A Dutch 'boy genius' said he could get the ocean to clean itself. Turns out, he's right.

In 2012 — when he was just 18 — Dutch inventor and entrepreneur Boyan Slat gave his first TEDx Talk about cleaning up the ocean .

In his talk, he laid out his idea for cleaning up the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, an enormous and still-growing island of plastic and other trash hanging out in the north Pacific ocean between California and Hawaii.

The Great Pacific Garbage Patch was first discovered in 1997 by sailor and ocean researcher Charles Moore when he was participating in the Transpacific Yacht Race.


Trash collects in that particular spot because of a gyre — a swirling vortex of ocean currents — in the north Pacific that draws marine debris together. A recent Ocean Cleanup study found that the patch, consisting largely of plastic pieces, fishing nets, and other human refuse, is 4 to 16 times larger than previous estimates. It is now twice the size of Texas, or three times the size of France.

Charles Moore estimated that it would take 79,000 years to clean it up. Boyan Slat, however, said he believed that with the right technology and approach, the garbage patch could be gone in just five years.

Not only that, but he could clean it in way that had minimal environmental impact and was actually profitable when all was said and done.

Boyan Slat's Ocean Cleanup Foundation will officially begin cleaning up the Great Pacific Garbage Patch in summer 2018. Photo via Ocean Cleanup Foundation.

Was this remarkable claim youthful naivety? Wishful thinking? Idealism run amok?

Apparently not. Slat's foundation is set to launch the largest ocean trash collection ever this summer.

Since starting the Ocean Cleanup Foundation in 2013, Slat has been working tirelessly to study the issue and develop the technology to clean it up.

It's one thing to come up with an idea — it's something else entirely to see that idea through in the long term.

Slat has spent the past six years studying the ocean's gyres and the Great Pacific Garbage Patch to better understand the scope of the issue and develop the most effective means for collecting the trash. The Ocean Cleanup Foundation is an impressive full-time operation with more than 70 engineers, researchers, scientists, and computer modelers working daily to rid the ocean of plastics.

Did I mention Slat was 18 when he founded the project? I don't remember exactly what I was doing when I was 18, but it definitely wasn't building a foundation to solve a major global problem. This young man's intelligence, ingenuity, and initiative blows my mind.

And I'm not the only one. In 2014, Slat became the youngest-ever recipient of the UN's highest environmental award, Champion of the Earth. And Time magazine named the Ocean Cleanup's Ocean Vacuum prototype as one of the Best Inventions of 2015.

The official cleanup is scheduled to begin in the summer of 2018. Slat predicts they'll be able to collect half the plastic in the patch in just five years.

Yes, he originally said he thought the whole thing could be cleaned up in five years, but considering the exponential growth of the garbage patch in the past six years and the additional information they've collected since then, I think half in five years ain't bad.

Image via The Ocean Cleanup Foundation.

Slat and his team have found that the Great Pacific Garbage Patch contains approximately 1.8 trillion pieces of plastic. That's 241 pieces for every human on Earth. Some of it breaks down into smaller pieces, but it always remains, threatening marine life, birds, and ultimately humans as we consume seafood.

"It's really quite safe to say," said Slat, "that it's worse than we thought."

However, Slat remains optimistic and upbeat as he describes the process the foundation has gone through to get to where they are now.

One thing they've learned is that "to catch the plastic," you have to "act like the plastic." The Ocean Cleanup machinery uses the ocean's own currents and the physics of how plastic gathers and moves in order to collect it passively, without using unnecessary energy, effort, or resources.

I'm not a scientist, and I'm not going to begin to describe the cleanup technology beyond that, but you can check out the details here and in this unveiling of the Ocean Cleanup prototype, where Slat explains how it all works:

As a person who loves the ocean — not to mention inspiring people — I'll be following Slat's cleanup project closely. With so many environmental protections being dismantled in the U.S., it's refreshing to see people focused on solving problems — and it's especially awesome to see it being done so well.

Here's to the dedicated folks working to save the environment and better our world. And here's to the young people who keep showing us how it's done.

Heroes

On an old episode of "The Oprah Winfrey Show" in July 1992, Oprah put her audience through a social experiment that puts racism in a new light. Despite being nearly two decades old, it's as relevant today as ever.

She split the audience members into two groups based on their eye color. Those with brown eyes were given preferential treatment by getting to cut the line and given refreshments while they waited to be seated. Those with blue eyes were made to put on a green collar and wait in a crowd for two hours.

Staff were instructed to be extra polite to brown-eyed people and to discriminate against blue-eyed people. Her guest for that day's show was diversity expert Jane Elliott, who helped set up the experiment and played along, explaining that brown-eyed people were smarter than blue-eyed people.

Watch the video to see how this experiment plays out.

Oprah's Social Experiment on Her Audience www.youtube.com

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Cadbury has removed the words from its Dairy Milk chocolate bars in the U.K. to draw attention to a serious issue, senior loneliness.

On September 4, Cadbury released the limited-edition candy bars in supermarkets and for every one sold, the candy giant will donate 30p (37 cents) to Age UK, an organization dedicated to improving the quality of life for the elderly.

Cadbury was prompted to help the organization after it was revealed that 225,000 elderly people in the UK often go an entire week without speaking to another person.

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Well Being

Young people today are facing what seems to be greater exposure to complex issues like mental health, bullying, and youth violence. As a result, teachers are required to be well-versed in far more than school curriculum to ensure students are prepared to face the world inside and outside of the classroom. Acting as more than teachers, but also mentors, counselors, and cheerleaders, they must be equipped with practical and relevant resources to help their students navigate some of the more complicated social issues – though access to such tools isn't always guaranteed.

Take Dr. Jackie Sanderlin, for example, who's worked in the education system for over 25 years, and as a teacher for seven. Entering the profession, she didn't anticipate how much influence a student's home life could affect her classroom, including "students who lived in foster homes" and "lacked parental support."

Dr. Jackie Sanderlin, who's worked in the education system for over 25 years.

Valerie Anglemyer, a middle school teacher with more than 13 years of experience, says it can be difficult to create engaging course work that's applicable to the challenges students face. "I think that sometimes, teachers don't know where to begin. Teachers are always looking for ways to make learning in their classrooms more relevant."

So what resources do teachers turn to in an increasingly fractured world? "Joining a professional learning network that supports and challenges thinking is one of the most impactful things that a teacher can do to support their own learning," Anglemyer says.

Valerie Anglemyer, a middle school teacher with more than 13 years of experience.

A new program for teachers that offers this network along with other resources is the WE Teachers Program, an initiative developed by Walgreens in partnership with ME to WE and Mental Health America. WE Teachers provides tools and resources, at no cost to teachers, looking for guidance around the social issues related to poverty, youth violence, mental health, bullying, and diversity and inclusion. Through online modules and trainings as well as a digital community, these resources help them address the critical issues their students face.

Jessica Mauritzen, a high school Spanish teacher, credits a network of support for providing her with new opportunities to enrich the learning experience for her students. "This past year was a year of awakening for me and through support… I realized that I was able to teach in a way that built up our community, our school, and our students, and supported them to become young leaders," she says.

With the new WE Teachers program, teachers can learn to identify the tough issues affecting their students, secure the tools needed to address them in a supportive manner, and help students become more socially-conscious, compassionate, and engaged citizens.

It's a potentially life-saving experience for students, and in turn, "a great gift for teachers," says Dr. Sanderlin.

"I wish I had the WE Teachers program when I was a teacher because it provides the online training and resources teachers need to begin to grapple with these critical social issues that plague our students every day," she adds.

In addition to the WE Teachers curriculum, the program features a WE Teachers Award to honor educators who go above and beyond in their classrooms. At least 500 teachers will be recognized and each will receive a $500 Walgreens gift card, which is the average amount teachers spend out-of-pocket on supplies annually. Teachers can be nominated or apply themselves. To learn more about the awards and how to nominate an amazing teacher, or sign up for access to the teacher resources available through WE Teachers, visit walgreens.com/metowe.

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One of the major differences between women and men is that women are often judged based on their looks rather than their character or abilities.

"Men as well as women tend to establish the worth of individual women primarily by the way their body looks, research shows. We do not do this when we evaluate men," Naomi Ellemers Ph.D. wrote in Psychology Today.

Dr. Ellers believes that this tendency to judge a woman solely on her looks causes them to be seen as an object rather than a person.

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