+

When Tracy Robinson went to bed on Oct. 12, 2016, she thought about spending time on the water the next day, monitoring crab fisheries.

Unfortunately, that's not what the next day held in store.

At 1:13 on the morning of Oct. 13 (local time), the tugboat Nathan E. Stewart and its barge DBL 55 ran aground on a shallow underwater reef near Bella Bella on the central coast ofBritish Columbia, in the territory of the Heiltsuk First Nation.


Diesel spilled by the Nathan E. Stewart (top center) streams into the water. Image via Heiltsuk Nation, used with permission.

For hours, breaking waves slammed its hull up and down into the reef, ripping holes in its fuel and oil tanks. Just before 10 a.m., the tug sank, and upward of 27,000 gallons of marine diesel began leaking out into the sea.

Robinson was one of the first people on the scene of the spill.

Robinson in her boat, tending to containment booms. Image via Heiltsuk Nation, used with permission.

For the first 36 hours, everything was chaos. The private company that oversees oil spill cleanup on Canada's west coast had boats that could help — but they were 185miles and a full day's trip away. There were additional supplies and staff en route from Vancouver, but the small planes that flew them up the coast couldn't get out in bad weather for three days.  In the absence of leadership, members of the local First Nation, the Heiltsuk, took to their boats and stepped in.

"My partner and I were out there just before 10, just after the tug sank," Robinson said. "There were Heiltsuk boats pushing on the barge to keep it off the rocks. We started grabbing boom and waited for other Heiltsuk members to come out with the absorbent noodle boom, just trying to stop the diesel from spewing into Gale Pass. That was all we had and all we could do."

Cleaning up diesel in cold seawater isn't easy, especially on B.C.'s wild, rugged central coast.

There are strong marine currents, big storms, and rocky coastlines that make it hard to create containment plans. There are a million places where diesel can pool. It sticks to low-hanging tree branches and tall sea grass; it adheres to rocky beaches at high tide, then streams out into deeper water when the tide retreats.

Containment booms, a popular means of keeping oil in place so it can be recovered, are basically useless there because the wave action forces the diesel over their tops or underneath. Over the last 30 days, currents and storms have caused the booms to fail again and again, sometimes even pulling them apart, scattering beaches with diesel-soaked padding and styrofoam pellets.

The remains of a containment boom on a beach near Gale Creek. Image via April Bencze/Heiltsuk Nation, used with permission.

The Heiltsuk understand these lands and waters better than anyone. They also know what a spill like this means for the area and the people who live there.

When the tug ran aground, it did so on Athlone Island, beside the mouth of a narrow marine passage named Gale Creek. Nicknamed the "breadbasket," it's a particularly important hunting, fishing, and harvesting ground for the Heiltsuk people; they harvest more than 25 different food species there, from cockles and clams to sockeye and coho salmon. The Heiltsuk sell some of their harvests through a small commercial fishery and keep the rest to feed their families.

Cleanup crews deploy absorbent pads to soak up diesel in Gale Creek. Image via Heiltsuk Nation, used with permission.

Robinson's family has a strong connection to Gale Creek. "My mom was a commercial clam digger for 20 years, and she worked there," she says. "Now I'm working on the water, and I was going to do my first clam fishery there this year. After the spill, we don't know when we'll be able to harvest there again."

A sea otter floats lazily in Gale Creek with the diesel sheen nearby. Image via Tavish Campbell/Heiltsuk Nation, used with permission.

A full month after the spill, there's finally a break in the weather long enough to start the process of dragging the tug off the reef and hoisting it on to a barge. Even that is slow-going and frustrating.

Once it is gone, many of the 200+ engineers and workers who've converged on Bella Bella will leave, and the Heiltsuk will be left to oversee the long process of recovery.

Cleanup crews collect soiled containment boom from the beach behind the Nathan E. Stewart wreck (top right). Image via Heiltsuk Nation, used with permission.

"When I was younger, my mom and I did a restorative justice program where we lived out in Gale Creek for a month," revealed Robinson, her voice breaking. "We had brought food, but we tried to eat as much as we could off the land. We ate mussels off the rocks, picked seaweed and sea asparagus off the beach. My mom pulled cedar bark, and we would weave baskets or cedar roses, trying to learn to live off the land. It was rejuvenating and brought back the culture in me. Now, I feel so lost and I feel so sorry for my kids. They’re never going to experience the full riches, the full amazingness of Gale Creek."

During the month the Nathan E. Stewart spent submerged off Bella Bella, Canada's federal government promised to implement changes that would make spill cleanup on British Columbia's central coast faster and simpler.

Prime Minister Trudeau's long-promised ban on oil tankers is guaranteed to come before the end of the year, and the Heiltsuk have asked him to make the announcement in Bella Bella. While those regulations are long overdue, they cannot fix the damage done here. The cultural, environmental, and psychological impacts of this spill will reverberate for a long time.

Robinson with family on the beach near Bella Bella. Image via Tracy Robinson, used with permission.

For Robinson, right now, being out on the water, helping however she can, is all she wants to do. "I was out on the water for 21 days straight with this spill. There's nowhere else I'd rather be," she said.

"I don't know what's going to happen when the tug is finally out of the water. I just know I'll be out there. The government says that our oil spill response system should be 'world-class.' But if anyone is world class right now, it’s the Heiltsuk."

Photo courtesy of Girls at Work

True

Girls are bombarded with messages from a very young age telling them that they can’t, that is too big, this is too heavy, those are too much.

Keep ReadingShow less
Pop Culture

14 things that will remain fun no matter how old you get

Your inner child will thank you for doing at least one of these.

Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

Swings can turn 80-year-olds into 8-year-olds in less that two seconds.

When we’re kids, fun comes so easily. You have coloring books and team sports and daily recess … so many opportunities to laugh, play and explore. As we get older, these activities get replaced by routine and responsibility (and yes, at times, survival). Adulthood, yuck.

Many of us want to have more fun, but making time for it still doesn’t come as easily as it did when we were kids—whether that’s because of guilt, a long list of other priorities or because we don’t feel it’s an age-appropriate thing to long for.

Luckily, we’ve come to realize that fun isn’t just a luxury of childhood, but really a vital aspect of living well—like reducing stress, balancing hormone levels and even improving relationships.

More and more people of all ages are letting their inner kids out to play, and the feelings are delightfully infectious.

You might be wanting to instill a little more childlike wonder into your own life, and not sure where to start. Never fear, the internet is here. Reddit user SetsunaSaigami asked people, “What always remains fun no matter how old you get?” People’s (surprisingly profound) answers were great reminders that no matter how complex our lives become, simple joy will always be important.

Here are 14 timeless pleasures to make you feel like a kid again:

Keep ReadingShow less
All images provided by Adewole Adamson

It begins with more inclusive conversations at a patient level

True

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.

via Pixabay

The show must go on… and more power to her.

There are few things that feel more awful than being stranded at the altar by your spouse-to-be. That’s why people are cheering on Kayley Stead, 27, from the U.K. for turning a day of extreme disappointment into a party for her friends, family and most importantly, herself.

According to a report in The Metro, on Thursday, September 15, Stead woke up in an Airbnb with her bridemaids, having no idea that her fiance, Kallum Norton, 24, had run off early that morning. The word got to Stead’s bridesmaids at around 7 a.m. the day of the wedding.

“[A groomsman] called one of the maids of honor to explain that the groom had ‘gone.’ We were told he had left the caravan they were staying at in Oxwich Bay (the venue) at 12:30 a.m. to visit his family, who were staying in another caravan nearby and hadn’t returned. When they woke in the morning, he was not there and his car had gone,” Jordie Cullen wrote on a GoFundMe page.

Keep ReadingShow less
via Lewis Speaks Sr. / Facebook

This article originally appeared on 02.25.21


Middle school has to be the most insecure time in a person's life. Kids in their early teens are incredibly cruel and will make fun of each other for not having the right shoes, listening to the right music, or having the right hairstyle.

As if the social pressure wasn't enough, a child that age has to deal with the intensely awkward psychological and biological changes of puberty at the same time.

Jason Smith, the principal of Stonybrook Intermediate and Middle School in Warren Township, Indiana, had a young student sent to his office recently, and his ability to understand his feelings made all the difference.

Keep ReadingShow less