Heroes

A down-and-dirty look at a groundbreaking discovery that could save the planet.

Want to stop climate change? You're gonna have to get your hands dirty.

True
League of Conservation Voters

There's an amazing way to combat climate change, and it's not based on elaborate or expensive technology.

In fact, it's right under our feet.

Soil.


GIF via "Despicable Me."

Yup, you know — that stuff that your parents told you to stay away from when you were wearing your nice clothes. The place where worms crawl around and do their thing. The substance crudely known in some circles as "dirt."

Soil can absorb excess carbon and mitigate climate change according to author and food guru Michael Pollan, who draws on research emerging from around the world.

"Climate change can be overwhelming, yet there is real hope," he says in a video released by the Center for Food Safety, a nonprofit organization based in Washington, D.C. "We now know how to put carbon back in the soil, where it belongs."

In the video, titled " Soil Solutions to Climate Problems," he explains how soil can affect climate change.

Here are five important points he makes.

1. Damaged soil actually puts excess carbon into the atmosphere.

Soil gets damaged when the microscopic creatures that call it home are destroyed by over-tilling and use of pesticides and synthetic fertilizers. When they die, the carbon that was stored in the soil gets released, adding billions of tons of carbon into the atmosphere each year.

GIF via Center for Food Safety/YouTube.

2. Some soil now actually lacks carbon because it's lost so much.

Everywhere we find desertification, runoff, and drought, we have soil that's lost microscopic life and carbon. Most farmland these days needs increasing amounts of synthetic inputs to keep producing the same amount of food, and food grown without the natural carbon cycle has decreasing nutritional value. Soil carbon loss is a threat to world food security.

GIF via Center for Food Safety/YouTube.

3. Things don't have to be this way. Soil can also absorb excess carbon that's in the atmosphere.

The secret lies in something we learned about in elementary school: photosynthesis. We all know that plants pull in carbon from the atmosphere; what most of us don't know is that they also send a lot of it down through their roots into the soil.

Soil microbes love carbon and take it from plants in exchange for nutrients. When the soil microbes die, the whole system gets messed up. But when we bring life back to the soil, plants return to sucking carbon out of the air and storing it in the ground, making for happy soil microbes, plants, and farmers.


GIF via Center for Food Safety/YouTube.

4. Getting more carbon into soil not only combats climate change, it's good for the land.

Nature is a total badass. When natural systems are intact, everything works right. Repopulating our carbon-loving microbe friends restores soil structure, which helps the soil hold and purify water (this explains the connection to desertification, drought, and runoff). Also, thriving soil helps plants pull in nutrients, making them healthier and more nutritious for humans to eat. Healthier plants also fend off insects without pesticides, and compost replaces synthetic fertilizer. When the carbon-microbe system is working, farmers save money on water, pesticides, and fertilizers. Boom.

GIF via Center for Food Safety/YouTube.

5. The idea is getting an audience on the international stage.

Soil and agriculture are entering the conversation and have the potential become breakthrough topics at COP21 in Paris, the international climate change meeting that wraps up on Dec. 11, 2015. The French government has proposed that other nations join it in increasing their soil carbon by 0.4%, which would translate to billions of tons of carbon drawn down from the atmosphere if applied worldwide. Many nations and organizations have already signed on to the proposal, marking a big step in the road to creating actionable steps for governments and farmers around the world.

GIF via Center for Food Safety/YouTube.

Soil, right? Boo-yah. Can we get a happy dance for soil microbes?

GIF via MTV.

What this means, in a nutshell, is that we have a major solution to climate change that doesn't require new or expensive technology that also has huge benefits for farmers and nature.

Healthy soil is better for the water and food systems and is good business. The main thing we can do is spread the word. The more people who know about the importance of healthy soil, the more traction world leaders will have to support farmers in transitioning to methods that are better for the soil.

Inspired? Empowered? Good.

GIF via "The Big Lebowski."

Watch “Soil Solutions to Climate Problems" here and learn more about why soil is so important to the climate debate.

And if you're so compelled, consider signing this petition to continue our fight against climate change!

Leah Menzies/TikTok

Leah Menzies had no idea her deceased mother was her boyfriend's kindergarten teacher.

When you start dating the love of your life, you want to share it with the people closest to you. Sadly, 18-year-old Leah Menzies couldn't do that. Her mother died when she was 7, so she would never have the chance to meet the young woman's boyfriend, Thomas McLeodd. But by a twist of fate, it turns out Thomas had already met Leah's mom when he was just 3 years old. Leah's mom was Thomas' kindergarten teacher.

The couple, who have been dating for seven months, made this realization during a visit to McCleodd's house. When Menzies went to meet his family for the first time, his mom (in true mom fashion) insisted on showing her a picture of him making a goofy face. When they brought out the picture, McLeodd recognized the face of his teacher as that of his girlfriend's mother.

Menzies posted about the realization moment on TikTok. "Me thinking my mum (who died when I was 7) will never meet my future boyfriend," she wrote on the video. The video shows her and McLeodd together, then flashes to the kindergarten class picture.

“He opens this album and then suddenly, he’s like, ‘Oh my God. Oh my God — over and over again,” Menzies told TODAY. “I couldn’t figure out why he was being so dramatic.”

Obviously, Menzies is taking great comfort in knowing that even though her mother is no longer here, they can still maintain a connection. I know how important it was for me to have my mom accept my partner, and there would definitely be something missing if she wasn't here to share in my joy. It's also really incredible to know that Menzies' mother had a hand in making McLeodd the person he is today, even if it was only a small part.

@speccylee

Found out through this photo in his photo album. A moment straight out of a movie 🥲

♬ iris - 🫶

“It’s incredible that that she knew him," Menzies said. "What gets me is that she was standing with my future boyfriend and she had no idea.”

Since he was only 3, McLeodd has no actual memory of Menzies' mother. But his own mother remembers her as “kind and really gentle.”

The TikTok has understandably gone viral and the comments are so sweet and positive.

"No the chills I got omggg."

"This is the cutest thing I have watched."

"It’s as if she remembered some significance about him and sent him to you. Love fate 😍✨"

In the caption of the video, she said that discovering the connection between her boyfriend and her mom was "straight out of a movie." And if you're into romantic comedies, you're definitely nodding along right now.

Menzies and McLeodd made a follow-up TikTok to address everyone's positive response to their initial video and it's just as sweet. The young couple sits together and addresses some of the questions they noticed pop up. People were confused that they kept saying McLeodd was in kindergarten but only 3 years old when he was in Menzies' mother's class. The couple is Australian and Menzies explained that it's the equivalent of American preschool.

They also clarified that although they went to high school together and kind of knew of the other's existence, they didn't really get to know each other until they started dating seven months ago. So no, they truly had no idea that her mother was his teacher. Menzies revealed that she "didn't actually know that my mum taught at kindergarten."

"I just knew she was a teacher," she explained.

She made him act out his reaction to seeing the photo, saying he was "speechless," and when she looked at the photo she started crying. McLeodd recognized her mother because of the pictures Menzies keeps in her room. Cue the "awws," because this is so cute, I'm kvelling.

Laverne Cox in 2016.

When kids are growing up they love to see themselves in the dolls and action figures. It adds a special little spark to a shopping trip when you hear your child say “it looks just like me.” The beaming smile and joy that exudes from their little faces in that moment is something parents cherish, and Mattel is one manufacturer that has been at the forefront of making that happen. It has created Barbies with freckles, afro puffs, wheelchairs, cochlear implants and more. The company has taken another step toward representation with its first transgender doll.

Laverne Cox, openly transgender Emmy award winning actor and LGBTQ activist, is celebrating her 50th birthday May 29, and Mattel is honoring her with her very own Barbie doll. The doll designed to represent Cox is donned in a red ball gown with a silver bodysuit. It also has accessories like high heels and jewelry to complete the look. Cox told Today, “It’s been a dream for years to work with Barbie to create my own doll.” She continued, “I can’t wait for fans to find my doll on shelves and have the opportunity to add a Barbie doll modeled after a transgender person to their collection.”

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Photo by Heather Mount on Unsplash

Actions speak far louder than words.

It never fails. After a tragic mass shooting, social media is filled with posts offering thoughts and prayers. Politicians give long-winded speeches on the chamber floor or at press conferences asking Americans to do the thing they’ve been repeatedly trained to do after tragedy: offer heartfelt thoughts and prayers. When no real solution or plan of action is put forth to stop these senseless incidents from occurring so frequently in a country that considers itself a world leader, one has to wonder when we will be honest with ourselves about that very intangible automatic phrase.

Comedian Anthony Jeselnik brilliantly summed up what "thoughts and prayers" truly mean. In a 1.5-minute clip, Jeselnik talks about victims' priorities being that of survival and not wondering if they’re trending at that moment. The crowd laughs as he mimics the actions of well-meaning social media users offering thoughts and prayers after another mass shooting. He goes on to explain how the act of performatively offering thoughts and prayers to victims and their families really pulls the focus onto the author of the social media post and away from the event. In the short clip he expertly expresses how being performative on social media doesn’t typically equate to action that will help victims or enact long-term change.

Of course, this isn’t to say that thoughts and prayers aren’t welcomed or shouldn’t be shared. According to Rabbi Jack Moline "prayer without action is just noise." In a world where mass shootings are so common that a video clip from 2015 is still relevant, it's clear that more than thoughts and prayers are needed. It's important to examine what you’re doing outside of offering thoughts and prayers on social media. In another several years, hopefully this video clip won’t be as relevant, but at this rate it’s hard to see it any differently.