The haunting reason these sculptures were designed to sink slowly into the mud.

This ghostly statue marks the site of a often overlooked, but devastating natural disaster — one that is sadly still ongoing.

Photo by Ulet Ifansasti/Getty Images.


In 2006, steaming hot mud erupted, without warning, from a rice paddy in eastern Java, Indonesia, sweeping through a dozen nearby villages.

Photo by Ulet Ifansasti/Getty Images.

20 people were killed, and thousands more were forced to flee their homes permanently.

Footprints in a house overwhelmed by the mud flow. Photo by Ulet Ifansasti/Getty Images.

The statues were erected by sculptor Dadang Christanto in 2014 to commemorate the eighth anniversary of the tragedy.

Photo by Ulet Ifansasti/Getty Images.

Since they were installed, the sculptures have have been sinking slowly — by design.

"They were not in mud when they started," Christanto told Australia's Saturday Paper in 2015. "And in one year they are nearly submerged. They will disappear. It is not just the environmental disaster but the social disaster."

May 30, 2016, marked the 10th anniversary of the beginning of the deadly mud flow.

Photo by Ulet Ifansasti/Getty Images.

While there have been no more fatalities, mud continues to pour out of the volcano to this day.

There's also strong evidence that the disaster was manmade.

Activists stage a protest on the fifth anniversary of the disaster. Photo by Ulet Ifansasti/Getty Images.

A 2015 report published in Nature argues that the gas needed to trigger the eruption could only have been unearthed by a nearby oil and gas drilling operation.

"We're now 99 percent confident that the drilling hypothesis is valid," Mark Tingay, the paper's lead author, told The New York Times.

(Other experts continue to disagree, arguing that the mud flow could have been caused by an earthquake.)

Like the Deepwater Horizon spill, this eruption demonstrates how lack of attention to the potential side effects of drilling can have disastrous consequences.

The nearly 40,000 Java residents who were forced to flee their homes have endured an often painful resettlement process. Many initially took shelter wherever they could find it — often in local markets.

"We couldn't shower, we couldn't wash our clothes," Sadli, a factory worker who was displaced by the mud flow, told the Chicago Tribune. "For every toilet, there were dozens of people constantly in line."

Some victims were eventually compensated. Others are still waiting.

When Lapindo, the company in charge of the drill operation allegedly responsible for the eruption, proposed installing two new wells near the site of the disaster, protests erupted and shut down the project.

Photo by Ulet Ifansasti/Getty Images.

That isn't to say we should stop drilling for oil and gas altogether.

Icky as oil can be, we need it for the time being, and natural gas can be an alternative to far dirtier sources of power.

But the statues serve as a kind of warning: When we mess with nature without taking the proper precautions, we don't just put our environment at risk.

An artist paints at the site of the sinking statues. Photo by Ulet Ifansasti/Getty Images.

We put ourselves at risk too.

Photo by Louis Hansel on Unsplash
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This story was originally shared on Capital One.

Inside the walls of her kitchen at her childhood home in Guatemala, Evelyn Klohr, the founder of a Washington, D.C.-area bakery called Kakeshionista, was taught a lesson that remains central to her business operations today.

"Baking cakes gave me the confidence to believe in my own brand and now I put my heart into giving my customers something they'll enjoy eating," Klohr said.

While driven to launch her own baking business, pursuing a dream in the culinary arts was economically challenging for Klohr. In the United States, culinary schools can open doors to future careers, but the cost of entry can be upwards of $36,000 a year.

Through a friend, Klohr learned about La Cocina VA, a nonprofit dedicated to providing job training and entrepreneurship development services at a training facility in the Washington, D.C-area.

La Cocina VA's, which translates to "the kitchen" in Spanish, offers its Bilingual Culinary Training program to prepare low-and moderate-income individuals from diverse backgrounds to launch careers in the food industry.

That program gave Klohr the ability to fully immerse herself in the baking industry within a professional kitchen facility and receive training in an array of subjects including culinary skills, food safety, career development and English language classes.

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Gage Skidmore/Wikimedia Commons

Wil Wheaton speaking to an audience at 2019 Wondercon.

In an era of debates over cancel culture and increased accountability for people with horrendous views and behaviors, the question of art vs. artist is a tricky one. When you find out an actor whose work you enjoy is blatantly racist and anti-semitic in real life, does that realization ruin every movie they've been a part of? What about an author who has expressed harmful opinions about a marginalized group? What about a smart, witty comedian who turns out to be a serial sexual assaulter? Where do you draw the line between a creator and their creation?

As someone with his feet in both worlds, actor Wil Wheaton weighed in on that question and offered a refreshingly reasonable perspective.

A reader who goes by @avinlander asked Wheaton on Tumblr:

"Question: I have more of an opinion question for you. When fans of things hear about misconduct happening on sets/behind-the-scenes are they allowed to still enjoy the thing? Or should it be boycotted completely? Example: I've been a major fan of Buffy the Vampire Slayer since I was a teenager and it was currently airing. I really nerded out on it and when I lost my Dad at age 16 'The Body' episode had me in such cathartic tears. Now we know about Joss Whedon. I haven't rewatched a single episode since his behavior came to light. As a fan, do I respectfully have to just box that away? Is it disrespectful of the actors that went through it to knowingly keep watching?"

And Wheaton offered this response, which he shared on Facebook:

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When a pet is admitted to a shelter it can be a traumatizing experience. Many are afraid of their new surroundings and are far from comfortable showing off their unique personalities. The problem is that's when many of them have their photos taken to appear in online searches.

Chewy, the pet retailer who has dedicated themselves to supporting shelters and rescues throughout the country, recognized the important work of a couple in Tampa, FL who have been taking professional photos of shelter pets to help get them adopted.

"If it's a photo of a scared animal, most people, subconsciously or even consciously, are going to skip over it," pet photographer Adam Goldberg says. "They can't visualize that dog in their home."

Adam realized the importance of quality shelter photos while working as a social media specialist for the Humane Society of Broward County in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

"The photos were taken top-down so you couldn't see the size of the pet, and the flash would create these red eyes," he recalls. "Sometimes [volunteers] would shoot the photos through the chain-link fences."

That's why Adam and his wife, Mary, have spent much of their free time over the past five years photographing over 1,200 shelter animals to show off their unique personalities to potential adoptive families. The Goldbergs' wonderful work was recently profiled by Chewy in the video above entitled, "A Day in the Life of a Shelter Pet Photographer."