This diver's photos are spectacular. They also make an important statement.
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Nature Valley

Ralph Pace’s career as a photographer didn’t start underwater. In fact, it started with a jaguar.

He'd decided to go to graduate school for oceanography, but before he could do so, he needed to get some research experience under his belt.

So he headed to Costa Rica.


“I was working on sea turtle projects, but it’s also one of the only places in the world that jaguars actually hunt in packs,” he says. “I called my brother and said, ‘Hey man, you won’t believe this!’ And it was kind of a typical brother thing — he sent me a camera and said ‘Prove it!’”

All photos by Ralph Pace, used with permission.

Pace didn’t grow up knowing he wanted to be a photographer, much less an underwater one. In fact, he was pre-med in college and hadn’t even been on a dive until he traveled abroad to Australia.

But once he realized the ocean was his calling, he headed to Scripps Institute of Oceanography. And after his encounter with the jaguars, he quickly realized he wanted to pair his newfound photography skills with his love of the ocean.

It didn’t take long for Pace to turn his camera toward the water to start telling stories about conservation.

He already had a passion for the environment itself. And when he started doing photography work on conservation projects, he quickly discovered a strong preference for working with scientists when taking his photos.

“They’re gonna show you the best stuff in the best way, in such a way that you know you’re not harming any animals,” he says. “Those are really the guys on the front lines of conservation.”

He started reaching out to scientists he already knew from his graduate work at Scripps and began going on projects involving sea turtles, sturgeon, swordfish, and more. Slowly, he went from simply documenting the projects to actually using his photos to tell important stories that he felt people needed to hear — landing him on the front lines of the conservation movement too.

Pace doesn’t take photos of just anything — he goes out of his way to find stories that no one has heard and bring them to light.

In many cases, that means traveling to places that most people can’t reach and will likely never get to see themselves.

“You show people this incredible world that they kinda didn’t even know existed,” he says. After all, “How do you get somebody excited about something if they can’t picture it, can’t relate to it?”

By bringing unreachable sights to people through his photos, Pace is able to bring the support to the causes they represent — like ocean conservation.

And that, he says, is the power of photography.

"With photos you have a really unique opportunity to grab someone’s attention," he says. "You take a famous photo of, say, the 'Afghan Girl' that Steve McCurry took for the cover of National Geographic. You take that picture, and it grabs everyone’s attention and they read an article about it, and at the end of it people are sending millions of dollars to refugees abroad."

Being a photographic trailblazer doesn’t always mean traveling the world though. Sometimes, it means staying put and finding stories nearby.

“I think you’re a lot more valuable if you can work in your backyard and tell stories that are close to home,” Pace says. “I tell people I’m going out to work with sea turtles in San Diego and they say, ‘There are no sea turtles here!’ They’ve lived here their whole lives and they don’t know there’s a population of sea turtles here.”

Pace’s mission is to bring untold stories to light, and sometimes those overlooked stories are nearby.

He's just one man, but Pace is confident that his stories can have a big impact on ocean ecosystems.

Ocean conservation is a huge and complex movement, full of giant and sometimes overwhelming problems. But even one story about one particular animal can have positive effects on the whole environment.

“Sometimes, by saving one thing, we create a sort of umbrella to save a lot of things underneath it,” Pace says.

He uses Costa Rica, where he worked with sea turtles but also saw jaguar conservation efforts, as an example. Oftentimes people can feel like they’re competing for resources in order to save their species, but the way Pace sees it, it’s all one story.

“Why work in competition with the jaguar folks?” he says. “Let’s protect the whole stretch of beach. Let’s work together to make sure there’s lots of sea turtle habitats so that when their populations rebound, it also provides food for the jaguar.’”

He brings that same philosophy to all the projects he photographs. By bringing one untold story to light, Pace’s photography can attract support and resources to entire ecosystems.

Though photography is a pretty specific skill, Pace's passion for new information is something we can all incorporate into our lives.

Spreading the knowledge of ocean conservation — whether though photography, writing, science, or just talking over the dinner table — is how Pace believes we will ultimately save our underwater environments.

"That's what telling stories can do," he says. "You take people to places they've never been and you introduce them to things they've never heard about. And hopefully that allows to them to make better decisions that are ultimately gonna make this planet a better place. That's all you can really hope for."

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Amazon

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.

Amazon

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.

In the hours before he was sworn in as the 46th president of the United States, then-President-elect Biden was sent a letter signed by 17 freshmen GOP members of the House of Representatives.

In sharp contrast to the 121 Republican House members who voted against the certification of Biden's electoral votes—a constitutional procedure merely check-marking the state certifications that had already taken place—this letter expresses a desire to "rise above the partisan fray" and work together with Biden as he takes over the presidency.

The letter reads:

Dear President-elect Biden,

Congratulations on the beginning of your administration and presidency. As members of this freshman class, we trust that the next four years will present your administration and the 117thCongress with numerous challenges and successes, and we are hopeful that – despite our ideological differences – we may work together on behalf of the American people we are each so fortunate to serve.

After two impeachments, lengthy inter-branch investigations, and, most recently, the horrific attack on our nation's capital, it is clear that the partisan divide between Democrats and Republicans does not serve a single American.

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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.