An ancient and stunning natural wonder is dying. It should be a wake-up call to all of us.

Australia's Great Barrier Reef, in some form, has existed for up to a half a million years.

Known today as the largest structure on Earth made up of living organisms, the incredible beauty stretches over 1,000 miles across the Coral Sea.

Its more modern form has been in place for 6,000 years or more, meaning it has already outlived the Renaissance, multiple world wars, and the golden age of boy bands.


But it could be nearing the end.

Photo by Phil Walter/Getty Images.

When you think of the coral in the Great Barrier Reef, you probably think of something that looks like this — vibrant colors surrounded by sea life.

Photo by William West/AFP/Getty Images.

Lately, it's been looking more and more like this.

Photo by Bette Willis/ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies.

It is really, really NOT supposed to look like this.

Photo by Bette Willis/ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies

This whitening process is called coral bleaching, and it's what happens when the coral expels algae and plants that live inside of its tissue.

Photo by Greg Torda/ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies.

Those plants help feed the coral and keep it alive; they also give it its brilliant color.

Photo by Bette Willis/ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies.

Step one of bleaching: The coral turns bright white. Step two: It dies.

Photo by Bette Willis/ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies.

Bleaching can happen for a lot of reasons, usually from warming water temperatures and pollutants.

2016 was officially one of the warmest years on record, and 2017 is well on its way toward taking the title. So, yeah ... not good.

Photo by Kerryn Bell/ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies.

And while coral has shown that it sometimes can recover quite well from bleaching incidents, scientists fear the reef may not be able to bounce back from recent trauma.

This chart shows the severe spread of bleaching in just one year's time. Image by ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies.

Water quality expert Jon Brodie told The Guardian the reef has reached a "terminal stage" after several years of warming waters and poor water quality, with up to two-thirds of the reef's total structure hanging on for dear life.

Plenty of organizations are still fighting to preserve as much of the reef as possible, but the harsh truth is that it may be too late.

If this is really the end for the Great Barrier Reef, it won't just be the loss of something beautiful.

Photo by Ed Roberts/ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies.

Massive coral structures like Australia's reef support a wide variety of sea life, which, if lost, could have a devastating ripple effect on the aquatic ecosystem and even the fishing industry.

Though many experts say it's too late to stop further destruction of the reef, and in fact, some have predicted for years it was doomed all along, it's not too late to learn from our failings in protecting it.

We need to invest in better water quality for our oceans, and we need to pour everything we've got into slowing global warming. If a massive living structure that has weathered thousands of years of abuse can't survive it, the reef's death should at least be the wake-up call we need to finally take action.

Courtesy of Verizon
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If someone were to say "video games" to you, what are the first words that come to mind? Whatever words you thought of (fun, exciting, etc.), we're willing to guess "healthy" or "mental health tool" didn't pop into your mind.

And yet… it turns out they are. Especially for Veterans.

How? Well, for one thing, video games — and virtual reality more generally — are also more accessible and less stigmatized to veterans than mental health treatment. In fact, some psychiatrists are using virtual reality systems for this reason to treat PTSD.

Secondly, video games allow people to socialize in new ways with people who share common interests and goals. And for Veterans, many of whom leave the military feeling isolated or lonely after they lose the daily camaraderie of their regiment, that socialization is critical to their mental health. It gives them a virtual group of friends to talk with, connect to, and relate to through shared goals and interests.

In addition, according to a 2018 study, since many video games simulate real-life situations they encountered during their service, it makes socialization easier since they can relate to and find common ground with other gamers while playing.

This can help ease symptoms of depression, anxiety, and even PTSD in Veterans, which affects 20% of the Veterans who have served since 9/11.

Watch here as Verizon dives into the stories of three Veteran gamers to learn how video games helped them build community, deal with trauma and have some fun.

Band of Gamers www.youtube.com

Video games have been especially beneficial to Veterans since the beginning of the pandemic when all of us — Veterans included — have been even more isolated than ever before.

And that's why Verizon launched a challenge last year, which saw $30,000 donated to four military charities.

And this year, they're going even bigger by launching a new World of Warships charity tournament in partnership with Wargaming and Wounded Warrior Project called "Verizon Warrior Series." During the tournament, gamers will be able to interact with the game's iconic ships in new and exciting ways, all while giving back.

Together with these nonprofits, the tournament will welcome teams all across the nation in order to raise money for military charities helping Veterans in need. There will be a $100,000 prize pool donated to these charities, as well as donation drives for injured Veterans at every match during the tournament to raise extra funds.

Verizon is also providing special discounts to Those Who Serve communities, including military and first responders, and they're offering a $75 in-game content military promo for World of Warships.

Tournament finals are scheduled for August 8, so be sure to tune in to the tournament and donate if you can in order to give back to Veterans in need.

Courtesy of Verizon

Ready for the weekend? Of course, you are. Here's our weekly dose of good vibes to help you shed the stresses of the workweek and put yourself in a great frame of mind.

These 10 stories made us happy this week because they feature amazing creativity, generosity, and one super-cute fish.

1. Diver befriends a fish with the cutest smile

Hawaiian underwater photographer Yuki Nakano befriended a friendly porcupine fish and now they hang out regularly.

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