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Filmmaker Samantha Bode was camping in Northern California when she noticed something strange.

A group of industrial utility vehicles bearing the markings of the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power were parked near Mono Lake — despite the fact that they were some 350 miles from the city of Los Angeles itself.

As a recent L.A. transplant herself, Samantha couldn’t sate her curiosity. “It was disorienting,” she wrote in a blog post. “I thought to myself, ‘Did I somehow get back to Los Angeles? No. That was definitely an LADWP truck in Lee Vining, California — a six-hour drive north of Los Angeles.’”


Samantha Bode. All photos by Samantha Bode/"The Longest Straw." Used with permission.

She began to ask around, and that's when she learned about the Los Angeles Aqueduct — the 338-mile-long pipeline that imports the city's water from Northern California.

“I was amazed and appalled to learn that Los Angeles could only be a bustling metropolis because of an extensive network of imported water,” she told Upworthy over email. “I was even more amazed and appalled by how few Angelenos seemed to know about the origins of the water that goes to quench their thirst, cleanse their bodies, and, ultimately, create our city into the habitable place that we now benefit from.”

Growing up in rural Pennsylvania, Samantha had always felt a strong connection to the land. There was comfort in knowing the water that gave life to everything came right from the well in her backyard.

It makes sense, then, that LA’s aquatic instability might cause her even more concern.

“Every time I saw a sprinkler out of whack, a car being washed, a driveway being hosed, I would think of the small towns I passed by on my way back from Mono Lake," Samantha wrote on her blog.

As poor cities like Flint, Michigan, suffer through water crises that threaten health and hygiene, most Angelenos remain blissfully unaware of their own tenuous situation — and money might not save them from that very same fate. It's startling to think that a major American city like Los Angeles could be so unsustainable that its very lifeblood would have to be imported in order for it to thrive.

Photo by Samantha Bode/"The Longest Straw." Used with permission.

So in summer 2015, Samantha packed her camping gear and camera and hit the trails to document the 400-mile journey from Los Angeles to Mono Lake, where L.A. gets more than one-third of its water.

Samantha’s two-month journey took her across the Mojave Desert, through underground tunnels, and over sheer cliffs — all to spread the word of L.A.’s increasingly bleak water crisis.

“If you ever need to gain a deep appreciation for water, hike through the Mojave Desert in 100 degree heat,” Samantha said in a press release. She expanded on this for Upworthy: “We would start hiking at 5 AM and stop at 11 AM, when we would build a shade shelter by stringing up a tarp to available plants. We would hunker down there, staring at lizards or each other, playing cards as the tarp whipped against our heads in the wind. At 4 PM, we would hike for a few more hours until sunset, counting every sip of water we took along the way."

With help from her friend and film producer Angela Jorgensen, she stashed five-gallon caches of water at convenient(ish) spots along the trail just to keep herself alive. “At every water cache, I would say a little prayer that no thirsty animal or gun crazed target shooter would ruin our cache. This is TMI, but I usually only peed once a day.”

Over the course of her 65-day hike, Samantha spoke with people connected to the water and land, and she's turning their collective stories into the full-length documentary film “The Longest Straw.”

Samantha and the rest of her production team plan to use their film to raise awareness about L.A.’s real water problems — and to empower the government and environmental groups to find alternative local water sources. This includes extensive stormwater capture systems, better wastewater treatment, and free or discounted “gray water” installations, to encourage residents to repurpose their lightly used bath, hand washing, or dish water.

The finished film will also be shown at film festivals in the Los Angeles area, and the production team plans to do some educational outreach at local elementary schools as well.

“I hope that by viewing 'The Longest Straw,' people will come away with a greater sense of unity with the people of the Owens Valley and Mono Basin, and therefore a greater sense of responsibility for that water as a shared resource,” Samantha said. “If the people of Los Angeles, the Owens Valley, and the Mono Basin all stand together with a unified voice, we have a better chance at ensuring the future sustainability of Owens Valley and Mono Basin water for all.”

Whether or not you live in Los Angeles, "The Longest Straw" website has lots of excellent resources for making your water consumption more sustainable — though you might be shocked to find just how much water it takes to make all your favorite things. There are also links to support the film and its educational outreach.

Here’s the first official trailer for the upcoming documentary:

Photo courtesy of Girls at Work

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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.

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All images provided by Adewole Adamson

It begins with more inclusive conversations at a patient level

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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.

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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.

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