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Our national parks are mired in human feces and garbage—is this what 'great' looks like?

The government shutdown is having some disturbing—and disgusting—consequences for our beloved public lands.

For decades, the U.S. national parks have been a strong point of pride for our nation. Tourists come from all over the world to witness the diverse majesty and beauty preserved and maintained in 59 American national parks. More than 330 million people visited these wonders in 2017.

However, that point of pride is quickly becoming a source of embarrassment as the government shutdown has hampered the parks' ability to keep up with this year's holiday wave of visitors. With no one to clean bathrooms or empty trash cans, people have resorted to doing their business out in the open and leaving their messes behind. Reports of garbage and human feces littering the parks have been pouring across the media, much to the dismay of nature lovers everywhere.


A report from an anonymous Ranger at Yosemite highlights the problems facing National Park Service employees.

The Alt National Park Service posted a report from an unnamed ranger at Yosemite National Park on their Facebook page:

National Alert: The government shutdown is destroying our parks! Words from a Ranger in Yosemite National Park. Name of...

Posted by Alt National Park Service on Tuesday, January 1, 2019

It reads:

"Today I worked. We held Yosemite open to 4th of July-level traffic with no support staff whatsoever. We did so with 4 rangers in Wawona/Badger, 4 in Yosemite Valley and (may be slightly off....) 4 in Mather. That is 12 people working while we were seeing 240-270 cars per hour coming into South Entrance. Let that sink in. TWELVE people. In a park the size of Rhode Island. Badger sold almost 1,000 lift tickets today (their limit is 1200)."

"There are piles if human shit everywhere. Gross, but so seriously true. Every roadside turnout has toilet paper and trash. Garbage cans are overflowing until we can get time to pick it up. People are screaming about paying their taxes and having rights, people are fighting over tickets issued for violating closures when they duck under barricades and walk past signs so they can do what they want."

"Keeping parks accessible is reasonable if people can fend for themselves and care for the park themselves, but the large majority can't. The large majority needs a map because their GPS quits working when cell service drops, and they don't have one because the Entrance staff wasn't there to give them one. The large majority has no idea what a cat hole is and would never consider picking up their used toilet paper and sticking in their purse. The large majority doesn't know what to do if they break an ankle and can't get 911 on the phone. The large majority cannot use their public lands in a way that allows them to remain unimpaired for their kid's children. That is why they hire the National Park Service. To provide a service to the vast majority who don't know how to be a true steward for their land or don't care to be. I beg all of you to stay home and not visit your parks until everyone comes back to work. Your experience will be ten thousand times better.”

(By the way, the Alt National Park Service is a group "created by a coalition of National Park Service employees, state park employees, local park employees, National Forest Service employees, EPA employees, USDA employees, NOAA employees, BLM employees, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service employees, and environmental scientists," formed early in Trump's presidency "in response to the new administration, who has shown little mercy for the environment and wildlife.")

Some private citizens are trying to help mitigate the mess and mass of humanity.

CBS News reported that Ethan Feltges, who runs a gift shop outside Joshua Tree National Park, and other business owners have tried to help protect the park and help visitors in the absence of park rangers and employees. He set up a portable toilet at his store and offered guidance and tips to tourists. Some business owners have brought in trailers to empty the overflowing trash cans.  

"The whole community has come together," Feltges told CBS. "Everyone loves the park. And there's a lot of businesses that actually need the park."

However, their efforts were not enough to keep the park running. Joshua Tree's campgrounds have been closed due to full pit toilets and overflowing garbage, though the park itself remains open.

In some previous government shutdowns, national parks have been closed altogether. While not ideal, that certainly seems preferable to keeping them open without the personnel needed to maintain them at a very basic level.

Yes, some people are horrible stewards. That's why we have the National Park Service to begin with.

Some have begun complaining that people are abusing our national parks in the absence of maintenance crews, gatekeepers, and rule enforcers. But that's why we have those people in place in the first place. When you get large numbers of humans in one place, there has to be a system in place to manage it—not just to take out their trash and clean their bathrooms, but to make sure they don't start mucking things up.

It's like when Will Smith's character in "Men in Black" asserted that people were smart enough to handle knowing about aliens, and Tommy Lee Jones' character responded, "A person is smart. People are dumb, panicky, dangerous animals, and you know it." He wasn't wrong.

And when people are faced with arriving at at National Park that they didn't know was going to be affected in such a way, needing to use a bathroom that isn't available, what are they supposed to do? And if too many employees are furloughed to keep the parks running without risk to the public, why keep them open?

The decisions being made during this shutdown are baffling—and embarrassing. We've just entered 2019 with our beautiful National Parks overflowing with literal crap and garbage. If this is what being "great again" looks like, I think I'll pass.

Photo courtesy of Girls at Work

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This article originally appeared on 02.25.21


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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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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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Pop Culture

'90s kids share movies that will 'take you back to a better time'

It was a magical time when animals played sports and yet somehow things were just simpler.

YouTube/Upworthy photo illustration

Honey, I shrunk the kid named Matilda while jamming in space!

Everyone knows that '90s movies just hit different. From sports movies to rom-coms to even horror, there was an undeniable innocence, without being overly simplistic or juvenile. They didn’t have nearly the amount of money going into production as they do today, but somehow managed to transport us to magical places.

Movies of the '90s are so iconic that there have been several attempts to reboot beloved titles. Which, let’s face it, tends to be a fool's errand at a cash grab. These movies are so timeless that simply viewing the original is more than fine.

Not sure which movie to start with? You’re in luck—a Reddit user by the name of YouBrokeMyTV asked ’90s kids to share movies that took them “back to a better time,” and because the internet can be a wonderful place, tons of people responded with some beloved classics.

These answers certainly don’t make a definitive list (there are just so, so many gems) but they're a fun glimpse into what made '90s cinema so special. A nostalgic romp through memory lane, if you will.

Enjoy these 14 titles that just might leave you jonesing for a rewatch:

1. "Honey, I Shrunk the Kids"

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A perfect example of how '90s movies were silly, but smart at the same time. And oh so wholesome.

2. "The Sandlot"

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It taught us nothing about baseball, but everything about friendship, rooting for the underdog and (most important) how to make s’mores.

3. "Drop Dead Fred"

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Critics might have run this cult classic through the mud during its inception, but audiences fell in love with the bizarre charm of this story about a mischievous little girl and her anarchist imaginary friend. So take that, snotfaces!

4. "The Goonies"

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Everyone just wanted to set off an epic quest with their friends for pirate treasure after seeing this movie.

5. Tim Burton's "Batman"

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Before the superhero genre was the behemoth it is today, a quirky director and the dude who was best known for playing the creepy demon in "Beetlejuice" breathed new life into comic-book movies. Marvel might be the leader on creating stories with adult themes that are digestible for kids nowadays, but this DC film was the first of its kind. Plus, that soundtrack … forget about it.

6. "Hook"

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Pretty much any '90s film starring Robin Williams was an absolute gem, but this one in particular is timeless. His gift of balancing childlike humor with emotional gravitas lent itself so well to playing the now grown and cynical Peter Pan, who must learn to reclaim his joy (relatable, millennials?). It was a bang-a-rang-er, no question.

7. "Space Jam"

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It had Looney Tunes, it had aliens and it had Michael Jordan. That’s a winning combination.

8. "Matilda"

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I don’t think I’m out of line when I say that this movie helped a lot of kids make their way through difficult childhoods.

9. "The Parent Trap"

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Even '90s reboots were awesome. And how fun it is to see that Lisa Ann Walker—the actress who played Chessy the housekeeper—is not only yet again gracing the screens in NBC’s “Abbott Elementary,” but is also being revered as a style icon on TikTok for her ultra casual looks in the film. We all knew she was onto something with long button downs and shorts.

10. "The Land Before Time"

via GIPHY


No cartoon, not even “The Lion King,” was a better depiction of childhood grief. And yet, despite encapsulating tragedy, director Don Bluth still left viewers hopeful. The subsequent 14 (yes 14) sequels definitely pale in comparison to the original, but "The Land Before Time" continues to stand the test of time nonetheless.

11. "Richie Rich"

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The scene where they play tag on four-wheelers is simply iconic.

12. "Dunston Checks In"

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Man, the '90s were the golden age of animal-centered films. And not just monkeys either—we got sports playing golden retrievers and not one, but two movies starring talking pigs. What a time to be alive. These films were made before CGI had reached the levels it’s at today, and the authentic interactions between humans and creatures reached right through the screen.

13. "George of the Jungle"
george of the jungle, brendan faser

Watch out for the tree!!!

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Have I seen this movie at least 20 times? Probably. It doesn’t get any better than this in terms of silly action films with bird puppets. It’s crazy to think that this role would eventually lead Brendan Fraser to "The Mummy" franchise, turning him into a household name. Though his career has had some tragic ups and downs, we are all grateful for the glorious comeback he’s been having.

14. Anything involving Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen
mary kate and ashley

Yes, they were professional detectives.

Giphy

Whether vacationing in London, Paris or Rome, whether playing magical witches or making a huge billboard so their father could find love … Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen offered zany, whimsical entertainment while wearing fun outfits. Sometimes, that’s all you need.