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UNESCO has officially removed the Belize Barrier Reef Reserve System, the world's second largest barrier reef, from its list of endangered world heritage sites.

It's a big deal for environmentalists and the people of Belize themselves: After all, it was voters who overwhelmingly (96%) approved measures to ban oil exploration and improve foresting regulations along the 200-mile reef.

"In the last two years, especially in the last year, the government of Belize really has made a transformational shift," said Fanny Douvere, who coordinates UNESCO's marine program.


The reef is home to several threatened species who now have a fighting chance.

The Belize Barrier Reef's ecosystem is an incredible and complex mix that is home to mangroves, coastal estuaries, and lagoons. It's also home to threatened creatures like the marine turtle, the manatee, and the American marine crocodile.

Those waters are also incredibly popular with divers and other visitors. In fact, once it was revealed in 2011 that the Belize government sold off much of the area to developers, activists leapt into action to change that.

Just take a look at this stunning natural beauty.

[rebelmouse-image 19397929 dam="1" original_size="2560x1920" caption="Photo by Andy Blackledge/Wikimedia Commons." expand=1]Photo by Andy Blackledge/Wikimedia Commons.

Photo by Pedro Pardo/Getty Images.

Photo by Pedro Pardo/Getty Images.

Photo by Pedro Pardo/Getty Images.

Photo by Pedro Pardo/Getty Images.

Photo by Pedro Pardo/Getty Images.

Photo by Pedro Pardo/Getty Images.

Photo by Pedro Pardo/Getty Images.

[rebelmouse-image 19397937 dam="1" original_size="662x515" caption="Photo by U.S. Geological Survey/Wikimedia Commons." expand=1]Photo by U.S. Geological Survey/Wikimedia Commons.

[rebelmouse-image 19397938 dam="1" original_size="1024x576" caption="Photo by 16:9 Clue/Flickr." expand=1]Photo by 16:9 Clue/Flickr.

There's so much more work still to be done, but this is a huge victory.

There's a reason UNESCO listed the Belize Barrier Reef as being endangered back in 2009. Efforts there and along Australia's Great Barrier Reef are vital. Saving our oceans and the creates there ultimately means saving not only our planet, but ourselves.

All across the world there are places like Belize in need of help. It can be dispiriting to see how much damage we've already done to our planet.

However, there are real actions that can be taken to make a difference — and this is a great example.

A breastfeeding mother's experience at Vienna's Schoenbrunn Zoo is touching people's hearts—but not without a fair amount of controversy.

Gemma Copeland shared her story on Facebook, which was then picked up by the Facebook page Boobie Babies. Photos show the mom breastfeeding her baby next to the window of the zoo's orangutan habitat, with a female orangutan sitting close to the glass, gazing at them.

"Today I got feeding support from the most unlikely of places, the most surreal moment of my life that had me in tears," Copeland wrote.

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True

You could say Marine biologist, divemaster and National Geographic Explorer Dr. Erika Woolsey is a bit of a coral reef whisperer, one who brings her passion for ocean science to folks on dry land in a fresh, innovative and fun new way using virtual reality.

Images courtesy of Meta’s Community Voices film series

Her non-profit, The Hydrous, combines science, design, and technology to provide one-of-a-kind experiential education about marine life. In 2018, Hydrous produced “Immerse 360”, a virtual underwater journey through the coral reefs of Palau, with Dr. Woolsey as a guide.

Viewers got to swim with sharks, manta rays and sea turtles while exploring gorgeous aquatic landscapes and learning about the crucial role our oceans play—all from 360° and 3D footage captured by VRTUL 2 underwater storytelling VR cameras.


Hydrous then expanded on the idea to develop two more exciting augmented adventures using Meta Quest 2 technology: “Expedition Palau,” a live event where audiences can share a “synchronized immersive reality experience”, which includes live narration from Woolsey, and “Explore,” a “CGI experience” to enjoy the magic of the ocean at home.


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“I’ve been extremely fortunate to explore and study coral reefs around the world,” Woolsey said, sharing that it was “heartbreaking” to see these important habitats decay so rapidly while the latest scientific reports did not clearly lead to widespread compassionate action.

“How do we care about something we never see or experience?” she reflected. As she discovered, virtual reality would be a powerful solution for eliciting empathy. “VR has the ability to generate presence and agency and make you feel like you’re there. It's that emotional connection that can bridge scientific discovery and public understanding”

The combination of virtual reality and the ocean’s natural breathtaking beauty is, as Woolsey puts it, a “match made in heaven” for getting people more engaged in ocean education. “When you’re floating you can look up and down and all around you…seeing a school of fish surrounding you and reefs in these cathedral-like structures. Rather than watching a video of a scientist, you get to become the scientist.”

Hydrous also has special kits to provide middle school students hands-on learning about ocean life. In addition to a journal, activity cards and a smartphone VR viewer, each kit includes lifelike 3D printed model pieces of a coral reef so that middle school students can try building their own.

These reef models even turn white when temperatures rise inside the aquarium, which mimics the real “bleaching” that corals endure when they die due to higher than normal ocean temperatures. Students really do become scientists as they figure out how to bring color back to their reef.

While it’s true that the health of our oceans affects us all, the growing threats our oceans face—pollution, overfishing, climate change—don’t always affect us on an empathetic level. Through the use of technology, Woolsey has created an innovative way to connect hearts and minds to one of the Earth’s most important resources, which can inspire real and lasting change.

“We can’t bring everybody to the ocean, but we’re finding scalable ways to bring the ocean to everyone.”

To learn more about Hydrous, click here.

via UNSW

This article originally appeared on 07.10.21


Dr. Daniel Mansfield and his team at the University of New South Wales in Australia have just made an incredible discovery. While studying a 3,700-year-old tablet from the ancient civilization of Babylon, they found evidence that the Babylonians were doing something astounding: trigonometry!

Most historians have credited the Greeks with creating the study of triangles' sides and angles, but this tablet presents indisputable evidence that the Babylonians were using the technique 1,500 years before the Greeks ever were.


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