-new Fire TV Stick with Alexa Voice Remote

Make it even easier to access your favorite movies and shows this holiday season. The new Fire TV Stick lets you use your voice to search across apps. Plus it controls the power and volume on your TV, so you'll never need to leave the couch! Except for snacks.

Reducing CO2: Products with this certification reduce their carbon footprint year after year. Certified by the Carbon Trust.

In the hours before he was sworn in as the 46th president of the United States, then-President-elect Biden was sent a letter signed by 17 freshmen GOP members of the House of Representatives.

In sharp contrast to the 121 Republican House members who voted against the certification of Biden's electoral votes—a constitutional procedure merely check-marking the state certifications that had already taken place—this letter expresses a desire to "rise above the partisan fray" and work together with Biden as he takes over the presidency.

The letter reads:

Dear President-elect Biden,

Congratulations on the beginning of your administration and presidency. As members of this freshman class, we trust that the next four years will present your administration and the 117thCongress with numerous challenges and successes, and we are hopeful that – despite our ideological differences – we may work together on behalf of the American people we are each so fortunate to serve.

After two impeachments, lengthy inter-branch investigations, and, most recently, the horrific attack on our nation's capital, it is clear that the partisan divide between Democrats and Republicans does not serve a single American.

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If the past year has taught us nothing else, it's that sending love out into the world through selfless acts of kindness can have a positive ripple effect on people and communities. People all over the United States seemed to have gotten the message — 71% of those surveyed by the World Giving Index helped a stranger in need in 2020. A nonprofit survey found 90% helped others by running errands, calling, texting and sending care packages. Many people needed a boost last year in one way or another and obliging good neighbors heeded the call over and over again — and continue to make a positive impact through their actions in this new year.

Upworthy and P&G Good Everyday wanted to help keep kindness going strong, so they partnered up to create the Lead with Love Fund. The fund awards do-gooders in communities around the country with grants to help them continue on with their unique missions. Hundreds of nominations came pouring in and five winners were selected based on three criteria: the impact of action, uniqueness, and "Upworthy-ness" of their story.

Here's a look at the five winners:

Edith Ornelas, co-creator of Mariposas Collective in Memphis, Tenn.

Edith Ornelas has a deep-rooted connection to the asylum-seeking immigrant families she brings food and supplies to families in Memphis, Tenn. She was born in Jalisco, Mexico, and immigrated to the United States when she was 7 years old with her parents and sister. Edith grew up in Chicago, then moved to Memphis in 2016, where she quickly realized how few community programs existed for immigrants. Two years later, she helped create Mariposas Collective, which initially aimed to help families who had just been released from detention centers and were seeking asylum. The collective started out small but has since grown to approximately 400 volunteers.