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Heroes

Solar power is mindblowingly cheaper than just a few years ago. That's fantastic news for the Earth.

The sun.

Photo by NASA/Flickr.

Bringer of day. Giver of life. Causer of that squinty face you're making in your Christmas card photo.

Just TAKE THE PICTURE! Photo via iStock.


And now, perhaps, also the unlikely savior of our climate and planet.

Thanks largely to a major decline in the cost of equipment, solar power has become the cheapest new energy source on the market.

"Unsubsidized solar is beginning to outcompete coal and natural gas on a larger scale, and notably, new solar projects in emerging markets are costing less to build than wind projects," Bloomberg's Tom Randall reports, summarizing a series of new data released by Bloomberg New Energy Finance, which surveyed 58 emerging economies in Africa, Asia, the Middle East, and South America.

The fact that this is taking place in the developing world is a big deal, as it could potentially allow some countries to skip dirty, costly fossil fuels altogether — or at least mostly.

A gigantic solar farm in Morocco. Photo by Fadel Senna/Getty Images.

Back in the '90s, much of Africa couldn't reliably talk to each other on the phone. Even in 2015, only 2% of African households had landline connections. But the advent of mobile phones allowed many countries to rapidly build communication infrastructure without having to install costly, resource-and-labor-intensive telephone lines. Today, nearly 90% of Nigerian and South African adults own mobile phones — about the same as the United States.

Similarly, falling costs could allow many of these countries to install cheap solar farms without having to first build big expensive coal and natural gas plants, giving them an edge over countries like the United States, which have to weigh the cost of building new, clean energy plants with the cost of tearing down old ones and deal with heavy resistance from the industries that operate them.

Of course, there are still some roadblocks to a full-on, balls-to-the-wall solar building bonanza.

Despite falling costs, installing solar panels across dozens of countries on multiple continents is time consuming.

Also, in areas that are less reliably sunny, fossil fuel sources can still be cheaper and more effective.

Nonetheless, it's an encouraging sign — and not just for those hoping to slow or reverse climate change.

"For populations still relying on expensive kerosene generators," Randall wrote, "or who have no electricity at all, and for those living in the dangerous smog of thickly populated cities, the shift to renewables and increasingly to solar can’t come soon enough."

When that day comes, we Earthlings could owe the sun big time.

Photo by NASA.

At least until it swallows us all whole in a few billion years.

Nature

Pennsylvania home is the entrance to a cave that’s been closed for 70 years

You can only access the cave from the basement of the home and it’s open for business.

This Pennsylvania home is the entrance to a cave.

Have you ever seen something in a movie or online and thought, "That's totally fake," only to find out it's absolutely a real thing? That's sort of how this house in Pennsylvania comes across. It just seems too fantastical to be real, and yet somehow it actually exists.

The home sits between Greencastle and Mercersburg, Pennsylvania, and houses a pretty unique public secret. There's a cave in the basement. Not a man cave or a basement that makes you feel like you're in a cave, but an actual cave that you can't get to unless you go through the house.

Turns out the cave was discovered in the 1830s on the land of John Coffey, according to Uncovering PA, but the story of how it was found is unclear. People would climb down into the cave to explore occasionally until the land was leased about 100 years later and a small structure was built over the cave opening.

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Health

This company makes it easier than ever to enjoy guilt-free fairly traded coffee

Thanks to Lifeboost, good coffee can be good for everyone.

Unsplash

Lifeboost coffee

Americans love coffee. Like, we really, seriously, truly love it. According to one recent survey, 75 percent of U.S. adults drink coffee at least occasionally, while 53 percent—about 110 million people—drink it every single day. For some, coffee is an essential part of their morning ritual. For others, it’s something they enjoy when they hit the proverbial wall in the late afternoon. But either way, millions of people use coffee to boost energy, focus, and productivity.


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Pop Culture

Buffy Sainte-Marie shares what led to her openly breastfeeding on 'Sesame Street' in 1977

The way she explained to Big Bird what she was doing is still an all-time great example.

"Sesame Street" taught kids about life in addition to letters and numbers.

In 1977, singer-songwriter Buffy Sainte-Marie did something revolutionary: She fed her baby on Sesame Street.

The Indigenous Canadian-Ameican singer-songwriter wasn't doing anything millions of other mothers hadn't done—she was simply feeding her baby. But the fact that she was breastfeeding him was significant since breastfeeding in the United States hit an all-time low in 1971 and was just starting to make a comeback. The fact that she did it openly on a children's television program was even more notable, since "What if children see?" has been a key pearl clutch for people who criticize breastfeeding in public.

But the most remarkable thing about the "Sesame Street" segment was the lovely interchange between Big Bird and Sainte-Marie when he asked her what she was doing.

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Pop Culture

Linda Ronstadt's 1970's ballad is a chart-topping hit once again thanks to 'The Last of Us'

The iconic 70s song "Long, Long Time" was an integral part of an unforgettable episode that fans are calling a masterpiece.

Linda Ronstadt (left), Nick Offerman and Murray Bartlett (right)

HBO’s emotional third episode of the zombie series “The Last Of Us” became an instant favorite among fans, thanks in no small part to Linda Ronstadt’s late 1970s ballad, “Long, Long Time.”

Using the song as the episode’s title, “Long, Long Time,” moves away from the show’s main plot to instead focus on a heartbreakingly beautiful love story between Bill (Nick Offerman) and Frank (Murray Bartlett), from its endearing start all the way to its bittersweet end.

The song makes its first appearance during the initial stages of Bill and Frank’s romance as they play the tune on the piano, just before they share their first kiss.

We see their entire lives together play out—one of closeness, devotion, and savoring homegrown strawberries—until they meet their end. The song then plays on the radio, bringing the bottle episode to a poignant close.

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Joy

34-year-old man is learning to read on TikTok in series of motivational videos

His reading skills have improved so much that he plans to read 100 books this year.

@oliverspeaks1/TikTok

Oliver James is the biggest star on BookTok.

With over 125,000 followers, 34-year-old Oliver James is a star in the BookTok community. And it all started with a very simple goal: Learn to read.

For most kids, school is a place where they can develop a relationship with learning in a safe environment. For James, school was the opposite. Growing up with learning and behavior disabilities subjected him to abusive teaching practices in special education, which, of course, did nothing to help.

"The special education system at the time was more focused on behavioral than educating," he told Good Morning America. "So they spent a lotta time restraining us, a lotta time disciplining us, a lotta times putting us in positions to kinda shape us to just not act out in class."

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via Pexels

A couple celebrates while packing their home.

One of the topics that we like to highlight on Upworthy is people who are redefining what it means to be in a relationship. Recently, we’ve shared the stories of platonic life partners, moms who work together as part of a “mommune” and a polyamorous family with four equally-committed parents.

A growing number of people are reevaluating traditional relationships and entering lifestyles that work for them instead of trying to fit into preexisting roles. It makes sense because the more lifestyle options that are available, the greater chance we have to be happy.

A recent trend in unconventional relationships is married couples "living apart together," or LATs as they are known among mental health professionals.

Actress Helena Bonham Carter and director Tim Burton, actress Gwyneth Paltrow and producer Brad Falchuk, and photographer Annie Leibovitz and activist Susan Sontag are all high-profile couples who’ve embraced the LAT lifestyle.

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