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Polar bears aren't actually white and more amazing facts about Arctic animals who need your help

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Sierra Club

It's hard out there for an Arctic animal.

The Arctic Circle is one of the last intact ecosystems on the planet to be mostly unaffected by industrialization (so far). But between the wind and the cold and the encroaching industrialization of the Arctic region, things are pretty rough above 66 degrees north latitude.

That's exactly what makes these animals so remarkable. Adorableness aside (so much adorableness), these majestic critters are survival experts, built to tough out the most extreme conditions. But the looming threat of Royal Dutch Shell's Arctic oil drilling might be the one challenge they can't overcome.


So while we celebrate their utter cuteness — which is of course important — let's not forget that they're also Mother Nature's Arctic BAMFs, but it's up to us to keep 'em around.

Here they are, from the smallest to the, erm, not-so-small.

Lemmings

Most people think lemmings are the opposite of survivalists, thanks to Disney and a certain addictive video game. But lemmings are actually tough little creatures. They're decent swimmers, and they have some incredible migratory patterns that continue to boggle scientists with their dramatic seasonal fluctuations. Rather than having a reputation for mass suicide, these creatures ought to be known for being able to endure whatever nature throws their way.


Photo by kgleditsch/Flicker.

Ice seals

There are all kinds of ice seals in the Arctic. Harp seals probably think they're pretty fancy because their scientific name means "ice-lover from Greenland." But that doesn't intimidate the bearded seals; they only get annoyed when people point out that what they have are actually mustaches not beards. Meanwhile, the ribbon seals pretty much just keep to themselves, floating alone on patches of ice. Maybe because they're all self-conscious about how they're the only seals born with a weird air sack and scientists don't understand what it's for.

But all of the ice seals can agree on one thing: They'd really like people to stop killing them and stealing their fur.

"Draw me like one of your French seals." Photo by Virginia State Parks/Flickr.

Walruses

Blubbery buddies. Mustachioed mammals. Kind-of-like-seals-but-totally-different. Whatever you wanna call 'em, walruses are incredibly social. So social, in fact, that their mating rituals are basically giant, violent, sing-song-y orgies. And if that weren't enough to make a shy walrus feel self-conscious, it turns out that walrus society is also very judgmental about tusk size. Which makes it that much more insulting when humans hunt them for their ivory.

On the bright side, it's a good thing walruses are used to close quarters because they've been making like lemmings and moving en masse thanks to the rapidly melting landforms they once called home.

Knowing what we now know, I realize this could very well be Walrus porn. Photo by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Polar bears

In addition to being behind the most oft-repeated complaint about the TV show "Lost"(DHARMA brought them to the island to experiment. End of the story. AARRGH!) — polar bears are also lying to you about their color. I know what you're thinking: "Uhh, pretty sure polar bears are white there, Mr. Dunn. That's how they blend in with the snow and stuff ... DUH." Polar bears have black skin and transparent fur that allows them to blend in with their background.

I understand if this leaves you feeling betrayed, but that's no reason to let polar bears succumb to extinction. It's not their fault they tricked us with nature's gifts!

A totally-not-white polar bear chillin' in what I assume is the pool at the palatial Hollywood estate he bought with all that residual cash he made from "Lost." Photo via Wikimedia Commons.

Bowhead whales

This cuddly fella has the thickest blubber layer among all whales and can live for more than 200 years. Historically, bowhead whales were a resource for the survival of the Iñupiat people in Northern Alaska. But once the commercial whaling industry hit the scene, the number of bowhead whales plummeted. Thanks to conservation efforts that began in earnest in the mid-1900s, their current population is in pretty good shape.

Unfortunately, the same can't be said for blue whales.


Photo by Bering Land Bridge National Preserve/Flickr.

But all of these adorable and majestic creatures are in danger right now, along with the environment they call home.

You're probably already familiar with the disastrous fallout of BP's oil drilling errors in the Gulf of Mexico. The exact same thing is in store for the Arctic Circle if Royal Dutch Shell is allowed to continue on their current path. Even in the unlikely event that an oil spill doesn't occur, the mere presence of man-made industrialization would have dire consequences for this otherwise pristine haven of nature. At the rate we're going, we don't need any more help eradicating the Arctic.

So let's not be like our incorrect perception of the lemming. Let's stop ourselves from walking blindly towards our own demise. Take a stand. Signing a petition is good for our adorable Arctic friends, and it might just put a little (transparent) hair on your chest.

Pop Culture

Here’s a paycheck for a McDonald’s worker. And here's my jaw dropping to the floor.

So we've all heard the numbers, but what does that mean in reality? Here's one year's wages — yes, *full-time* wages. Woo.

Making a little over 10,000 for a yearly salary.


I've written tons of things about minimum wage, backed up by fact-checkers and economists and scholarly studies. All of them point to raising the minimum wage as a solution to lifting people out of poverty and getting folks off of public assistance. It's slowly happening, and there's much more to be done.

But when it comes right down to it, where the rubber meets the road is what it means for everyday workers who have to live with those wages. I honestly don't know how they do it.


Ask yourself: Could I live on this small of a full-time paycheck? I know what my answer is.

(And note that the minimum wage in many parts of the county is STILL $7.25, so it would be even less than this).

paychecks, McDonalds, corporate power, broken system

One year of work at McDonalds grossed this worker $13,811.18.

assets.rebelmouse.io

This story was written by Brandon Weber and was originally appeared on 02.26.15

Family

Mom’s blistering rant on how men are responsible for all unwanted pregnancies is on the nose

“ALL unwanted pregnancies are caused by the irresponsible ejaculations of men. Period. Don't believe me? Let me walk you through it."

Mom has something to say... strongly say.

Members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, commonly known as Mormons, are a conservative group who aren't known for being vocal about sex.

But best selling author, blogger, and mother of six, Gabrielle Blair, has kicked that stereotype to the curb with a pointed thread on reducing unwanted pregnancies. And her sights are set directly at men.


She wrote a Cliff's Notes version of her thread on her blog:

If you want to stop abortion, you need to prevent unwanted pregnancies. And men are 100% responsible for unwanted pregnancies. No for real, they are. Perhaps you are thinking: IT TAKES TWO! And yes, it does take two for _intentional_ pregnancies.

But ALL unwanted pregnancies are caused by the irresponsible ejaculations of men. Period. Don't believe me? Let me walk you through it. Let's start with this: women can only get pregnant about 2 days each month. And that's for a limited number of years.

Here's the whole thread. It's long, but totally worth the read.

Blair's controversial tweet storm have been liked hundreds of thousands of time, with the original tweet earning nearly 200,000 likes since it was posted on Thursday, September, 13.

The reactions have earned her both praise and scorn.

Most of the scorn was from men.

But Blair wouldn't budge.

For other men, the tweet thread was a real eye-opener.

Women everywhere applauded Blair's bold thread.

This article originally appeared on 02.22.19

Pop Culture

What is 'Generation Jones'? The unique qualities of the not-quite-Gen-X-baby-boomers.

This "microgeneration" had a different upbringing than their fellow boomers.

Generation Jones includes Michelle Obama, George Clooney, Kamala Harris, Keanu Reeves and more.

We hear a lot about the major generation categories—boomers, Gen X, millennials, Gen Z and the up-and-coming Gen Alpha. But there are folks who don't quite fit into those boxes. These in-betweeners, sometimes called "cuspers," are members of microgenerations that straddle two of the biggies.

"Xennial" is the nickname for those who fall on the cusp of Gen X and millennial, but there's also a lesser-known microgeneration that straddles Gen X and baby boomers. The folks born from 1954 to 1965 are known as Generation Jones, and they've been thrust into the spotlight as people try to figure out what generation to consider 59-year-old Vice President Kamala Harris.

Like President Obama before her, Harris is a Gen Jonesernot exactly a classic baby boomer but not quite Gen X. Born in October 1964, Harris falls just a few months shy of official Gen X territory. But what exactly differentiates Gen Jones from the boomers and Gen Xers that flank it?


"Generation Jones" was coined by writer, television producer and social commentator Jonathan Pontell to describe the decade of Americans who grew up in the '60s and '70s. As Pontell wrote of Gen Jonesers in Politico:

"We fill the space between Woodstock and Lollapalooza, between the Paris student riots and the anti-globalisation protests, and between Dylan going electric and Nirvana going unplugged. Jonesers have a unique identity separate from Boomers and GenXers. An avalanche of attitudinal and behavioural data corroborates this distinction."

Pontell describes Jonesers as "practical idealists" who were "forged in the fires of social upheaval while too young to play a part." They are the younger siblings of the boomer civil rights and anti-war activists who grew up witnessing and being moved by the passion of those movements but were met with a fatigued culture by the time they themselves came of age. Sometimes, they're described as the cool older siblings of Gen X. Unlike their older boomer counterparts, most Jonesers were not raised by WWII veteran fathers and were too young to be drafted into Vietnam, leaving them in between on military experience.

Gen Jones gets its name from the competitive "keeping up with the Joneses" spirit that spawned during their populous birth years, but also from the term "jonesin'," meaning an intense craving, that they coined—a drug reference but also a reflection of the yearning to make a difference that their "unrequited idealism" left them with. According to Pontell, their competitiveness and identity as a "generation aching to act" may make Jonesers particularly effective leaders:

"What makes us Jonesers also makes us uniquely positioned to bring about a new era in international affairs. Our practical idealism was created by witnessing the often unrealistic idealism of the 1960s. And we weren’t engaged in that era’s ideological battles; we were children playing with toys while boomers argued over issues. Our non-ideological pragmatism allows us to resolve intra-boomer skirmishes and to bridge that volatile Boomer-GenXer divide. We can lead."

Time will tell whether the United States will end up with another Generation Jones leader, but with President Biden withdrawing his candidacy, it has now become a distinct possibility.

Of note in discussions over Kamala Harris's generational status is the fact that generations aren't just calculated by birth year but by a person's cultural reality. Some have made the argument that Harris is culturally more Gen X than boomer, though there doesn't seem to be any record of her claiming any particular generation as her own. However, a swath of Gen Z has staked their own claim on her as "brat"—a term singer Charli XCX thrust into the political arena with a post on X that read "kamala IS brat." That may be nonsensical to most older folks, but for Gen Z, it's a glowing endorsement from one of the top Gen Z musicians of the moment.

Identity

When a man asks people to translate a hate message he's received, their response is unforgettable

Reading the words would be one thing. Having to think about what they mean is almost too intense.


As part of an experiment, a man asks for help translating a Facebook message he has received.

There's a man in Lithuania who speaks only English. The message is in Lithuanian. He can't read it, so he asks some locals to translate it for him.


As he asks one person after another to translate the message for him, two things become obvious.

1. He's received a message full of hate speech.

2. Translating it for him is breaking people's hearts.

It's nearly more than these people can bear.

There's a sudden, powerful connection between the translators and the man they're translating for. They want to protect him, telling him not to bother with the message.

They apologize for the message.

They look like they want to cry.

Words hurt.

Most of us would never think of saying such horrible things. This video shows people realizing in their gut what it must feel like when those words are pointed at them — it's all right on their faces. And so is their compassion.

The Facebook message is horrible, but their empathy is beautiful. The video's emotional power is what makes it unique, and so worth watching and passing around.

Here it is.

The video's in English, subtitled in Lithuanian. Just watch the faces.

This article originally appeared on 04.10.15

Science

Researchers dumped tons of coffee waste into a forest. This is what it looks like now.

30 dump truck loads and two years later, the forest looks totally different.

One of the biggest problems with coffee production is that it generates an incredible amount of waste. Once coffee beans are separated from cherries, about 45% of the entire biomass is discarded.

So for every pound of roasted coffee we enjoy, an equivalent amount of coffee pulp is discarded into massive landfills across the globe. That means that approximately 10 million tons of coffee pulp is discarded into the environment every year.



When disposed of improperly, the waste can cause serious damage soil and water sources.

However, a new study published in the British Ecological Society journal Ecological Solutions and Evidence has found that coffee pulp isn't just a nuisance to be discarded. It can have an incredibly positive impact on regrowing deforested areas of the planet.

via British Ecological Society

In 2018, researchers from ETH-Zurich and the University of Hawaii spread 30 dump trucks worth of coffee pulp over a roughly 100' x 130' area of degraded land in Costa Rica. The experiment took place on a former coffee farm that underwent rapid deforestation in the 1950s.

The coffee pulp was spread three-feet thick over the entire area.

Another plot of land near the coffee pulp dump was left alone to act as a control for the experiment.

"The results were dramatic." Dr. Rebecca Cole, lead author of the study, said. "The area treated with a thick layer of coffee pulp turned into a small forest in only two years while the control plot remained dominated by non-native pasture grasses."

In just two years, the area treated with coffee pulp had an 80% canopy cover, compared to just 20% of the control area. So, the coffee-pulp-treated area grew four times more rapidly. Like a jolt of caffeine, it reinvigorated biological activity in the area.

The canopy was also four times taller than that of the control.

Before and after images of the forest

The forest experienced a radical, positive change

via British Ecological Society

The coffee-treated area also eliminated an invasive species of grass that took over the land and prevented forest succession. Its elimination allowed for other native species to take over and recolonize the area.

"This case study suggests that agricultural by-products can be used to speed up forest recovery on degraded tropical lands. In situations where processing these by-products incurs a cost to agricultural industries, using them for restoration to meet global reforestation objectives can represent a 'win-win' scenario," Dr. Cole said.

If the results are repeatable it's a win-win for coffee drinkers and the environment.

Researchers believe that coffee treatments can be a cost-effective way to reforest degraded land. They may also work to reverse the effects of climate change by supporting the growth of forests across the globe.

The 2016 Paris Agreement made reforestation an important part of the fight against climate change. The agreement incentivizes developing countries to reduce deforestation and forest degradation, promote forest conservation and sustainable management, and enhance forest carbon stocks in developing countries.

"We hope our study is a jumping off point for other researchers and industries to take a look at how they might make their production more efficient by creating links to the global restoration movement," Dr. Cole said.


This article originally appeared on 03.29.21