Beijing banned cars for 2 weeks and the sky turned perfectly blue. Guess what happened the next day?

China marked the 70th anniversary of their victory during World War II in the only way possible: a ginormous parade.

On Sept. 3, 2015, Victory Day kicked off with a massive military parade through Beijing.



Photo by Rolex Dela Pena/Getty Images.

The celebration included 12,000 troops in 50 different military formations along with hundreds of fighter jets. Veterans and soldiers ranging from 20 to 102 years old participated. Parade training was apparently so intense that multiple officers reported losing 10 pounds or more.


Photo by Kevin Frayer/Getty Images.

Blue sky at night? Parade Day delight!

A parade this size takes months, sometimes even years, of preparation.

And in the case of Beijing's Victory Day parade, numerous restrictions were put in place leading up to the festivities. Hundreds of factories were shuttered, and half of the 5 million registered cars in the city were banned from driving in the main urban hub.

Say what you will about spending government resources on a giant party, but in this case, it definitely paid off.


Photo by Jason Lee/Getty Images.

By the day of the parade, the air quality in the city of Beijing had dramatically improved.

An average day in Beijing clocks in on the Air Pollution Index at around 160 (out of 500), which means adverse health effects for absolutely everyone (by comparison, an average day in the worst U.S. cities is said to be around 125). But by parade day, it had dropped to 17.

Photo by Greg Baker/AFP/Getty Images.

Grey sky at morning? Air pollution warning.

The day after the Victory Parade, cars were allowed to return to the roads — and the Air Pollution Index in parts of the city immediately returned to an unhealthy 160 out of 500.


Want to see the difference? Here's how Beijing looked in June:


Photo by Stringer/AFP/Getty Images.

Here's Beijing during the Victory Day parade in September:

Photo by Stringer/AFP/Getty Images.

And here's Beijing less than one week later. Just in case you thought they were having a hazy day or something.


Photo by Greg Baker/AFP/Getty Images.

The sky is back to looking bleak, but the future doesn't have to be. What happened before the Victory Day parade shows that a sunny change is still possible.

Air pollution is bad. Carbon emissions are bad. Cars are bad. We've all heard it before. But what we may not have realized is how much power we have to change things.

What happened in Beijing shows us — yes, how grim the situation is, but also just how easily we can change it.

By cutting back on cars and other emissions for a mere two weeks, Beijing underwent a beautiful and healthy transformation. And yet, all it took was one day of business-as-usual to bring Beijing crashing back into the danger zone.


Photo by Stringer/AFP/Getty Images

It's something to consider the next time you get behind the wheel. We can ensure a future of blue skies if more of us walked to work, rode our bikes, or crammed onto public transportation — even just a few times a week.

Those blue skies sure look nice to me.


True

When Sue Hoppin was in college, she met the man she was going to marry. "I was attending the University of Denver, and he was at the Air Force Academy," she says. "My dad had also attended the University of Denver and warned me not to date those flyboys from the Springs."

"He didn't say anything about marrying one of them," she says. And so began her life as a military spouse.

The life brings some real advantages, like opportunities to live abroad — her family got to live all around the US, Japan, and Germany — but it also comes with some downsides, like having to put your spouse's career over your own goals.

"Though we choose to marry someone in the military, we had career goals before we got married, and those didn't just disappear."

Career aspirations become more difficult to achieve, and progress comes with lots of starts and stops. After experiencing these unique challenges firsthand, Sue founded an organization to help other military spouses in similar situations.

Sue had gotten a degree in international relations because she wanted to pursue a career in diplomacy, but for fourteen years she wasn't able to make any headway — not until they moved back to the DC area. "Eighteen months later, many rejections later, it became apparent that this was going to be more challenging than I could ever imagine," she says.

Eighteen months is halfway through a typical assignment, and by then, most spouses are looking for their next assignment. "If I couldn't find a job in my own 'hometown' with multiple degrees and a great network, this didn't bode well for other military spouses," she says.

She's not wrong. Military spouses spend most of their lives moving with their partners, which means they're often far from family and other support networks. When they do find a job, they often make less than their civilian counterparts — and they're more likely to experience underemployment or unemployment. In fact, on some deployments, spouses are not even allowed to work.

Before the pandemic, military spouse unemployment was 22%. Since the pandemic, it's expected to rise to 35%.

Sue eventually found a job working at a military-focused nonprofit, and it helped her get the experience she needed to create her own dedicated military spouse program. She wrote a book and started saving up enough money to start the National Military Spouse Network (NMSN), which she founded in 2010 as the first organization of its kind.

"I founded the NMSN to help professional military spouses develop flexible careers they could perform from any location."

"Over the years, the program has expanded to include a free digital magazine, professional development events, drafting annual White Papers and organizing national and local advocacy to address the issues of most concern to the professional military spouse community," she says.

Not only was NMSN's mission important to Sue on a personal level she also saw it as part of something bigger than herself.

"Gone are the days when families can thrive on one salary. Like everyone else, most military families rely on two salaries to make ends meet. If a military spouse wants or needs to work, they should be able to," she says.

"When less than one percent of our population serves in the military," she continues, "we need to be able to not only recruit the best and the brightest but also retain them."

"We lose out as a nation when service members leave the force because their spouse is unable to find employment. We see it as a national security issue."

"The NMSN team has worked tirelessly to jumpstart the discussion and keep the challenges affecting military spouses top of mind. We have elevated the conversation to Congress and the White House," she continues. "I'm so proud of the fact that corporations, the government, and the general public are increasingly interested in the issues affecting military spouses and recognizing the employment roadblocks they unfairly have faced."

"We have collectively made other people care, and in doing so, we elevated the issues of military spouse unemployment to a national and global level," she adds. "In the process, we've also empowered military spouses to advocate for themselves and our community so that military spouse employment issues can continue to remain at the forefront."

Not only has NMSN become a sought-after leader in the military spouse employment space, but Sue has also seen the career she dreamed of materializing for herself. She was recently invited to participate in the public re-launch of Joining Forces, a White House initiative supporting military and veteran families, with First Lady Dr. Jill Biden.

She has also had two of her recommendations for practical solutions introduced into legislation just this year. She was the first in the Air Force community to show leadership the power of social media to reach both their airmen and their military families.

That is why Sue is one of Tory Burch's "Empowered Women" this year. The $5,000 donation will be going to The Madeira School, a school that Sue herself attended when she was in high school because, she says, "the lessons I learned there as a student pretty much set the tone for my personal and professional life. It's so meaningful to know that the donation will go towards making a Madeira education more accessible to those who may not otherwise be able to afford it and providing them with a life-changing opportunity."

Most military children will move one to three times during high school so having a continuous four-year experience at one high school can be an important gift. After traveling for much of her formative years, Sue attended Madeira and found herself "in an environment that fostered confidence and empowerment. As young women, we were expected to have a voice and advocate not just for ourselves, but for those around us."

To learn more about Tory Burch and Upworthy's Empowered Women program visit https://www.toryburch.com/empoweredwomen/. Nominate an inspiring woman in your community today!

4-year-old New Zealand boy and police share toys.

Sometimes the adorableness of small children is almost too much to take.

According to the New Zealand Police, a 4-year-old called the country's emergency number to report that he had some toys for them—and that's only the first cute thing to happen in this story.

After calling 111 (the New Zealand equivalent to 911), the preschooler told the "police lady" who answered the call that he had some toys for her. "Come over and see them!" he said to her.

The dispatcher asked where he was, and then the boy's father picked up. He explained that the kids' mother was sick and the boy had made the call while he was attending to the other child. After confirming that there was no emergency—all in a remarkably calm exchange—the call was ended. The whole exchange was so sweet and innocent.

But then it went to another level of wholesome. The dispatcher put out a call to the police units asking if anyone was available to go look at the 4-year-old's toys. And an officer responded in the affirmative as if this were a totally normal occurrence.

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