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.

Images courtesy of Mark Storhaug & Kaiya Bates

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The experiences we have at school tend to stay with us throughout our lives. It's an impactful time where small acts of kindness, encouragement, and inspiration go a long way.

Schools, classrooms, and teachers that are welcoming and inclusive support students' development and help set them up for a positive and engaging path in life.

Here are three of our favorite everyday actions that are spreading kindness on campus in a big way:

Image courtesy of Mark Storhaug

1. Pickleball to Get Fifth Graders Moving

Mark Storhaug is a 5th grade teacher at Kingsley Elementary in Los Angeles, who wants to use pickleball to get his students "moving on the playground again after 15 months of being Zombies learning at home."

Pickleball is a paddle ball sport that mixes elements of badminton, table tennis, and tennis, where two or four players use solid paddles to hit a perforated plastic ball over a net. It's as simple as that.

Kingsley Elementary is in a low-income neighborhood where outdoor spaces where kids can move around are minimal. Mark's goal is to get two or three pickleball courts set up in the schoolyard and have kids join in on what's quickly becoming a national craze. Mark hopes that pickleball will promote movement and teamwork for all his students. He aims to take advantage of the 20-minute physical education time allotted each day to introduce the game to his students.

Help Mark get his students outside, exercising, learning to cooperate, and having fun by donating to his GoFundMe.

Image courtesy of Kaiya Bates

2. Staying C.A.L.M: Regulation Kits for Kids

According to the WHO around 280 million people worldwide suffer from depression. In the US, 1 in 5 adults experience mental illness and 1 in 20 experience severe mental illness, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness.

Kaiya Bates, who was recently crowned Miss Tri-Cities Outstanding Teen for 2022, is one of those people, and has endured severe anxiety, depression, and selective mutism for most of her life.

Through her GoFundMe, Kaiya aims to use her "knowledge to inspire and help others through their mental health journey and to spread positive and factual awareness."

She's put together regulation kits (that she's used herself) for teachers to use with students who are experiencing stress and anxiety. Each "CALM-ing" kit includes a two-minute timer, fidget toolboxes, storage crates, breathing spheres, art supplies and more.

Kaiya's GoFundMe goal is to send a kit to every teacher in every school in the Pasco School District in Washington where she lives.

To help Kaiya achieve her goal, visit Staying C.A.L.M: Regulation Kits for Kids.

Image courtesy of Julie Tarman

3. Library for a high school heritage Spanish class

Julie Tarman is a high school Spanish teacher in Sacramento, California, who hopes to raise enough money to create a Spanish language class library.

The school is in a low-income area, and although her students come from Spanish-speaking homes, they need help building their fluency, confidence, and vocabulary through reading Spanish language books that will actually interest them.

Julie believes that creating a library that affirms her students' cultural heritage will allow them to discover the joy of reading, learn new things about the world, and be supported in their academic futures.

To support Julie's GoFundMe, visit Library for a high school heritage Spanish class.

Do YOU have an idea for a fundraiser that could make a difference? Upworthy and GoFundMe are celebrating ideas that make the world a better, kinder place. Visit upworthy.com/kindness to join the largest collaboration for human kindness in history and start your own GoFundMe.

The Schmidt family's Halloween photoshoot has become an annual tradition.

Two of Patti Schmidt's three sons were already well into adulthood when her daughter Avery was born, and the third wasn't far behind them. Avery, now 5, has never had the pleasure of close-in-age sibling squabbles or gigglefests, since Larry, Patrick, and Gavin are 28, 26, and 22, respectively—but that doesn't mean they don't bond as a family.

According to People.com, Patti calls her sons home to Point Pleasant, New Jersey, every fall for a special Halloween photoshoot with Avery. And the results are nothing short of epic.

The Schmidt family started the tradition in 2017 with the boys dressing as the tinman, the scarecrow, and the cowardly lion from "The Wizard of Oz." Avery, just a toddler at the time, was dressed as Dorothy, complete with adorable little ruby slippers.

The following year, the boys were Luke Skywalker, Han Solo, and Chewbacca, and Avery was (of course) Princess Leia.

In 2019, they did a "Game of Thrones" theme. ("My husband and I were binge-watching (Game of Thrones), and I thought the boys as dragons would be so funny," Schmidt told TODAY.)

In 2020, they went as Princess Buttercup, Westley, Inigo Montoya, and Fezzik from "The Princess Bride."

Patti shared a video montage of each year's costume shoot—with accompanying soundtracks—on Instagram and TikTok. Watch:

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When a pet is admitted to a shelter it can be a traumatizing experience. Many are afraid of their new surroundings and are far from comfortable showing off their unique personalities. The problem is that's when many of them have their photos taken to appear in online searches.

Chewy, the pet retailer who has dedicated themselves to supporting shelters and rescues throughout the country, recognized the important work of a couple in Tampa, FL who have been taking professional photos of shelter pets to help get them adopted.

"If it's a photo of a scared animal, most people, subconsciously or even consciously, are going to skip over it," pet photographer Adam Goldberg says. "They can't visualize that dog in their home."

Adam realized the importance of quality shelter photos while working as a social media specialist for the Humane Society of Broward County in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

"The photos were taken top-down so you couldn't see the size of the pet, and the flash would create these red eyes," he recalls. "Sometimes [volunteers] would shoot the photos through the chain-link fences."

That's why Adam and his wife, Mary, have spent much of their free time over the past five years photographing over 1,200 shelter animals to show off their unique personalities to potential adoptive families. The Goldbergs' wonderful work was recently profiled by Chewy in the video above entitled, "A Day in the Life of a Shelter Pet Photographer."