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.
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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.

Courtesy of Verizon
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If someone were to say "video games" to you, what are the first words that come to mind? Whatever words you thought of (fun, exciting, etc.), we're willing to guess "healthy" or "mental health tool" didn't pop into your mind.

And yet… it turns out they are. Especially for Veterans.

How? Well, for one thing, video games — and virtual reality more generally — are also more accessible and less stigmatized to veterans than mental health treatment. In fact, some psychiatrists are using virtual reality systems for this reason to treat PTSD.

Secondly, video games allow people to socialize in new ways with people who share common interests and goals. And for Veterans, many of whom leave the military feeling isolated or lonely after they lose the daily camaraderie of their regiment, that socialization is critical to their mental health. It gives them a virtual group of friends to talk with, connect to, and relate to through shared goals and interests.

In addition, according to a 2018 study, since many video games simulate real-life situations they encountered during their service, it makes socialization easier since they can relate to and find common ground with other gamers while playing.

This can help ease symptoms of depression, anxiety, and even PTSD in Veterans, which affects 20% of the Veterans who have served since 9/11.

Watch here as Verizon dives into the stories of three Veteran gamers to learn how video games helped them build community, deal with trauma and have some fun.

Band of Gamers www.youtube.com

Video games have been especially beneficial to Veterans since the beginning of the pandemic when all of us — Veterans included — have been even more isolated than ever before.

And that's why Verizon launched a challenge last year, which saw $30,000 donated to four military charities.

And this year, they're going even bigger by launching a new World of Warships charity tournament in partnership with Wargaming and Wounded Warrior Project called "Verizon Warrior Series." During the tournament, gamers will be able to interact with the game's iconic ships in new and exciting ways, all while giving back.

Together with these nonprofits, the tournament will welcome teams all across the nation in order to raise money for military charities helping Veterans in need. There will be a $100,000 prize pool donated to these charities, as well as donation drives for injured Veterans at every match during the tournament to raise extra funds.

Verizon is also providing special discounts to Those Who Serve communities, including military and first responders, and they're offering a $75 in-game content military promo for World of Warships.

Tournament finals are scheduled for August 8, so be sure to tune in to the tournament and donate if you can in order to give back to Veterans in need.

Courtesy of Verizon

Ready for the weekend? Of course, you are. Here's our weekly dose of good vibes to help you shed the stresses of the workweek and put yourself in a great frame of mind.

These 10 stories made us happy this week because they feature amazing creativity, generosity, and one super-cute fish.

1. Diver befriends a fish with the cutest smile

Hawaiian underwater photographer Yuki Nakano befriended a friendly porcupine fish and now they hang out regularly.

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