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upworthy
Science

A dramatic new European Union proposal would cut pesticide use by half in just 8 years

Recent reports show the EU's food supply becoming toxic.

eu pesticides, european commission, european union ecology

Obsolete pesticides excavated from landfills.

A shocking report released last month by Pesticide Action Network (PAN) Europe found that over the past nine years there has been a 53% rise in contamination of the most hazardous pesticides in European fresh fruits.

The analysis of more than 97,000 fruit samples found that nearly one-half of all blackberries and one-third of apples had toxic pesticide residue. These pesticides have been linked to serious illnesses such as birth defects, cancer and heart disease.

At the same time, Reuters reports that intensive “farming, forestry and urbanisation are fuelling the degradation of natural habitats” adding that most of Europe’s protected “species have a negative conservation status.”

In an effort to dramatically reduce the volume of pesticides in the bloc’s food supply and rehabilitate its natural habitat, the European Commission has proposed dramatic new environmental targets. The first would reduce the use of chemical pesticides across the EU 50% by 2030. Pesticides would also be banned for use in public parks and protected areas.


The second would require EU countries to restore 20% of the bloc’s land to nature by 2030 and all degraded land by 2050.

In addition, the proposal would restore 15,500 miles of rivers and redirect them to their natural courses. It would also work to increase farmland bird populations.

“The aim is to cover at least 20% of the EU’s land and sea areas by 2030 with nature restoration measures, and eventually extend these to all ecosystems in need of restoration by 2050,” the commission said, according to The Washington Post.

Frans Timmermans, the commission's first vice president, will help the EU recover its natural habitat at a time when the planet is threatened by climate change.

Fruit plantation near Hamburg, Germany.

via Daniel Lerps/Flickr

“When we restore nature, we allow it to continue providing clean air, water, and food, and we enable it to shield us from the worst of the climate crisis,” Timmermans said according to The Washington Post. “Reducing pesticide use likewise helps nature recover, and protects the humans who work with these chemicals.”

The new proposal would be wonderful for the planet but the fast transition to pesticide alternatives would be a challenge to EU farmers. So the proposal allows farmers to use EU funds to cover the new costs for the first five years.

The proposal will have to be approved by EU member countries and lawmakers to take effect. Some are skeptical of making such drastic changes at a time when the bloc’s food supply has been compromised by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

However, the European Commission believes if there isn't a switch to new farming techniques, the effect on the bloc could be disastrous as well.

"If we lose soil fertility, if soil erosion and degradation continue, that is going to be a major impact on our agricultural output," the European Commission's Commissioner for Environment, Oceans and Fisheries Virginijus Sinkevičius told Reuters.

The European Commission’s proposal is a dramatic plan that could fundamentally change the face of Europe by reversing decades of damage caused by farming and urban sprawl. At a time when Europe is being challenged by war and the effects of climate change, returning the land to nature has never seemed like a better idea.

Education

Someone criticized a middle school teacher's behavior. Her comeback was an A+.

When a person commented, "your a teacher act like it," Amy Allen hilariously took the advice to heart.

A rude commenter got a lesson from Ms. Allen.

Being a teacher isn't easy. Teaching middle school students is especially not easy. Teaching middle school students who spent several of their formative years going through a global pandemic in the age of smartphones, social media and a youth mental health crisis is downright heroic.

If you haven't spent time in a middle school classroom, you may not fully grasp the intensity of it on every level, from the awkwardness to the body odor to the delightful hilarity that tweens bring to the table. When you connect with your students, it can be incredibly rewarding, and when you don't…well, we all read "Lord of the Flies," right?

Skilled teachers bring out the best in young people, and that can be done in many different ways. For Amy Allen, it's by making her middle school classroom a fun, welcoming place to learn and by bonding with her students.


"I love teaching middle schoolers because they are awkward, and I’m awkward, so we get along," Allen tells Upworthy.

She plays games with students, gets rambunctious with them and creates opportunities for them to expend some of that intense pre-and-early-teen energy in healthy ways. For instance, she shared a video of a game of "grudgeball," an active trivia game that makes reviewing for a quiz or test fun and competitive, and you can see how high-energy her classroom is:

@_queenoftheclassroom

If this looks like fun to you, pick up my grudgeball template (🔗 in bio) #qotc #grudgeball #10outof10recommend @Amy Allen ☀️ @Amy Allen ☀️ @Amy Allen ☀️

"I think for teachers, we always want to create moments for our students that are beyond the standard reading, writing, memorizing, quiz, 'traditional learning,'" Allen says. "Games are a great way to incorporate fun in the classroom."

Allen clearly enjoyed the game as much as her students—"I love the chaos!" she says— and there's absolutely nothing wrong with that. Fun keeps teachers sane, too. But one person took issue with her classroom behavior and commented, "your a teacher act like it." (Not my typo—that's exactly what the person wrote, only with no period.)

Allen addressed the comment in another video in the most perfect way possible—by acting exactly like a teacher.

Watch:

@_queenoftheclassroom

Replying to @كل الكلبات تريد مني Come see me if you have any further questions. #qotc #iteachmiddleschool #weDEFINITELYdonthavefuninhere @Amy Allen ☀️ @Amy Allen ☀️ @Amy Allen ☀️ #Inverted

There are two solid ways to handle a rude comment without making things worse—you can ignore it or you can craft a response that makes the person look like a fool without being cruel or rude yourself. Allen's grammar lesson response was A+ work, right down to the "Come see me if you have any further questions" caption.

In fact, the person apparently went back and deleted their comment after the comeback video went viral, which makes it all the more hilarious. The video currently has more than 4 million views on TikTok and over 18 million views on YouTube.

"What’s funny is I left my correction on the board accidentally, and the next day, students asked me what that was all about," Allen says. "When I explained it, they thought it was cool because 'why would anyone go after Ms. Allen'? At that point, the video had maybe 10,000 views. I never imagined the video would go viral."

Two days later, as the video was creeping toward a million views, she upped the stakes. "Some of my students are my ultimate hype people, and they were tracking it harder than I was," she says. "I made a 'deal' with my fifth period if it reached 1 million during their class, they could sit wherever they wanted the entire week. During lunch, I checked, and it reached 1 million. So when they came back from recess, I announced it, and it was like I was a rockstar. They screamed and cheered for me. It was an incredible moment for me."

The irony, of course, is that Allen was acting like a teacher in her grudgeball video—an engaged teacher with engaged students who are actively participating in the learning process. Just because it doesn't look like serious study doesn't mean it's not learning, and for some kids, this kind of activity might be far more effective at helping them remember things they've learned (in this case, vocabulary words) than less energetic ways of reviewing.

Allen has her thumb on the pulse of her students and goes out of her way to meet them where they are. Last year, for instance, she created a "mental health day" for her students. "I could tell they were getting burnt out from all the state tests, regular homework, and personal life extracurricular activities that many of my students participate in," she says. "We went to my school library for 'fireside reading,' solved a murder mystery, built blanket forts, watched the World Cup, colored, and completed sudokus. Is it part of the curriculum? No. Is it worth spending one class period doing something mentally rewarding for students? Absolutely."

Teaching middle school requires a lot of different skills, but perhaps the most important one is to connect with students, partly because it's far easier to teach someone actually wants to be in your classroom and partly because effective teaching is about so much more than just academics. A teacher might be the most caring, stable, trustworthy adult in some students' lives. What looks like silly fun and games in a classroom can actually help students feel safe and welcomed and valued, knowing that a teacher cares enough to try to make learning as enjoyable as possible. Plus, shared laughter in a classroom helps build a community of engaged learners, which is exactly what a classroom should be.

Keep up the awesome work, Ms. Allen, both in the classroom and in the comment section.

You can follow Amy Allen on TikTok and YouTube.

Democracy

What to know about the 1864 abortion ban Arizona's Supreme Court says is 'now enforceable'

The legal code it comes from also outlaws interracial marriage and forbids minorities from testifying against white people in court.

Peter Zillmann (HPZ)/Wikimedia Commons, Brandon Friedman/Twitter

Arizona's borders may soon be even more consequential.

When the 2022 Dobbs decision overturned the federal protection of medical privacy in reproductive decisions, leaving abortion law up to the states, experts warned of the legal and medical consequences to come: People in states with old laws on the books would find themselves facing abortion restrictions the likes of which had not been seen in over 50 years since Roe vs. Wade became "settled as a precedent of the Supreme Court," and medical providers would face legal conundrums that threatened patient care.

Nearly two years later, we've seen the fallout on multiple fronts, from women suing states for denying them medically necessary care to children who have been raped and impregnated being forced to travel across state lines to get an abortion.

And the latest development has Arizona set to enact a near-total abortion ban based on a 1864 legal code, after the Arizona Supreme Court ruled that the law "it is now enforceable."

Here's what to know about the 160-year-old law:


There is only one abortion exception allowed for in the law—to save the life of the mother. As medical providers have made clear, that kind of exception is a murky gray area that leads to impossible questions like "How imminent does a mother's death need to be?" for a doctor to take action without fearing legal repercussions.

Civil War-era historian Heather Cox Richardson shared some of the details about how the law came about and the context in which it was written on Facebook, and the historical facts paint a picture of how utterly absurd it is for the law to go into effect in 2024.

"In 1864, Arizona was not a state, women and minorities could not vote, and doctors were still sewing up wounds with horsehair and storing their unwashed medical instruments in velvet-lined cases," wrote Richardson. She pointed out that the U.S. was in the midst of the Civil War, and that the law didn't actually have much to do with women and reproductive care.

"The laws for Arizona Territory, chaotic and still at war in 1864, appear to reflect the need to rein in a lawless population of men," she explained, sharing that the word "miscarriage" was used in the criminal code to describe various forms of harm against another person, specifying dueling with, maiming and poisoning other people.

Richardson offered that detail as the context in which the law states that "a person who provides, supplies or administers to a pregnant woman, or procures such woman to take any medicine, drugs or substance, or uses or employs any instrument or other means whatever, with intent thereby to procure the miscarriage of such woman, unless it is necessary to save her life, shall be punished by imprisonment in the state prison for not less than two years nor more than five years."

How did the law even come about? At that time, the newly formed Arizona Territorial Legislature was composed of 27 men. The first thing they did was authorize the governor to appoint a commissioner to draft a code of laws, but a judge named William T. Howell had already written one up. After some discussion, the legislators enacted Howell's laws, known as "The Howell Code."

The code included laws like, "No black or mulatto, or Indian, Mongolian, or Asiatic, shall be permitted to give evidence in favor of or against any white person," as well as "All marriages of white persons with negroes or mulattoes are declared to be illegal and void."

Richardson also pointed out that the code set the age of consent for sexual intercourse at 10-years-old.

Essentially, a law written by one man, 48 years before Arizona was officially a state, over half a century before women were allowed to vote, when it was perfectly legal to enact and enforce racist laws and see 10-year-olds as old enough to consent to sex, is now considered "enforceable" by the Arizona Supreme Court.

As Richardson pointed out, the difference now is that women can vote. And Americans have proven time and again that draconian abortion laws are wildly unpopular across the political spectrum. Even some Republican lawmakers and politicians are flip-flopping on previous praise for the 1864 law, saying that the Arizona legislature needs to do something about the law to prevent it from taking effect.

A tourist visiting Italy. (Representative image)

Americans pride themselves on living in the “best country in the world.” However, the American way of life isn’t for everyone and some prefer the more laid-back approach to life that people enjoy in Europe.

Four years ago, a writer named Roze left her tiny apartment in Los Angeles, booked a one-way flight to Turn, Italy and never looked back. Now, she documents her new life in Europe on TikTok to inspire others to pursue their dreams.

Recently, she posted a video in which she counts down 5 things that she’ll never do now that she lives in Italy. These are examples of the relief some Americans feel when they move to Europe and settle into their new, stress-free lifestyle.


1. Rush

"One of the first things that attracted me to Italian culture is the fact that people don't seem to be in a rush. There are no drive-thrus. People don't walk and eat. If you need a coffee, you sit down and drink a cup of coffee. There's always time for that."

2. Own a car

"I don't plan on ever living in a place where you need a car to get around. I don’t like the expense of a car and it’s just bad for the environment.”

3. Live for work

“I’ll never obsess about work as much as I used to do in the U.S. Now, I'm not saying that people don't work here. People work very hard, but there's not as many people who make working hard their whole personality."

@rozeinitaly

A few ways my perspective has changed since moving abroad, maybe some other American immigrants can relate? #fivethingschallenge #5thingsiwouldneverdo #5thingschallenge #americanimmigrant #movingabroadtips #expatsinitaly #italylifestyle #lifeinitaly🇮🇹

4. Trust the internet for business hours

"If you look it up on Google Maps, it says that it's open from 10 am to, I think, 7 or 7:30 pm. Does that mean I can go there at like 2:30 3 o'clock? No. What is not listed on there is that they are closed from 1 to 4 for lunch."

5. Worry about medical bills

“I just don’t plan on living anywhere where there is not some kind of universal healthcare.”

A group of travelers waits patiently to check their bags.

Maybe you’re one of those elite travelers who’s mastered packing for an entire trip using only carry-on luggage. If so, you’re likely haughty and won’t stop crowing about the convenience of hopping off the plane and jetting to your destination.

We know: The airlines lost your bag in 1986 and you vowed never again. So, now you roll three garments, one pair of shoes, a tiny bottle of 5-in-one body wash, and a Kindle into your backpack, and you're good to go.

For the rest of us mere traveling mortals, especially those with kids, checking bags is a necessary evil—a necessary and costly one.

If it seems to you like checked bag fees have been steadily climbing, that’s because checked bag fees have been steadily climbing. According to this article, bag fees on American Airlines rose 33% just last year from $30 per bag to $40 and 5 of the 6 biggest carriers raised their fees last year.

Why is the entire industry upping their checked-bag fees? There’s a specific reason involving an arcane bit of tax code, which accounts for why the fees are tacked on separately versus rolled into the price of the ticket.


Jay L. Zagorsky, a business school professor who studies travel, says 7.5% of every domestic ticket goes to the federal government. Airlines dislike this, claiming it raises ticket prices for consumers. But as long as the bag fee is separate, it is excluded from the 7.5% transportation tax.

Estimated bag fees for 2023 topped 7 billion. By making the bag fees separate, airlines saved themselves about half a billion dollars. If that savings has been passed down to the customer, then we all got a bit of a break, too.

Perhaps you automatically dislike the separate fees because you’re Gen X and remember a time when a ticket was all-inclusive. Now, it feels like you’re paying for stuff you used to get for free.

Turns out that more and more travelers actually like the separate charges.

“One thing that our research has shown,” Henry Hartevedlt, president of travel industry analytics firm Atmosphere Research told USA Today, “is that more than two-thirds of U.S. leisure airline passengers now feel that the unbundling of the coach product and letting people buy what they want and need on an à la carte basis is actually something they like because it helps them stick to their budget.”

This is a positive way to look at something that’s undoubtedly here to stay. And now if you hear someone complain about bag fees at the airport, you’ll know why it’s done the way it’s done, which is really sweet satisfaction in itself.

Of course, there's always this unusual workaround courtesy of Reddit user Old_Man_Withers, "I Fedex my luggage to the hotel and carry nothing on the plane but my laptop for work. It doesn't matter if it's 2 days or two months, I ship it. The hotel has it waiting in my room when I get there and I ship it back home from there when I'm done. No random inspections, no chances of loss without recompense, fully trackable... I see no downside that isn't worth the 50-100 bucks it costs."

"The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon"/Youtube

Coco is back, baby.

Conan O’Brien had a blink-and-you-missed-it run as “Tonight Show” host. After only a year, he was unceremoniously laid off in 2010 by NBC due to a contractual dispute and replaced by former host Jay Leno, followed by Jimmy Fallon in 2014.

But despite his short-lived reign, O’Brien cemented himself as a wickedly funny and whip smart performer, as well as a master of recurring gags, self-deprecating humor and engaging conversation…not to mention developing a reputation for being a pretty great guy off the air.

Which is why fans were excited to see O’Brien appear as a “Tonight Show” guest for Tuesday’s episode, marking a return to his old stomping grounds for the first time in 14 years. And let’s just say…O’Brien’s comeback did not disappoint.


During parts of the interview, O’Brien exuded that same amount of candid poise that he famously maintained throughout the 2010 controversy. Like when he talked about podcast “Conan O’Brien Needs a Friend,” the project that followed his “Tonight Show” exit, he said he still considered hosting a late-night show “the best job in the world,” but shared his appreciation for the podcast format since it allows for longer, more in-depth conversations with guests.

But along with all the sentimentality were trademark rapid fire zingers and absurdly dramatic outbursts, especially when talking about how “weird” it felt to be back at Rockefeller Center.

"I was here for 16 years doing the ‘Late Night’ show," O'Brien told Jimmy Fallon (both “Late Night” and “The Tonight Show” filmed in the same building.

"When someone else is in your studio it feels weird. So I walked in and said, 'Who's in my old studio?' And they said 'Kelly Clarkson'. And I love Kelly Clarkson, who doesn't love Kelly Clarkson? But still I felt like, IT'S NOT RIGHT! BLASPHEMY! THEY SHOULD HAVE BURNED IT TO THE GROUND!"

"And then Kelly came out to say hi and I said, DON'T TALK TO ME! YOU MAKE ME SICK!!"

Man, O'Brien really knows how to commit to the bit. Watch:

O’Brien’s interview was so well received that fans seemed to fall in love with him all over again.

“Conan returns to the Tonight Show in TRIUMPHHH being one of the greatest of all time.”

“Conan is going down in history as one of the greatest to ever do it!”

“Conan's career is a true testament to the saying ‘Everything happens for a reason.’”

“This hit me right in the feels.”

“The man's a national treasure, give him everything.”

If you’re left wanting even more Coco, O’Brien has a new series, “Conan O’Brien Must Go,” which debuts on April 18 on Max. Talk about a full circle moment.