A dire warning comes in an Oscar winner's narration. Kevin Spacey is the Amazon rainforest.

A dire warning.

The rainforest is helping us all right now.

In addition to providing immense beauty and wonder, the Amazon rainforest absorbs more carbon dioxide than other types of ecosystems. How much?

It absorbs about 20% of human-made, carbon-based greenhouse gases.



But it's also 20% gone.

Unfortunately, groups such as the World Nature Organization estimate that 20% of the Amazon has already been destroyed in the past 40 years to make way for civilization, to take its wood, or for other nefarious purposes.

But there are still things we could be finding in this huge and amazing forest.

Besides more clean air, what's being lost in that 20%? Medicinal treasures!

The Amazon is vast and contains things that humans have benefited from so much. And we haven't explored MOST of the Amazon yet. An average patch of rainforest measuring just four square miles holds hundreds of species of plants and trees, some of which haven't even been classified yet. Those undiscovered plants potentially hold keys to curing our ills and managing our pain.

Here are three examples of medicines we've been lucky to find (so far):

1. Cocaine (yes, cocaine) from the coca plant

This plant has led the world to a very important type of medicine. Most well-known for providing the world with cocaine, the coca plant is responsible for many of the world's ills. But it has also provided some real benefits.

Cocaine was an early form of anesthesia. Without it, we wouldn't have known how anesthesia was supposed to work on the body. Synthetically derived forms of it, such as novocaine, are still used today to numb your mouth while your dentist does horrible things to your gums.

2. Tubocurarine from climbing vines

I have a doozy of a plant name for you: Chondrodendron tomentosum.

Don't even try to pronounce it — it's OK.

This poisonous climbing vine was discovered in the Amazon being used primarily as a poison to put in darts (!!) before it was used as one of the first forms of anesthesia used during medical procedures. Even though it isn't used today, the chemical derived from these plants, tubocurarine, was one of the stepping stones that led to modern, safer forms of anesthesia.

If it weren't for this plant, humans might still be biting a belt and hoping that their surgery would be over soon.

3. Diosgenin from wild yams

Here's another weird one: Dioscorea nipponica.

That's the name for a genus of wild yam native to South America. From that plant you can extract diosgenin, which was used in the development of steroid hormones like progesterone. Without it, we might not have developed birth control pills.

The Amazon can't really speak for itself, so just think: Do we really want to destroy it before we find out what else it has to offer?

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Courtesy of Macy's

In many ways, 18-year-old Idaho native, Hank Cazier, is like any other teenager you've met. He loves chocolate, pop music, and playing games with his family. He has lofty dreams of modeling for a major clothing company one day. But one thing that sets him apart may also jeopardize his future is his recent battle against a brain tumor.

Cazier was diagnosed in 2015. When he had surgery to remove the tumor, he received trauma to his brain and lost some of his motor functionality. He's been in physical, occupational, and speech therapy ever since. The experience impacted Cazier's confidence and self-esteem, so he's been looking for a way to build himself back up again.

"I wanted to do something that helped me look forward to the future," he says.

Enter Make-A-Wish, a nonprofit organization that grants wishes for children battling critical illnesses, providing them a chance to make the impossible possible. The organization partnered with Macy's to raise awareness and help make those wishes a reality. The hope is that the "wish effect" will improve their quality of life and empower them with the strength they need to overcome these illnesses and look towards the future. That was a particularly big deal for Cazier, who had been feeling like so many of his wishes weren't going to be possible because of his critical illness.

"In the beginning, it was hard to accept that it would be improbable for me to accomplish my previous goals because my illness took away so many of my physical abilities," says Cazier. His wish of becoming a model also seemed out of reach.

But Macy's and Make-A-Wish didn't see it like that. Once they learned about Cazier's wish, they knew he had to make it come true by inviting him to be part of the magical Macy's holiday shoot in New York.

Courtesy of Macy's

Make-A-Wish can't fulfill children's wishes without the generosity of donors and partners like Macy's. In fact, since 2003, Macy's has given more than $122 million to Make-A-Wish and impacted the lives of more than 2.9 million people.

Cazier's wish experience was beyond what he could've imagined, and it filled him with so much joy and confidence. "It is like waking up and discovering that you have super powers. It feels amazing!" he exclaims.

One of the best parts about the day for him was the kindness everyone who helped make it happen showed him.

"The employees of Macy's and Make-A-Wish made me feel welcome, warm, and cared for," he says. "I am truly grateful that even though they were busy doing their jobs, they were able to show kindness and compassion towards me in all of the little details."

He also got to spend part of the shoot outdoors, which, as someone who loves climbing, hiking, and scuba-diving but has trouble doing those activities now, was very welcome.

Courtesy of Macy's

Overall, Cazier feels he grew a lot during his modeling wish and is now emboldened to work towards a better quality of life. "I want to acquire skills that help me continue to improve in these circumstances," he says.

You can change the lives of more kids like Cazier just by writing a letter to Santa and dropping it in the big red letterbox at Macy's (you can also write and submit one online). For every letter received before Dec. 24, 2019, Macy's will donate $1 to Make-A-Wish, up to $1 million. By writing a letter to Santa, you can help a child replace fear with confidence, sadness with joy, and anxiety with hope.

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