They have fought against this dam for decades, but the end is now in sight.

Big dams. Did you know they're the largest, most expensive structures we make?

The cost to build a mega dam goes way beyond money. They flood land, kill forests, destroy rivers and the life it supports, and displace tens of thousands of people.

Often, the culture and biodiversity destroyed by a big dam can never, ever be replaced.


Igre and her people in Brazil are facing just this reality. The Belo Monte is a giant dam being built on the river they call home.

We are starting to learn more and more not-so-good things about mega dams.

Big dams flood hundreds of thousands of acres of land behind them. They also harm rivers by depriving them of water and fundamentally altering natural fluctuations in flow and temperature. The loss of plants, fish, and other wildlife is astronomical.

Worse are the ongoing costs to cultures who live closely with rivers.

Belo Monte will flood an area of 190 square miles along the Xingu River. According to the Brazilian government, the flooding will force the relocation of up to 20,000 people, many of them belonging to at least 18 different ethnic groups. Nongovernmental organizations, like Amazon Watch, say the number of displaced may rise as high as 40,000.

The record of relocating cultures is not good. Forcibly removed from their homes and deprived of ways of life, once self-sufficient people can face hunger, rampant alcoholism, and high unemployment. Also, big dams are a "boom-and-bust" kind of development. Once they are built, many of the jobs go away.

Igre and other people of the Amazon have been fighting for decades against the Belo Monte Dam and their right to life.

Chief Rayoni of the Kayapo people, an international ambassador for the Brazilian rainforest and the people who live there, traveled to Paris in 2000 with a petition against the Belo Monte.

But after years of protesting and working with others to appeal to courts for their human rights to the land and their way of life, they have lost. The Belo Monte, which will be the world's third-largest hydroelectric dam, will close the river and begin operation in August 2015.

To make matters worse for indigenous people, it is just one of several mega dam projects on Amazonian rivers planned by the Brazilian government to fuel its booming growth.


People who have been watching and assessing dams are beginning to speak out against big dams and in favor of a whole suite of “agile energy alternatives" like wind, solar, and mini-hydropower facilities.

Sure, all sources of energy have negative impacts, but here's why people who once supported big dams are having second thoughts:

  • The actual construction costs of big dams are too high to ever yield a positive return and countries often end up in debt trying to repay loans for big dams.
  • The reservoirs for big dams in tropical places emit high amounts of methane due to the lush jungle covered by waters each year as the basin fills. One study reported 3.5 times more CO2 released than an oil power plant generating an equal amount of electricity. Oy!
  • Building dams leads to deforestation, and deforestation is a main cause of reduced rainfall in places like the Amazon. Without forests, there is no rain, and without rain, rivers dry up. So healthy forests are the key to providing water!

Rivers and their people need your help.

The fight is already on against the next big dam project.

The Brazilian government is planning to build five dams in the Tapajós River basin. In November 2014, members of the Mundukuru tribe organized with Greenpeace to raise awareness of the threats to their human rights. The sign, made with stones on a sandbar of the river reads, "Free Tapajos."

More people need to know that big dams are not "green" energy. It's not necessary to force people pay these terrible natural and cultural costs to produce the energy we need to live well.
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Shopping sustainably is increasingly important given the severity of the climate crisis, but sometimes it's hard to know where to turn. Thankfully, Amazon is making it a little easier to browse thousands of products that have one or more of 19 sustainability certifications that help preserve the natural world.

The online retailer recently announced Climate Pledge Friendly, a program to make it easier for customers to discover and shop for more sustainable products. To determine the sustainability of a product, the program partnered with third-party certifications, including governmental agencies, nonprofits, and independent labs.

With a selection of items spanning grocery, household, fashion, beauty, and personal electronics, you'll be able to shop more sustainably not just for the holiday season, but throughout the year for your essentials, as well.

You can browse all of the Climate Pledge Friendly products here, labeled with an icon and which certification(s) they meet. To get you on your way to shopping more sustainably, we've rounded up eight of our favorite Climate Pledge Friendly-products that will make great gifts all year long.

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Jack Wolfskin Women's North York Coat

Give the gift of warmth and style with this coat, available in a variety of colors. Sustainability is built into all Jack Wolfskin products and each item comes with a code that lets you trace back to its origins and understand how it was made.

Bluesign: Bluesign products are responsibly manufactured by using safer chemicals and fewer resources, including less energy, in production.


Amazon

Amazon All-new Echo Dot (4th Gen)

For the tech-obsessed. This Alexa smart speaker, which comes in a sleek, compact design, lets you voice control your entertainment and your smart home as well as connect with others.

Reducing CO2: Products with this certification reduce their carbon footprint year after year. Certified by the Carbon Trust.


Amazon

Burt's Bees Family Jammies Matching Holiday Organic Cotton Pajamas

Get into the holiday spirit with these fun matching PJs for the whole family. Perfect for pictures that even Fido can get in on.

Global Organic Textile Standard: This certifies each step of the organic textile supply chain against strict ecological and social standards. Each product with this certification contains 95%-100% organic content.

Amazon

Naturistick 5-Pack Lip Balm Gift Set

With 100% natural ingredients that are gentle on ultra-sensitive lips, this gift is a great gift for the whole family.

Compact by Design (Certified by Amazon): Products with this certification are packaged without excess air and water, which reduces the carbon footprint of shipping and packaging.


Amazon

Arus Women's GOTS Certified Organic Cotton Hooded Full Length Turkish Bathrobe

For those who love to lounge around, this full-length organic cotton bathrobe is the way to go. Available in five different colors, it has comfortable cuffed sleeves, a hood, pockets, and adjustable belt.

Global Organic Textile Standard: This certifies each step of the organic textile supply chain against strict ecological and social standards. Each product with this certification contains 95%-100% organic content.

Amazon

L'Occitane Extra-Gentle Vegetable Based Soap

This luxe soap, made with moisturizing shea butter and scented with verbena, is perfect for the self-care obsessed.

Compact by Design (Certified by Amazon): Products with this certification are packaged without excess air and water, which reduces the carbon footprint of shipping and packaging.

Amazon

Goodthreads Men's Sweater-Knit Fleece Long-Sleeve Bomber

For the fashionable men in your life, this fashion-forward knit bomber is an excellent choice. The sweater material keeps it cozy and warm, while the bomber jacket-cut, zip front, and rib-trim neck make it look elevated.

Recycled Claim Standard 100: Products with this certification use materials made from at least 95% recycled content.

Amazon

All-new Fire TV Stick with Alexa Voice Remote

Make it even easier to access your favorite movies and shows this holiday season. The new Fire TV Stick lets you use your voice to search across apps. Plus it controls the power and volume on your TV, so you'll never need to leave the couch! Except for snacks.

Reducing CO2: Products with this certification reduce their carbon footprint year after year. Certified by the Carbon Trust.

Of the millions of Americans breathing a sigh of relief with the ushering in of a new president, one man has a particularly personal and professional reason to exhale.

Dr. Anthony Fauci has spent a good portion of his long, respected career preparing for a pandemic, and unfortunately, the worst one in 100 years hit under the worst possible administration. As part of Trump's Coronavirus Task Force, Dr. Fauci did what he could to advise the president and share information with the public, but it's been clear for months that the job was made infinitely more difficult than it should have been by anti-science forces within the administration.

To his credit, Dr. Fauci remained politically neutral through it all this past year, totally in keeping with his consistently non-partisan, apolitical approach to his job. Even when the president badmouthed him, blocked him from testifying before the House, and kept him away from press briefings, Fauci took the high road, always keeping his commentary focused on the virus and refusing to step into the political fray.

But that doesn't mean working under those conditions wasn't occasionally insulting, frequently embarrassing, and endlessly frustrating.

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If the past year has taught us nothing else, it's that sending love out into the world through selfless acts of kindness can have a positive ripple effect on people and communities. People all over the United States seemed to have gotten the message — 71% of those surveyed by the World Giving Index helped a stranger in need in 2020. A nonprofit survey found 90% helped others by running errands, calling, texting and sending care packages. Many people needed a boost last year in one way or another and obliging good neighbors heeded the call over and over again — and continue to make a positive impact through their actions in this new year.

Upworthy and P&G Good Everyday wanted to help keep kindness going strong, so they partnered up to create the Lead with Love Fund. The fund awards do-gooders in communities around the country with grants to help them continue on with their unique missions. Hundreds of nominations came pouring in and five winners were selected based on three criteria: the impact of action, uniqueness, and "Upworthy-ness" of their story.

Here's a look at the five winners:

Edith Ornelas, co-creator of Mariposas Collective in Memphis, Tenn.

Edith Ornelas has a deep-rooted connection to the asylum-seeking immigrant families she brings food and supplies to families in Memphis, Tenn. She was born in Jalisco, Mexico, and immigrated to the United States when she was 7 years old with her parents and sister. Edith grew up in Chicago, then moved to Memphis in 2016, where she quickly realized how few community programs existed for immigrants. Two years later, she helped create Mariposas Collective, which initially aimed to help families who had just been released from detention centers and were seeking asylum. The collective started out small but has since grown to approximately 400 volunteers.