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

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?

Courtesy of Verizon
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If someone were to say "video games" to you, what are the first words that come to mind? Whatever words you thought of (fun, exciting, etc.), we're willing to guess "healthy" or "mental health tool" didn't pop into your mind.

And yet… it turns out they are. Especially for Veterans.

How? Well, for one thing, video games — and virtual reality more generally — are also more accessible and less stigmatized to veterans than mental health treatment. In fact, some psychiatrists are using virtual reality systems for this reason to treat PTSD.

Secondly, video games allow people to socialize in new ways with people who share common interests and goals. And for Veterans, many of whom leave the military feeling isolated or lonely after they lose the daily camaraderie of their regiment, that socialization is critical to their mental health. It gives them a virtual group of friends to talk with, connect to, and relate to through shared goals and interests.

In addition, according to a 2018 study, since many video games simulate real-life situations they encountered during their service, it makes socialization easier since they can relate to and find common ground with other gamers while playing.

This can help ease symptoms of depression, anxiety, and even PTSD in Veterans, which affects 20% of the Veterans who have served since 9/11.

Watch here as Verizon dives into the stories of three Veteran gamers to learn how video games helped them build community, deal with trauma and have some fun.

Band of Gamers www.youtube.com

Video games have been especially beneficial to Veterans since the beginning of the pandemic when all of us — Veterans included — have been even more isolated than ever before.

And that's why Verizon launched a challenge last year, which saw $30,000 donated to four military charities.

And this year, they're going even bigger by launching a new World of Warships charity tournament in partnership with Wargaming and Wounded Warrior Project called "Verizon Warrior Series." During the tournament, gamers will be able to interact with the game's iconic ships in new and exciting ways, all while giving back.

Together with these nonprofits, the tournament will welcome teams all across the nation in order to raise money for military charities helping Veterans in need. There will be a $100,000 prize pool donated to these charities, as well as donation drives for injured Veterans at every match during the tournament to raise extra funds.

Verizon is also providing special discounts to Those Who Serve communities, including military and first responders, and they're offering a $75 in-game content military promo for World of Warships.

Tournament finals are scheduled for August 8, so be sure to tune in to the tournament and donate if you can in order to give back to Veterans in need.

Courtesy of Verizon

via @Todd_Spence / Twitter

Seven years ago, Bill Murray shared a powerful story about the importance of art. The revelation came during a discussion at the National Gallery in London for the release of 2014's "The Monuments Men." The film is about a troop of soldiers on a mission to recover art stolen by the Nazis.

After his first time performing on stage in Chicago, Murray was so upset with himself that he contemplated taking his own life.

"I wasn't very good, and I remember my first experience, I was so bad I just walked out — out onto the street and just started walking," he said.

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