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A million species face extinction—and the threat to humans reminds us we're all connected.

Throughout our planet's history, plant and animal species have died out—but not like this.

Earth has faced mass extinctions before, but she is now staring down a threat to life that she's never faced. With a population that has doubled since 1950, a global economy that relies on industrialization and consumerism, and our modern addiction to convenience, the impact humans are having on nature is significant and startling.


According to a new report from the U.N. Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES), about a million plant and animals species are now on the verge of extinction. Nearly 150 authors from 50 nations compiled the report over a period of three years, as 300 contributing authors helped to estimate future effects of economic development on the environment.

Let's just say those future effects are not looking good.

“The overwhelming evidence of the IPBES Global Assessment, from a wide range of different fields of knowledge, presents an ominous picture," said IPBES Chair, Sir Robert Watson. “The health of ecosystems on which we and all other species depend is deteriorating more rapidly than ever. We are eroding the very foundations of our economies, livelihoods, food security, health and quality of life worldwide."

We can't destroy the environment without destroying ourselves.

Some people complain when environmentalists seem to focus more on endangered animals than on immediate human challenges, such as poverty or hunger. Why focus on saving coral reefs when people are dying preventable deaths?

But the long view clearly connects the fate of plant and animal species to our own. Destroying habitats and ecosystems doesn't just threaten wildlife—it disrupts the systems in nature that we rely on for things like food and water. Hunger and thirst have a way of making people desperate—and violent. Throw in diseases perpetuated by malnutrition and the security issues our military leaders have attributed to climate change, and these endangered species no longer seem like such an afterthought.

In fact, Watson says that the implications for humans is the most vital outcome of the report.

“The most important thing isn't necessarily that we're losing . . . 1 million species — although that's important, don't misunderstand me," Watson said during a teleconference, according to the Washington Post. “The bigger issue is the way it will affect human well-being, as we've said many times—food, water, energy, human health."

Ironically, our industrial efforts to feed ourselves may be leading us toward greater food insecurity.

There are multiple manmade reasons these species face extinction, most of which are intertwined. But a big one is our farming, fishing, and food preparation practices.

Pollution and overuse of fossil fuels has contributed to rapid climate change and ocean acidification, which in turn impact our ability to fish sustainably. Overfishing has depleted many aquatic species, affecting aquatic food chains. Forests are being replaced by farms to feed a growing population, but we destroy the balance of nature in the process. That imbalance, in addition to the pesticides used to protect crops, affects insects that we rely on to pollinate our crops.

In a bizarre bit of human contradiction, we're killing ourselves to feed ourselves. And it's catching up to us quickly.

Scientists tell us it's not too late to act, but we do need to act—and convince our governments to take the lead.

Many people have become immune to warnings when it comes to the environment, especially as many politicians use climate change as a political football instead of a reason to unite. Some people think the U.N. is on some mission to control the masses and that governments are using climate change as an excuse to bilk us out of our hard-earned dollars.

That's why you listen to scientists, not politicians. And the vast majority of the world's scientists—the people who study this stuff as their life's work—agree that we have to figure out a more sustainable model of human activity or risk our own safety and security.

“Since 1992, we've been telling the world we have a problem," Watson said. “Now what's different? It's much worse today than it was in 1992. We've wasted all of the time . . . the last 25 years."

However, he added, “we have a much better understanding of the links between climate change, biodiversity, and food security and water security."

It's long past time to start putting that knowledge into meaningful action. Let's encourage our governments to work together on a collective plan to save the earth's endangered species—before we become one of them.

All images provided by Adewole Adamson

It begins with more inclusive conversations at a patient level

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Adewole Adamson, MD, of the University of Texas, Austin, aims to create more equity in health care by gathering data from more diverse populations by using artificial intelligence (AI), a type of machine learning. Dr. Adamson’s work is funded by the American Cancer Society (ACS), an organization committed to advancing health equity through research priorities, programs and services for groups who have been marginalized.

Melanoma became a particular focus for Dr. Adamson after meeting Avery Smith, who lost his wife—a Black woman—to the deadly disease.

melanoma,  melanoma for dark skin Avery Smith (left) and Adamson (sidenote)

This personal encounter, coupled with multiple conversations with Black dermatology patients, drove Dr. Adamson to a concerning discovery: as advanced as AI is at detecting possible skin cancers, it is heavily biased.

To understand this bias, it helps to first know how AI works in the early detection of skin cancer, which Dr. Adamson explains in his paper for the New England Journal of Medicine (paywall). The process uses computers that rely on sets of accumulated data to learn what healthy or unhealthy skin looks like and then create an algorithm to predict diagnoses based on those data sets.

This process, known as supervised learning, could lead to huge benefits in preventive care.

After all, early detection is key to better outcomes. The problem is that the data sets don’t include enough information about darker skin tones. As Adamson put it, “everything is viewed through a ‘white lens.’”

“If you don’t teach the algorithm with a diverse set of images, then that algorithm won’t work out in the public that is diverse,” writes Adamson in a study he co-wrote with Smith (according to a story in The Atlantic). “So there’s risk, then, for people with skin of color to fall through the cracks.”

Tragically, Smith’s wife was diagnosed with melanoma too late and paid the ultimate price for it. And she was not an anomaly—though the disease is more common for White patients, Black cancer patients are far more likely to be diagnosed at later stages, causing a notable disparity in survival rates between non-Hispanics whites (90%) and non-Hispanic blacks (66%).

As a computer scientist, Smith suspected this racial bias and reached out to Adamson, hoping a Black dermatologist would have more diverse data sets. Though Adamson didn’t have what Smith was initially looking for, this realization ignited a personal mission to investigate and reduce disparities.

Now, Adamson uses the knowledge gained through his years of research to help advance the fight for health equity. To him, that means not only gaining a wider array of data sets, but also having more conversations with patients to understand how socioeconomic status impacts the level and efficiency of care.

“At the end of the day, what matters most is how we help patients at the patient level,” Adamson told Upworthy. “And how can you do that without knowing exactly what barriers they face?”

american cancer society, skin cacner treatment"What matters most is how we help patients at the patient level."https://www.kellydavidsonstudio.com/

The American Cancer Society believes everyone deserves a fair and just opportunity to prevent, find, treat, and survive cancer—regardless of how much money they make, the color of their skin, their sexual orientation, gender identity, their disability status, or where they live. Inclusive tools and resources on the Health Equity section of their website can be found here. For more information about skin cancer, visit cancer.org/skincancer.

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Selma Blair moves audiences to tears with her emotional 'Dancing With the Stars' debut

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Some of those differences are being discussed in a viral thread on Twitter. Self-described "West coaster" Jordan Green kicked it off with an observation about East coasters being kind and West coasters being nice, which then prompted people to share their own social experiences in various regions around the country.

Green wrote:

"When I describe East Coast vs West Coast culture to my friends I often say 'The East Coast is kind but not nice, the West Coast is nice but not kind,' and East Coasters immediately get it. West Coasters get mad.

Niceness is saying 'I'm so sorry you're cold,' while kindness may be 'Ugh, you've said that five times, here's a sweater!' Kindness is addressing the need, regardless of tone.

I'm a West Coaster through and through—born and raised in San Francisco, moved to Portland for college, and now live in Seattle. We're nice, but we're not kind. We'll listen to your rant politely, smile, and then never speak to you again. We hit mute in real life. ALOT.

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