Heroes

Something alive is moving about half of the water in the oceans.

It's becoming clear that whales are doing a whole lot more than just swimming around, blowing the minds of life-jacketed landlubbers in boats.

Something alive is moving about half of the water in the oceans.
True
Unilever and the United Nations


When humans kill whales, we're doing more than making a cruel choice — we're messing with an entire ecosystem. Some people justify their slaughter with the argument that the fewer whales there are, the more food there is for everyone else.


Well, it turns out the opposite is true.

Whales help keep the oceans full of life.

It's a little surprising, but when whale populations fall, so do the populations of the animals they eat. When there are a lot of whales, there are also more of the little beasties they eat. You wouldn't think so, but it's true.

It all has to do with something called a trophic cascade, an "ecological process that starts at the top of the food chain and tumbles all the way down to the bottom." At the top of one big food chain swim the whales.

It's all their deep-diving and coming back up that makes them so important.

Whales stir up as much of the ocean as wind, waves, and tides combined!

Just by doing what they do, they drag things from the surface down to the dark bottom, and then they bring stuff on the bottom back up, dragging it into the light where things can grow.

Here's an example. They eat down in the deep, and after when they swim up to the surface, they, um, redistribute the organic matter as...

"Poo-namis."

No, not some new kind of tidal wave — just a massive amount of whale poop. It's an important fertilizer for the ocean's upper layers. Since there's light there, photosynthesis can happen and plants can grow when they get enough nutrients. So, well, thank you, whale poo.

Whales eat lots of little beasties, right?

Yes, but it's also true that whales rescue them from sinking into the killer darkness, acting like ginormous up-and-down taxicabs. They pull animals behind their massive bodies as they swim back up into the light where the little things can survive, reproduce, and grow. And there's a big plus here for humans: Plankton, which whales ferry to the surface, absorb tons of CO2 from the atmosphere — they help with global warming.

So, these gigantic beings can be part of our solution.

Scientists are realizing that instead of allowing the killing of whales to continue, we should be working to let their populations grow — for the good of the oceans, and for our own good. It's something pretty easy that we can do, and it's yet another reason to keep these wonderful creatures around. More people need to know about this.

When the "Me Too" movement exploded a few years ago, the ubiquitousness of women's sexual harassment and assault experiences became painfully clear. What hasn't always been as clear is role that less overt, more subtle creepiness plays in making women feel uncomfortable or unsafe as they move through the world, often starting from a young age.

Thankfully—and unfortunately—a viral video from a teen TikToker illustrates exactly what that looks like in real-time when a man came and sat down with her while she was doing a live video. He asked if the chair at her table was taken, and she said no, thinking he wanted to take it to another table. Instead, he sat down and started talking to her. You can see in her face and in her responses that she's weirded out, though she's trying not to appear rude or paranoid.

The teen said in a separate TikTok video that the man appeared to be in his 30s. Definitely too old to be pulling up a chair with someone so young who is sitting by herself, and definitely old enough to recognize that she was uncomfortable with the situation.

Keep Reading Show less
Photo by Daniel Schludi on Unsplash
True

The global eradication of smallpox in 1980 is one of international public health's greatest successes. But in 1966, seven years after the World Health Organization announced a plan to rid the world of the disease, smallpox was still widespread. The culprits? A lack of funds, personnel and vaccine supply.

Meanwhile, outbreaks across South America, Africa, and Asia continued, as the highly contagious virus continued to kill three out of every 10 people who caught it, while leaving many survivors disfigured. It took a renewed commitment of resources from wealthy nations to fulfill the promise made in 1959.

Forty-one years later, although we face a different virus, the potential for vast destruction is just as great, and the challenges of funding, personnel and supply are still with us, along with last-mile distribution. Today, while 30% of the U.S. population is fully vaccinated, with numbers rising every day, there is an overwhelming gap between wealthy countries and the rest of the world. It's becoming evident that the impact on the countries getting left behind will eventually boomerang back to affect us all.

Photo by ismail mohamed - SoviLe on Unsplash

The international nonprofit CARE recently released a policy paper that lays out the case for U.S. investment in a worldwide vaccination campaign. Founded 75 years ago, CARE works in over 100 countries and reaches more than 90 million people around the world through multiple humanitarian aid programs. Of note is the organization's worldwide reputation for its unshakeable commitment to the dignity of people; they're known for working hand-in-hand with communities and hold themselves to a high standard of accountability.

"As we enter into our second year of living with COVID-19, it has become painfully clear that the safety of any person depends on the global community's ability to protect every person," says Michelle Nunn, CARE USA's president and CEO. "While wealthy nations have begun inoculating their populations, new devastatingly lethal variants of the virus continue to emerge in countries like India, South Africa and Brazil. If vaccinations don't effectively reach lower-income countries now, the long-term impact of COVID-19 will be catastrophic."

Keep Reading Show less