Only 4% of the world's oceans are protected — and a lot of that's in a country you haven't heard of.

For something that makes up 71% of the surface of the planet, it's kind of crazy to think that we only protect 4% of our ocean water.

It goes without saying that water is important. It comprises 55% to 78% percent of our bodies and about 19% of the electricity in the world. tl;dr — it's pretty crucial to our survival.

But while water can do some amazing things, it can't stand up and protect itself from things like massive oil spills or other man-made damages to its regulatory systems. Mostly it just lays there, passively sloshing back and forth, and oh yeah, cultivating an incredible ecosystem for millions of amazing creatures.


And yet, for all the time that we've spent fighting over land, there's still 140 million square miles of the Earth's surface that no one's looking out for. Does that seem odd to you?


Water, water everywhere... Photo by NASA/Wikimedia Commons.

But now an island nation that's smaller than New York City has created a new ocean reserve the size of California.

Located in the western Pacific Ocean just north of New Guinea and east of the Philippines, Palau is a tiny presidential republic of 21,000 people spread across 250 separate islands.

But the country's legal property extends an additional twelve nautical miles around each island, bringing Palau's overall size up to nearly 193,000 square miles. These waters are home to some of the most diverse and remarkable aquatic ecosystems on the planet, with more than 700 different kinds of coral and 1,300 unique species of fish.

And as of Oct. 22, 2015, 80% of Palau's aquatic area has been designated as protected ocean territory. The remaining 20% will remain open to local fisherman and a limited number of other small-scale commercial activities.


An Indo-Pacific coral reef, like what might be found in the waters around Palau. Photo via Fascinating Universe/Wikimedia Commons.

Despite its limited landmass, Palau's new ocean reserve is one of the largest on the planet — and makes up the largest percentage of protected waters.

New Zealand's own, recently-announced ocean reserve will be 620,000 square miles but only 15% of their total exclusive economic zone (the UN-recognized open water borders).

The United States currently protects less than 4% of its waters, compared to 18% of its total landmass; of course, that's still 490,000 square miles of ocean.

Chile has also committed to protecting a total of 350,000 square miles of ocean between their coasts and the waters around Easter Island.

While the U.K.'s Pitcairn Islands reserve only measures 322,000 square miles, it does have the distinction of being the largest single and uninterrupted marine protected area on the planet so far.


Rock Island, Palau. Photo by Matt Kieffer/Flickr.

This kind of action is particularly important in places like Palau that face the brunt of our ecological problems.

While some of us can more easily go about our lives oblivious to the environmental damage being done to the planet by the human race, people in places like Palau are not so lucky. They still rely on local fishing and other natural resources to survive, and even as we speak, the rising sea levels threaten to swallow up the shores beneath their feet.

"Island communities have been among the hardest hit by the threats facing the ocean," said Palau president Tommy E. Remengesau Jr. in the press release announcing this new ocean protection initiative. "Creating this sanctuary is a bold move that the people of Palau recognize as essential to our survival. We want to lead the way in restoring the health of the ocean for future generations."


A lake with jellyfish in Palau. Photo by Onyo/Wikimedia Commons.

So let's stand together and tell our world leaders to protect the rest of our precious waters.

We can start just south of Palau with Australia's Great Bight, the longest east-west ice-free coastline in the southern hemisphere. The Bight is currently being threatened by oil drillers like BP, risking the lives and livelihood of countless animals and people alike.

After you're done with that, come back here and have a look for yourself at just how amazing these underwater habitats can be:

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The Wilderness Society
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Should a man lose his home because the grass in his yard grew higher than 10 inches? The city of Dunedin, Florida seems to think so.

According to the Institute of Justice, which is representing Jim Ficken, he had a very good reason for not mowing his lawn – and tried to rectify the situation as best he could.

In 2014, Jim's mom became ill and he visited her often in South Carolina to help her out. When he was away, his grass grew too long and he was cited by a code office; he cut the grass and wasn't fined.

France has started forcing supermarkets to donate food instead of throwing it away.

But several years later, this one infraction would come back to haunt him after he left to take care of him's mom's affairs after she died. The arrangements he made to have his grass cut fell through (his friend who he asked to help him out passed away unexpectedly) and that set off a chain reaction that may result in him losing his home.

The 69-year-old retiree now faces a $29,833.50 fine plus interest. Watch the video to find out just what Jim is having to deal with.

Mow Your Lawn or Lose Your House! www.youtube.com

Cities

The world officially loves Michelle Obama.

The former first lady has overtaken the number one spot in a poll of the world's most admired women. Conducted by online research firm YouGov, the study uses international polling tools to survey people in countries around the world about who they most admire.

In the men's category, Bill Gates took the top spot, followed by Barack Obama and Jackie Chan.

In the women's category, Michelle Obama came first, followed by Oprah Winfrey and Angelina Jolie. Obama pushed Jolie out of the number one spot she claimed last year.

Unsurprising, really, because what's not to love about Michelle Obama? She is smart, kind, funny, accomplished, a great dancer, a devoted wife and mother, and an all-around, genuinely good person.

She has remained dignified and strong in the face of rabid masses of so-called Americans who spent eight years and beyond insisting that she's a man disguised as a woman. She's endured non-stop racist memes and terrifying threats to her family. She has received far more than her fair share of cruelty, and always takes the high road. She's the one who coined, "When they go low, we go high," after all.

She came from humble beginnings and remains down to earth despite becoming a familiar face around the world. She's not much older than me, but I still want to be like Michelle Obama when I grow up.

Her memoir, Becoming, may end up being the best-selling memoir of all time, having already sold 10 million copies—a clear sign that people can't get enough Michelle, because there's no such thing as too much Michelle.

Don't like Michelle Obama? Don't care. Those of us who love her will fly our MO flags high and without apology, paying no mind to folks with cold, dead hearts who don't know a gem of a human being when they see one. There is nothing any hater can say or do to make us admire this undeniably admirable woman any less.

When it seems like the world has lost its mind—which is how it feels most days these days—I'm just going to keep coming back to this study as evidence that hope for humanity is not lost.

Here. Enjoy some real-life Michelle on Jimmy Kimmel. (GAH. WHY IS SHE SO CUTE AND AWESOME. I can't even handle it.)

Michelle & Barack Obama are Boring Now www.youtube.com

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via EarthFix / Flickr

What will future generations never believe that we tolerated in 2019?

Dolphin and orca captivity, for sure. They'll probably shake their heads at how people died because they couldn't afford healthcare. And, they'll be completely mystified at the amount of food some people waste while others go starving.

According to Biological Diversity, "An estimated 40 percent of the food produced in the United States is wasted every year, costing households, businesses and farms about $218 billion annually."

There are so many things wrong with this.

First of all it's a waste of money for the households who throw out good food. Second, it's a waste of all of the resources that went into growing the food, including the animals who gave their lives for the meal. Third, there's something very wrong with throwing out food when one in eight Americans struggle with hunger.

Supermarkets are just as guilty of this unnecessary waste as consumers. About 10% of all food waste are supermarket products thrown out before they've reached their expiration date.

Three years ago, France took big steps to combat food waste by making a law that bans grocery stores from throwing away edible food.According to the new ordinance, stores can be fined for up to $4,500 for each infraction.

Previously, the French threw out 7.1 million tons of food. Sixty-seven percent of which was tossed by consumers, 15% by restaurants, and 11% by grocery stores.

This has created a network of over 5,000 charities that accept the food from supermarkets and donate them to charity. The law also struck down agreements between supermarkets and manufacturers that prohibited the stores from donating food to charities.

"There was one food manufacturer that was not authorized to donate the sandwiches it made for a particular supermarket brand. But now, we get 30,000 sandwiches a month from them — sandwiches that used to be thrown away," Jacques Bailet, head of the French network of food banks known as Banques Alimentaires, told NPR.

It's expected that similar laws may spread through Europe, but people are a lot less confident at it happening in the United States. The USDA believes that the biggest barrier to such a program would be cost to the charities and or supermarkets.

"The logistics of getting safe, wholesome, edible food from anywhere to people that can use it is really difficult," the organization said according to Gizmodo. "If you're having to set up a really expensive system to recover marginal amounts of food, that's not good for anybody."

Plus, the idea may seem a little too "socialist" for the average American's appetite.

"The French version is quite socialist, but I would say in a great way because you're providing a way where they [supermarkets] have to do the beneficial things not only for the environment, but from an ethical standpoint of getting healthy food to those who need it and minimizing some of the harmful greenhouse gas emissions that come when food ends up in a landfill," Jonathan Bloom, the author of American Wasteland, told NPR.

However, just because something may be socialist doesn't mean it's wrong. The greater wrong is the insane waste of money, damage to the environment, and devastation caused by hunger that can easily be avoided.

Planet

The world is dark and full of terrors, but every once in a while it graces us with something to warm our icy-cold hearts. And that is what we have today, with a single dad who went viral on Twitter after his daughter posted the photos he sent her when trying to pick out and outfit for his date. You love to see it.




After seeing these heartwarming pics, people on Twitter started suggesting this adorable man date their moms. It was essentially a mom and date matchmaking frenzy.

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