News out of SeaWorld shows just how big of an impact 'Blackfish' has had.

In 2013, documentary "Blackfish" was released. And SeaWorld — or, more specifically, our perceptions of SeaWorld — changed forever.

The film explored the life of Tilikum, an orca (killer whale) living at SeaWorld Orlando that's been involved in three separate human deaths — in 1991, 1999, and 2010. While the knee-jerk reaction may be to cast blame on an unruly, dangerous orca, just the opposite is true: It was Tilikum's years in captivity that resulted in his hostility.

Tilikum, splashing around in captivity, in 2011. Photo by Gerardo Mora/Getty Images.


Orcas are not naturally aggressive to humans. But living in captivity can significantly reduce an orca's life span, affect its health, and inflict a great deal of stress, which likely contributed to Tilikum's aggressive outbursts, animal rights activists have argued.

For the record, SeaWorld has maintained that "Blackfish" "paints a distorted picture" of orcas in its care and argued that many key facts about its parks' conservation and rehabilitation efforts were left out of the film. But the facts spoke for themselves — and people weren't pleased.

In the months following the release of "Blackfish," SeaWorld's profits dropped a whopping 84%.

Photo by Jerod Harris/Getty Images.

The company cited “continued brand challenges” as the reason for its major dip in park attendance, The Guardian reported. (That's code for "the truth about our orca program is reaching far and wide.")

Fortunately, out of the goodness of its heart (and its plummeting sales), SeaWorld has been changing its ways.

For the first time, a new SeaWorld park is opening without any killer whales in it. Instead, the park will rely on other innovative attractions to bring in visitors.

The park, set to open its doors in Abu Dhabi in 2022, will have a marine life research and rehabilitation center (a first in the United Arab Emirates) — but no orca breeding program or controversial killer whale shows, CNN reported.

Although specifics have yet to be announced, the park will focus on different (less harmful) thrills for guests.

It's not the first bit of good news out of SeaWorld for animal activists this year. In March 2016, the company announced it's phasing out its orca breeding programs and killer whale shows for good (although many of its orcas are young, so they will still be kept in captivity for years to come).

The new orca-free SeaWorld is a great reminder that we especially need right now: to use your voice (and wallet) to make a difference.

A controversial new president-elect is sending shock waves around the globe. War-torn Syria is grappling with unconscionable human tragedy. Native Americans have to protest Big Oil in historic numbers in order for the world to pay even the slightest bit of attention. These problems seem too big to fathom for many of us.

"Blackfish" persuading people to spend their vacation dollars somewhere other than SeaWorld these past few years proves that one thing is always true: Real change is possible.

Funds have poured into causes most at-risk during a Trump presidency. Rallies around the world are demanding we don't look away from the atrocities in Aleppo. And, just this month, the Standing Rock Sioux won a resounding victory in stopping a destructive pipeline from ruining its sacred lands (although the work there is far from over).

It's a good lesson to remember in 2017: Stepping up and speaking out does make an impact.

Photo by Nick Fewings on Unsplash

Last year, we shared the sad impact that plastic pollution has had on some of our planet's most beautiful places. With recycling not turning out to be the savior it was made out to be, solutions to our growing plastic problem can seem distant and complex.

We have seen some glimmers of hope from both human innovation and nature itself, however. In 2016, a bacteria that evolved with the ability to break down plastic was discovered in a Japanese waste site. Two years later, scientists managed to engineer the mutant plastic-eating enzyme they called PETase—named for polyethylene terephthalate, the most common plastic found in bottles and food packaging—in a lab.

Here's an explainer of how those enzymes work:

Ending Plastic Pollution with Designer Bacteria youtu.be

Now researchers have revealed another game-changer in the plastic-eater—a super-enzyme that can break down plastic six times faster than PETase alone.

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True

$200 billion of COVID-19 recovery funding is being used to bail out fossil fuel companies. These mayors are combatting this and instead investing in green jobs and a just recovery.

Learn more on how cities are taking action: c40.org/divest-invest


Former CBS News anchor Dan Rather has become a beloved voice of reason, knowledge, and experience for many Americans on social media the past few years. At 88, Rather has seen more than most of us, and as a journalist, he's had a front row seat as modern history has played out. He combines that lifetime of experience and perspective with an eloquence that hearkens to a time when eloquence mattered, he called us to our common American ideals with his book "What Unites Us," and he comforts many of is with his repeated message to stay "steady" through the turmoil the U.S. has been experiencing.

All of that is to say, when Dan Rather sounds the alarm, you know we've reached a critical historical moment.

Yesterday, President Trump again refused to commit to a peaceful transfer of power after the election when directly asked if he would—yet another democratic norm being toppled. Afterward, Rather posted the following words of wisdom—and warning—to his nearly three million Facebook fans:


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via DanielandDavid2 / Instagram

Editor's Note: We used "black" in lowercase for our headline and the body of this story in accordance with emerging guidelines from the Associated Press and other trusted news outlets who are using uppercase "Black" in reference to American descendants of the diaspora of individuals forcibly brought from Africa as slaves. As part of our ongoing efforts to be transparent and communicate choices with our readership, we've included this note for clarity. The original story begins below.

On February 26, 2019, Stacy and Babajide Omirin of Lagos, Nigeria got quite the shock. When Stacy delivered identical twins through C-section one came out black and the other, white.

The parents knew they were having identical twins and expected them to look exactly the same. But one has a white-looking complexion and golden, wavy hair.

"It was a massive surprise," Stacy told The Daily Mail. "Daniel came first, and then the nurse said the second baby has golden hair. I thought how can this be possible. I looked down and saw David, he was completely white."

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