See the innovative earth-saving ideas Leonardo DiCaprio's foundation is bringing to life.

When he's not fighting off bears or trying to win an Oscar, Leonardo DiCaprio is busy saving the environment.

The man is passionate about the planet. And why shouldn't he be? It is THE ONLY PLACE CAPABLE OF SUSTAINING HUMAN LIFE. Sorry, his enthusiasm is contagious.


DiCaprio speaking at the COP 21 Paris Climate Conference last December. Photo by Thierry Chesnot/Getty Images.

On Tuesday, DiCaprio received the Crystal Award from the World Economic Forum for his work on climate change.

The Crystal Award honors artists whose actions improve the state of the world. DiCaprio and his foundation (the aptly named Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation) work with more than 70 partners in 40 countries to protect the planet's remaining natural ecosystems.

DiCaprio traveled to Davos, Switzerland, to accept the award alongside fellow recipients Will.i.am, Chinese actress Yao Chen, and Olafur Eliasson, a Danish artist. Photo by Fabrice Coffrini/AFP/Getty Images.

As DiCaprio said in his speech, "These complex ecosystems can never be replaced; they are the foundation of our global economy, and more importantly, our interconnected climate — without them life as we know it will simply collapse."

During his acceptance speech, DiCaprio pledged $15 million from his foundation to fast-track sustainability projects around the world.

DiCaprio is putting his money where his mouth is and fast-tracking several innovative sustainability projects in every corner of the globe.

Photo by Fabrice Coffrini/AFP/Getty Images.

These are the five exciting projects his foundation committed to:

1. $6 million will be used to help monitor commercial fishing activity.

Global Fishing Watch is a new interactive web tool from Google, Oceana, and SkyTruth that actively monitors all of the trackable fishing activity in the ocean to help put an end to overfishing. The platform is still in the prototype stage, but will be available to the public, allowing consumers, seafood suppliers, the media, fishermen, and other stakeholders to track commercial fishing around the world.

A fisherman arranges dried fish near Manila Bay. Photo by Noel Celis/AFP/Getty Images.

2. $3.2 million goes toward protecting the rain forest from the palm oil industry.

The funds are headed to the Rainforest Acton Network to help protect one of the last rain forests on the Indonesian island of Sumatra. Indonesia produces much of the world's palm oil, and producers are intentionally burning forests to clear the land for plantations. The fires have resulted in dangerous brown air, over half a million respiratory infections, and more carbon emissions each day than the daily activity of the entire United States economy. The grant will help preserve 6.5 million acres of rain forest, which DiCaprio described as, "the vital lungs of our planet."

Fires rage as the peatland forest is cleared for palm oil plantations in Central Kalimantan, Indonesia. Photo by Ulet Ifansasti/Getty Images.

3. Another $3.4 million is headed to support indigenous populations as they defend their land against oil drilling.

ClearWater protects portions of the Amazon rain forest in Ecuador, where oil drilling has marred the once pristine landscape. The partnership with DiCaprio's organization also brings together the Ceibo Alliance — four indigenous nations, the Cófan, Secoya, Siona, and Waorani, working as one for the first time ever to protect their land, water, and rich culture.

A local activist shows waste from an oil well in the Ecuadorian Amazon. Photos by Rodrigo Buendia/AFP/Getty Images.

4. $1 million in debt relief will be given in exchange for ocean and coral reef conservation off the coast of the Seychelles.

Off the coast of east Africa's Seychelles Islands is a portion of the Indian Ocean about the size of Nebraska. Rising ocean temperatures and carbon levels are damaging coral reefs in this spot, which once provided a lush habitat for many marine animals.

To protect this vital ecosystem, the Nature Conservancy proposed a $30 million debt swap for the Seychelles Islands in exchange for a promise to protect marine life and promote conservation. DiCaprio's foundation is contributing $1 million to the effort.

A sea turtle looks for a nesting spot on the beach of one of the Seychelles outer islands. Photo by Roberto Schmidt/AFP/Getty Images.

5. And finally, $1.5 million will be used to promote renewable energy in the U.S.

Stateside, the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation is teaming up with the Solutions Project, a nonprofit with a vision for a 100% renewable energy future. The $1.5 million will fund smaller community-based efforts all over the country.

President Obama chats with Sandra Richter, the co-founder and CEO of Soofa, which produces solar-powered sofas that can be used to charge electronic devices. Photo by Mike Theiler-Pool/Getty Images.

DiCaprio hopes to fund more projects, but he can't do it alone.

Though DiCaprio's passion is palpable, it can't write checks. And as he reminds us, currently less than 3% of all philanthropic giving goes toward conservation, sustainability, and animal protection.

Simon & Garfunkel's song "Bridge Over Troubled Water" has been covered by more than 50 different musical artists, from Aretha Franklin to Elvis Presley to Willie Nelson. It's a timeless classic that taps into the universal struggle of feeling down and the comfort of having someone to lift us up. It's beloved for its soothing melody and cathartic lyrics, and after a year of pandemic challenges, it's perhaps more poignant now than ever.

A few years a go, American singer-songwriter Yebba Smith shared a solo a capella version of a part of "Bridge Over Troubled Water," in which she just casually sits and sings it on a bed. It's an impressive rendition on its own, highlighting Yebba's soulful, effortless voice.

But British singer Jacob Collier recently added his own layered harmony tracks to it, taking the performance to a whole other level.

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Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
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Since March of 2020, over 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the CDC. Over 540,000 have died in the United States as this unprecedented pandemic has swept the globe. And yet, by the end of 2020, it looked like science was winning: vaccines had been developed.

In celebration of the power of science we spoke to three people: an individual, a medical provider, and a vaccine scientist about how vaccines have impacted them throughout their lives. Here are their answers:

John Scully, 79, resident of Florida

Photo courtesy of John Scully

When John Scully was born, America was in the midst of an epidemic: tens of thousands of children in the United States were falling ill with paralytic poliomyelitis — otherwise known as polio, a disease that attacks the central nervous system and often leaves its victims partially or fully paralyzed.

"As kids, we were all afraid of getting polio," he says, "because if you got polio, you could end up in the dreaded iron lung and we were all terrified of those." Iron lungs were respirators that enclosed most of a person's body; people with severe cases often would end up in these respirators as they fought for their lives.

John remembers going to see matinee showings of cowboy movies on Saturdays and, before the movie, shorts would run. "Usually they showed the news," he says, "but I just remember seeing this one clip warning us about polio and it just showed all these kids in iron lungs." If kids survived the iron lung, they'd often come back to school on crutches, in leg braces, or in wheelchairs.

"We all tried to be really careful in the summer — or, as we called it back then, 'polio season,''" John says. This was because every year around Memorial Day, major outbreaks would begin to emerge and they'd spike sometime around August. People weren't really sure how the disease spread at the time, but many believed it traveled through the water. There was no cure — and every child was susceptible to getting sick with it.

"We couldn't swim in hot weather," he remembers, "and the municipal outdoor pool would close down in August."

Then, in 1954 clinical trials began for Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine against polio and within a year, his vaccine was announced safe. "I got that vaccine at school," John says. Within two years, U.S. polio cases had dropped 85-95 percent — even before a second vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin in the 1960s. "I remember how much better things got after the vaccines came out. They changed everything," John says.

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