The pope has some blunt opinions about taking care of the Earth.

It's not a stretch to say that Pope Francis has been a bit of a surprise.

Photo by Franco Origlia/Getty Images.

Let's see. First, there was the fact that the previous pope, Benedict XVI, stepped down — the first resignation since 1415. So that was already a pretty big deal.


Then the Vatican elected, of all people, this guy — a Jesuit, which had never happened before; a person from the Western Hemisphere, which had never happened before; and a non-European, which hadn't happened since the 700s!

Then the surprises continued, with his remarkably tolerant statements about gay priests and atheists (although he's still pretty conservative on other topics, like birth control and trans people).

One very pleasant surprise, at least for me, has been just how much Pope Francis seems to care about the environment.

Pope Francis addressing the United Nations in 2015. Part of his message was confronting climate change and ecological degradation. Photo from Bryan Thomas/Getty Images.

Science and religion haven't always gotten along. But when it comes to the environment, Pope Francis has been an outspoken supporter. On Sept. 1, the Catholic Church's World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation (which he started, by the way), Pope Francis said: "We must not be indifferent or resigned to the loss of biodiversity and the destruction of ecosystems, often caused by our irresponsible and selfish behaviour."

When we take care of the Earth, we're taking care of each other too.

"Human beings are deeply connected with all of creation. When we mistreat nature, we also mistreat human beings," the pope said.

Environmental degradation, pollution, and climate change affect people all across the world, and Francis pointed out that it's disproportionately people who are already suffering — such as the poor or refugees — who bear the brunt of it.

Droughts and other natural disasters are likely to become more severe and common as climate change worsens. Photo by Brent Stirton/Getty Images.

Thus, fixing the environment goes hand in hand with addressing other problems.

"To give polluted water to someone who is thirsty doesn't make sense," Vatican panelist and author Terrence Ward said. "You have to clean it up first."

Pope Francis even gave examples of what we can do to make the world a better place.

He suggested consuming less, showing care for other living things, and planting trees, for example. He also highlighted the 2015 Paris Agreement as a step forward and advocated for citizens to push for "even more ambitious goals."

Pope Francis even suggested that caring for the planet should be added to the seven Corporal Works of Mercy, which would put taking care of the Earth on the same level as charitable actions like feeding the hungry and giving alms to the poor.

It's tremendous to see this marriage of mercy, responsibility, and environmental stewardship broadcast to such a large audience.

After all, there are more than a billion Catholics in the world.

Although maybe we shouldn't be too surprised that the pope's so concerned with the environment. After all, he did take his papal name from St. Francis of Assisi. And while the pope said it was because of St. Francis' care of the poor, St. Francis does just so happen to be the patron saint of animals and ecology, too. Just saying.

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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