What would you say to someone who didn't want to live anymore? After hearing about a friend's suicide, Jennifer Michael Hecht tried to find the answer through her poetry.
Growing up in Indonesia, Farwiza Farhan always loved the ocean. It's why she decided to study marine biology. But the more she learned, the more she realized that it wasn't enough to work in the ocean. She needed to protect it.
"I see the ocean ecosystem collapsing due to overfishing and climate change," she says. "I felt powerless and didn't know what to do [so] I decided to pursue my master's in environmental management."
This choice led her to work in environmental protection, and it was fate that brought her back home to the Leuser Ecosystem in Sumatra, Indonesia — one of the last places on earth where species such as tigers, orangutans, elephants and Sumatran rhinoceros still live in the wild today. It's also home to over 300 species of birds, eight of which are endemic to the region.
"When I first flew over the Leuser Ecosystem, I saw an intact landscape, a contiguous block of lush, diverse vegetation stretched through hills and valleys. The Leuser is truly a majestic landscape — one of a kind."
She fell in love. "I had my first orangutan encounter in the Leuser Ecosystem," she remembers. "As the baby orangutan swung from the branches, seemingly playing and having fun, the mother was observing us. I was moved by the experience."
Courtesy of Farwiza Farhan
"Over the years," she continues, "the encounters with wildlife, with people, and with the ecosystem itself compounded. My curiosity and interest towards nature have turned into a deep desire to protect this biodiversity."
So, she began working for a government agency tasked to protect it. After the agency dismantled for political reasons in the country, Farhan decided to create the HAkA Foundation.
"The goals [of HAkA] are to protect, conserve and restore the Leuser Ecosystem while at the same time catalyzing and enabling just economic prosperity for the region," she says.
"Wild areas and wild places are rare these days," she continues. "We think gold and diamonds are rare and therefore valuable assets, but wild places and forests, like the Leuser Ecosystems, are the kind of natural assets that essentially provide us with life-sustaining services."
"The rivers that flow through the forest of the Leuser Ecosystem are not too dissimilar to the blood that flows through our veins. It might sound extreme, but tell me — can anyone live without water?"
Courtesy of Farwiza Farhan
So far, HAkA has done a lot of work to protect the region. The organization played a key role in strengthening laws that bring the palm oil companies that burn forests to justice. In fact, their involvement led to an unprecedented, first-of-its-kind court decision that fined one company close to $26 million.
In addition, HAkA helped thwart destructive infrastructure plans that would have damaged critical habitat for the Sumatran elephants and rhinos. They're working to prevent mining destruction by helping communities develop alternative livelihoods that don't damage the forests. They've also trained hundreds of police and government rangers to monitor deforestation, helping to establish the first women ranger teams in the region.
"We have supported multiple villages to create local regulation on river and land protection, effectively empowering communities to regain ownership over their environment."
She is one of Tory Burch's Empowered Women this year. The donation she receives as a nominee is being awarded to the Ecosystem Impact Foundation. The small local foundation is working to protect some of the last remaining habitats of the critically endangered leatherback turtle that lives on the west coast of Sumatra.
"The funds will help the organization keep their ranger employed so they can continue protecting the islands, endangered birds and sea turtle habitats," she says.
To learn more about Tory Burch and Upworthy's Empowered Women program visit https://www.toryburch.com/empoweredwomen. Do you know an inspiring woman like Farwiza? Nominate her today!
If you know any teachers, you probably know how utterly exhausted they all are, from preschools all the way up through college. Pandemic schooling has been rough, to say the least, and teachers have borne the brunt of the impact it's had on students.
Most teachers I've known have bent over backwards to help students succeed during this time, taking kids' mental and emotional health into consideration and extending the flexibility and grace we all could use. But teachers have their own mental and emotional needs, too, and at some point, something's gotta give.
A college student posted screenshots of a professor's message on Twitter with the comment "someone PLEASE check on my professor." It's simply incredible.
The message reads:
"There is no class tomorrow. I've got some things to take care of regarding this and my other class, and my full time job. I have received countless emails about zeroes on assignments either through errors I've made, you've made, or simply people not realizing or knowing they were supposed to turn it in and then realizing in panic they received a zero on it for (surprise), not turning it in. It seems that giving you a free assignment so long as you turn SOMETHING in created far more chaos than good will. Apologies. That's on me. And you. But also me. But also you."
Then it went on…
someone PLEASE check on my professor pic.twitter.com/xbys2Nh66q— hailey (@hailzfitz444) November 16, 2021
The professor gave a bulleted list of instructions for what clearly sounds like a very simple, easy assignment designed to give students an opportunity to boost their grades.
"- Submit it. I've extended the deadline until tomorrow before Midnight.
- If you do NOT turn it in before then. I'm sorry. It's a zero. No excuses at this point and frankly, I regret ever trying to make this assignment easier because it's created more problems at this point.
- I will look at these, do not do something stupid like type 'b' or 'i did it'. I will become enraged and bitch about you for exactly 15 seconds to anyone within my proximity who will listen. I will not hold back.
- After I receive these, I will give you full credit (pending the above prerequisites). I will then promptly print 100 copies of the assignment out, put them in a pile, light that pile on fire, and dance around the rubble as it burns. I will then put my hand on the smoldering embers so that I may feel again. Feel what, you might ask? Anything. Literally anything.
- I will then sleep like a baby, having put this nightmare behind me."
The professor saw the tweet his students shared after it went viral and chimed in with a response.
In case it’s not clear I am said professor and that was my email.— scobeard (@scobeard) November 17, 2021
In case you are wondering. I am doing very well and good.
And he added an update on how things were going on the assignment front.
Other teachers responded to his woes, commiserating over students being handed a chance to improve their scores and simply … not doing it.
I literally gave out assignments so they could rack up easy points on their averages and people just didn’t do them???— Ashley Holub, PhD (@ashtroid22) November 17, 2021
JUST TELL ME YOUR INTERESTS
It's been a challenge during the pandemic to figure out how much to expect of any of us, hasn't it? Some leeway is definitely warranted, but are we enabling bad habits when we give too much? There are no right answers to that question. We're all winging it, trying to navigate uncharted waters and having to constantly readjust as things change.
It's exhausting. We're all exhausted. But teachers are at a level of "done" that few of us can fathom. Healthcare workers can fathom it. Anyone working with the public the past two years might get close. But until you've actually taught, you don't know. Teaching is hard under normal circumstances. Pandemic teaching is a whole other ballgame.
We feel you, teachers. Hang in there, and enjoy this bit that will undoubtedly feel familiar:
Eight years ago, florist Barronelle Stutzman, the owner of Arlene's Flowers in Richmond, Washington refused to serve a gay couple, Robert Ingersoll and Curt Freed, for their wedding. The couple was deeply hurt by her decision because Ingersoll had been a long-time client of the flower shop.
"After Curt and I were turned away from our local flower shop, we canceled the plans for our dream wedding because we were afraid it would happen again. We had a small ceremony at home instead," said Robert Ingersoll in a statement.
The couple sued the shop with the help of the American Civil Liberties Union under Washington's anti-discrimination law. The rule states that businesses that are open to the general public cannot refuse to serve someone based on their sexual orientation. The law specifies that this form of discrimination is illegal even if it's based on someone's sincere religious beliefs.
Stutzman, who was represented by the Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) claimed that her "religious freedom" granted her the right to discriminate against the couple and that being forced to sell flowers to them violated her freedom of speech.
Barronelle Stutzman, the Washington State florist who was sued over refusing to serve a gay couple\u2019s wedding, has withdrawn her appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.https://www.advocate.com/news/2021/11/18/washington-florist-settles-gay-couple-ends-court-battle?utm_source=twitter&utm_medium=social&utm_campaign=news\u00a0\u2026— The Advocate (@The Advocate) 1637359201
According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, the organization has a long history of promoting homophobia:
"The Alliance Defending Freedom is a legal advocacy and training group that has supported the recriminalization of sexual acts between consenting LGBTQ adults in the U.S. and criminalization abroad; has defended state-sanctioned sterilization of trans people abroad; has contended that LGBTQ people are more likely to engage in pedophilia; and claims that a "homosexual agenda" will destroy Christianity and society."
The case went all the way to the state's Supreme Court who unanimously ruled against Stutzman.
The Court believes that selling flowers to a gay couple for their wedding wasn't an endorsement of same-sex marriage. "As Stutzman acknowledged at deposition, providing flowers for a wedding between Muslims would not necessarily constitute an endorsement of Islam, nor would providing flowers for an atheist couple endorse atheism."
However, the fight didn't stop there. Stutzman filed with the U.S. Supreme Court to hear the case.
In 2018, the U.S. Supreme Court remanded the case back to the state of Washinton to take another look. A year later, the state reaffirmed its decision. Then, the case was sent back to the U.S. Supreme Court.
The court denied a petition by Stutzman and her lawyers in July of 2021, over the dissent of conservative judges Clarence Thomas, Neil Gorsuch and Samuel Alito.
Earlier this month, the court battle came to an end when Stutzman agreed to withdraw her petition and agreed to pay $5,000 to Ingersoll and Freed. The couple has agreed to donate the money to an LGBT youth charity.
Barronelle Stutzman of Arlene's Flowers said she will turn the "struggle for freedom over to others" after settling with Curt Freed and Robert Ingersoll.https://www.huffpost.com/entry/washington-state-florist-same-sex-wedding-settlement_n_61983c8be4b0451e54fa20cd?d_id=2859022&ncid_tag=tweetlnkushpmg00000016&utm_medium=Social&utm_source=Twitter&utm_campaign=us_politics\u00a0\u2026— HuffPost Politics (@HuffPost Politics) 1637368235
Her lawyers say that Stutzman is "at peace" with the settlement because she can "finally retire with her conscience intact, and she knows that the legal effort to protect the artistic freedoms of creative professionals" will continue in other challenges.
The couple hopes that their hard-fought battle means that other same-sex couples won't have to endure the same discrimination they did.
"We hope this decision sends a message to other LGBTQ people that no one should have to experience the hurt that we did," Ingersoll said in a statement.
Stutzman fought against providing flowers for a same-sex wedding because she believed doing so violated her religious beliefs. But does she understand that her high-profile court cases stretching over eight years probably did much more harm than good for her faith?
If more people went out on a limb to promote the ideas of peace and love that were at the core of Christ's teachings, they'd bring a lot more people to the faith than by making sacrifices to promote intolerance.
Six years ago, the Comedy Wildlife Photography Awards started humbly as a small photo contest. But it's grown to be a worldwide renowned competition seen by millions across the globe. The photos are always funny but they come with a serious message: We need to protect the natural world.
This year's winner is "Ouch!" a photo of a Golden Silk Monkey who appears to have injured the family jewels by landing on a wire with his legs open. The photo was taken by Ken Jensen in 2016.
"I was absolutely overwhelmed to learn that my entry had won, especially when there were quite a number of wonderful photos entered," Jensen said in a statement. "The publicity that my image has received over the last few months has been incredible, it is such a great feeling to know that one's image is making people smile globally as well as helping to support some fantastically worthwhile conservation causes."
Golden Silk Monkey, China.
This is actually a show of aggression, however in the position that the monkey is in it looks quite painful!
"I was taking pics of pigeons in flight when this leaf landed on the bird's face." – John Spiers
When this Bald Eagle missed its attempt to grab this prairie dog, it jumped toward the eagle and startled it long enough to escape to a nearby burrow. A real David vs. Goliath story!
A smooth-coated otter "bit" its baby otter to bring it back for a swimming lesson.
An elephant expresses its joy in taking a mud bath against the dead trees on the shores of Lake Kariba in Zimbabwe on a hot afternoon.
Two Kamchatka bear cubs square up for a celebratory play fight having successfully navigated a raging torrent (small stream!).
I have the high ground!
Bald eagles will use the same nest for years, even decades, adding new material to it at the beginning and throughout the nesting season. Normally, they are highly skilled at snapping branches off trees while in flight. Possibly tired from working nonstop all morning on a new nest, this particular bald eagle wasn't showing its best form.
Yes, sometimes they miss. Although this looks painful, and it might very well be, the eagle recovered with just a few sweeping wing strokes, and chose to rest a bit before making another lumber run.
Just who do you think you're looking at?
This proboscis monkey could be just scratching its nose on the rough bark, or it could be kissing it. Trees play a big role in the lives of monkeys. Who are we to judge?
The little raccoon cubs are telling secrets to each other.
Two western grey kangaroos were fighting and one missed kicking the other in the stomach.
This raccoon spends its time trying to get into houses out of curiosity and perhaps to steal food.
A young bear descending from a tree looks like it's playing hide and seek.
I spent my days in my usual "gopher place" and yet again, these funny little animals haven't belied their true nature.