Heroes

If you don't already think of water as power, these folks make it crystal clear.

Water is our world. Water is our life. So let's keep it that way.

If you don't already think of water as power, these folks make it crystal clear.
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Stella Artois

I know this might sound weird, but this video got me weirdly excited about water. Yes, water. H20.

In it, a bunch of people explain what water means to them.

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The powerful visuals, the bright colors, the stirring imagery ... the people in the video are right. Water is everything.


HOWEVER. The video didn't do a whole lot to explain what's being done around the world and in developing countries to ensure that everyone has access to water. And that left me with a bunch of questions.

There were three people in the video, the Stockholm Water Prize laureates, whose research I wanted to learn more about. So I did what every millennial does when they want to learn more about something.

I Googled.

Here's what I found:

Women in Bangladesh use their saris to filter their water.

Imagine using your own clothes to stop you from getting sick. How cool is that?? Dr. Rita Colwell discovered that's exactly what women in Bangladesh are doing. The women found that if they folded their saris enough times, they could filter water through them and trap the plankton that was making their water unsafe.

It's so simple. And yet so genius.

Is the problem really access to water? Or is it something else?

You can thank Sunita Narain for an amazing push to shift the way we think about access to water. We often talk about people not having enough water, but Narain thinks that's not the problem.

What is the problem is who gets water and who doesn't.

That is why she works to empower the people of India, particularly women, to build systems to find, preserve, and purify water, rather than rely on the government to take care of it and provide it for them. And that's why she became a Water Prize laureate.

"Water is not about water. Water is about building people's institutions and power to take control over decisions."
— Sunita Narain, Stockholm Water Prize laureate

How can we even measure how much water we use?

Professor John Anthony Allan had his big break when he found a new way to measure water consumption. He figured out exactly how much water it takes to produce different things.

For example, a cup of coffee in the morning doesn't just use a cup of water. When you factor in all the water that goes into growing, producing, packaging, and shipping the coffee beans, your morning cup of joe actually takes 140 liters of water to make.

And why is this so important? His work empowers people to make their own decisions about what they eat or drink and to learn how to become responsible consumers and producers.

How cool is that??

These three may be Stockholm Water Prize laureates, but you don't need to be one to understand how important access to clean water is.

Spread the word. And use water responsibly.

Researchers at Harvard University have studied the connection between spanking and kids' brain development for the first time, and their findings echo what studies have indicated for years: Spanking isn't good for children.

Comments on this article will no doubt be filled with people who a) say they were spanked and "turned out fine" or b) say that the reason kids are [fill in the blank with some societal ill] these days are because they aren't spanked. However, a growing body of research points to spanking creating more problems than it solves.

"We know that children whose families use corporal punishment are more likely to develop anxiety, depression, behavior problems, and other mental health problems, but many people don't think about spanking as a form of violence," said Katie A. McLaughlin, director of the Stress & Development Lab in the Department of Psychology, and the senior researcher on the study which was published Friday in the journal Child Development. "In this study, we wanted to examine whether there was an impact of spanking at a neurobiological level, in terms of how the brain is developing."

You can read the entire study here, but the gist is that kids' brain activity was measured using an MRI machine as they reacted to photos of actors displaying "fearful" and "neutral" faces. What researchers found was that kids who had been spanked had similar brain neural responses to fearful faces as kids who had been abused.

"There were no regions of the brain where activation to fearful relative to neutral faces differed between children who were abused and children who were spanked," the authors wrote in a statement.

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Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
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Since March of 2020, over 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the CDC. Over 540,000 have died in the United States as this unprecedented pandemic has swept the globe. And yet, by the end of 2020, it looked like science was winning: vaccines had been developed.

In celebration of the power of science we spoke to three people: an individual, a medical provider, and a vaccine scientist about how vaccines have impacted them throughout their lives. Here are their answers:

John Scully, 79, resident of Florida

Photo courtesy of John Scully

When John Scully was born, America was in the midst of an epidemic: tens of thousands of children in the United States were falling ill with paralytic poliomyelitis — otherwise known as polio, a disease that attacks the central nervous system and often leaves its victims partially or fully paralyzed.

"As kids, we were all afraid of getting polio," he says, "because if you got polio, you could end up in the dreaded iron lung and we were all terrified of those." Iron lungs were respirators that enclosed most of a person's body; people with severe cases often would end up in these respirators as they fought for their lives.

John remembers going to see matinee showings of cowboy movies on Saturdays and, before the movie, shorts would run. "Usually they showed the news," he says, "but I just remember seeing this one clip warning us about polio and it just showed all these kids in iron lungs." If kids survived the iron lung, they'd often come back to school on crutches, in leg braces, or in wheelchairs.

"We all tried to be really careful in the summer — or, as we called it back then, 'polio season,''" John says. This was because every year around Memorial Day, major outbreaks would begin to emerge and they'd spike sometime around August. People weren't really sure how the disease spread at the time, but many believed it traveled through the water. There was no cure — and every child was susceptible to getting sick with it.

"We couldn't swim in hot weather," he remembers, "and the municipal outdoor pool would close down in August."

Then, in 1954 clinical trials began for Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine against polio and within a year, his vaccine was announced safe. "I got that vaccine at school," John says. Within two years, U.S. polio cases had dropped 85-95 percent — even before a second vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin in the 1960s. "I remember how much better things got after the vaccines came out. They changed everything," John says.

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