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.

Photo by Anna Shvets from Pexels
True

Increasingly customers are looking for more conscious shopping options. According to a Nielsen survey in 2018, nearly half (48%) of U.S. consumers say they would definitely or probably change their consumption habits to reduce their impact on the environment.

But while many consumers are interested in spending their money on products that are more sustainable, few actually follow through. An article in the 2019 issue of Harvard Business Review revealed that 65% of consumers said they want to buy purpose-driven brands that advocate sustainability, but only about 26% actually do so. It's unclear where this intention gap comes from, but thankfully it's getting more convenient to shop sustainably from many of the retailers you already support.

Amazon recently introduced Climate Pledge Friendly, "a new program to help make it easy for customers to discover and shop for more sustainable products." When you're browsing Amazon, a Climate Pledge Friendly label will appear on more than 45,000 products to signify they have one or more different sustainability certifications which "help preserve the natural world, reducing the carbon footprint of shipments to customers," according to the online retailer.

Amazon

In order to distinguish more sustainable products, the program partnered with a wide range of external certifications, including governmental agencies, non-profits, and independent laboratories, all of which have a focus on preserving the natural world.

Keep Reading Show less
Images via Canva and Unsplash

If there's one thing that everyone can agree on, it's that being in a pandemic sucks.

However, we seem to be on different pages as to what sucks most about it. Many of us are struggling with being separated from our friends and loved ones for so long. Some of us have lost friends and family to the virus, while others are dealing with ongoing health effects of their own illness. Millions are struggling with job loss and financial stress due to businesses being closed. Parents are drowning, dealing with their kids' online schooling and lack of in-person social interactions on top of their own work logistics. Most of us hate wearing masks (even if we do so diligently), and the vast majority of us are just tired of having to think about and deal with everything the pandemic entails.

Much has been made of the mental health impact of the pandemic, which is a good thing. We need to have more open conversations about mental health in general, and with everything so upside down, it's more important now than ever. However, it feels like pandemic mental health conversations have been dominated by people who want to justify anti-lockdown arguments. "We can't let the cure be worse than the disease," people say. Kids' mental health is cited as a reason to open schools, the mental health challenges of financial despair as a reason to keep businesses open, and the mental health impact of social isolation as a reason to ditch social distancing measures.

It's not that those mental health challenges aren't real. They most definitely are. But when we focus exclusively on the mental health impact of lockdowns, we miss the fact that there are also significant mental health struggles on the other side of those arguments.

Keep Reading Show less
True

If the past year has taught us nothing else, it's that sending love out into the world through selfless acts of kindness can have a positive ripple effect on people and communities. People all over the United States seemed to have gotten the message — 71% of those surveyed by the World Giving Index helped a stranger in need in 2020. A nonprofit survey found 90% helped others by running errands, calling, texting and sending care packages. Many people needed a boost last year in one way or another and obliging good neighbors heeded the call over and over again — and continue to make a positive impact through their actions in this new year.

Upworthy and P&G Good Everyday wanted to help keep kindness going strong, so they partnered up to create the Lead with Love Fund. The fund awards do-gooders in communities around the country with grants to help them continue on with their unique missions. Hundreds of nominations came pouring in and five winners were selected based on three criteria: the impact of action, uniqueness, and "Upworthy-ness" of their story.

Here's a look at the five winners:

Edith Ornelas, co-creator of Mariposas Collective in Memphis, Tenn.

Edith Ornelas has a deep-rooted connection to the asylum-seeking immigrant families she brings food and supplies to families in Memphis, Tenn. She was born in Jalisco, Mexico, and immigrated to the United States when she was 7 years old with her parents and sister. Edith grew up in Chicago, then moved to Memphis in 2016, where she quickly realized how few community programs existed for immigrants. Two years later, she helped create Mariposas Collective, which initially aimed to help families who had just been released from detention centers and were seeking asylum. The collective started out small but has since grown to approximately 400 volunteers.

Keep Reading Show less
True
Gates Foundation

Once upon a time, a scientist named Dr. Andrew Wakefield published in the medical journal The Lancet that he had discovered a link between autism and vaccines.

After years of controversy and making parents mistrust vaccines, along with collecting $674,000 from lawyers who would benefit from suing vaccine makers, it was discovered he had made the whole thing up. The Lancet publicly apologized and reported that further investigation led to the discovery that he had fabricated everything.

Keep Reading Show less
via Budweiser

Budweiser beer, and its low-calorie counterpart, Bud Light, have created some of the most memorable Super Bowl commercials of the past 37 years.

There were the Clydesdales playing football and the poor lost puppy who found its way home because of the helpful horses. Then there were the funny frogs who repeated the brand name, "Bud," "Weis," "Er."

We can't forget the "Wassup?!" ad that premiered in December 1999, spawning the most obnoxious catchphrase of the new millennium.

Keep Reading Show less