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When Bren Smith was 14, he dropped out of high school and went to sea.

Photo from GreenWave, used with permission.

Smith was born and raised in a small fishing village called Petty Harbour, in Newfoundland, Canada. Petty Harbour is 700 miles east of Maine, and it juts out into the Atlantic like the herald of the entire North American continent. It's so tiny that it's basically just a few saltbox houses painted in bright colors, helping fishermen find their way home in the fog.


Smith worked on boats for years, and he loved his job.

"That's where I want to spend my days," he said. Smith is now in his mid-40s. Pictures of him show a lean, bald man with varying stages of beard. He says that like a lot of fishermen, he fell in love — not so much with the ocean itself, but with the feeling of working on the ocean.

"Farming the ocean is really meaningful work," he said. "There are certain jobs, traditional jobs, like coal workers who help power the country, steel workers who helped build the country, and fishermen and farmers, who help feed the country — there's real satisfaction and meaning that comes with that."

But under the ocean's surface, things weren't going too well. One day, the jobs seemed to just disappear.

Photo from GreenWave, used with permission.

The Grand Banks, off the coast of Newfoundland, are some of the richest fishing grounds in the world. And at some point, they must have seemed endless. In 1968, fishermen brought home over 800,000 tons of cod from those waters, for instance. That's more than the weight of eight full aircraft carriers.

But starting in the 1970s, the cod's numbers started to fall. Overfishing, trawling, dragging, and government mismanagement destroyed the cod stock. And after centuries of being one of nature's greatest wonders, in 1992, the Canadian government told Newfoundland's cod fishermen that they couldn't go out fishing anymore. There were essentially no cod left to catch.

As the Earth changes, jobs go away.

The ban on cod fishing snapped the economic backbone of hundreds of rural Newfoundland communities. Over 40,000 people lost their jobs. Some fishermen got government assistance or found new jobs on land, but Smith says the real shock ran much deeper than that.

There's a famous story in Newfoundland, Smith said, about a former fisherman who got a government buyout — a check to beach his boat, essentially — "and then every morning he drives down to the dock at 5 in the morning, with his brand-new truck he bought with that government check, and drinks himself to death looking out over the ocean, wishing he was working at sea."

This tragedy wasn't about money, you see. It was never about the money. Instead, losing that job meant losing part of their culture. It meant losing a sense of meaning.

Smith had been working elsewhere, but watching his hometown's collapse affected him. So Smith changed jobs, looking for work that was truly sustainable. Over the years, he tried a bunch of different things, but it never seemed to work out. Hurricanes Irene and Sandy put an end to his oyster farming idea, for instance.

Realizing that he needed to adapt, Smith decided to invent a new job altogether. Now, he's what he calls a "3D ocean farmer."

Photo from GreenWave, used with permission.

Smith owns and runs the Thimble Island Oyster Company in Connecticut, but oysters are only part of what he does. He's actually growing an entire forest underwater.

From the shore, Smith's farms don't look like much — just a few buoys bobbing up and down in the surf. But running beneath those buoy are long ropes from which dangle kelp, seaweed, mussels, and scallop nests. Below, resting on the sea floor, Smith has cages full of oysters. Clams live in the mud below those cages. And holding it all together are heavy, hurricane-proof anchors studded along the edges.

The result looks a lot like an underwater garden or kelp forest.

A naturally occurring kelp forest. Photo from NOAA's National Ocean Service/Flickr.

These 3D farms might actually be one of the most sustainable forms of agriculture in the world.

Unlike many common foods, Smith's seaweed and shellfish need no land, fresh water, or fertilizer. Kelp also grows extremely quickly.

And while seaweed is largely absent from the American diet, it's a really common food in other parts of the world, especially in Asia. Many American chefs are now testing it in their menus.

Mmm, seaweed. Photo from GreenWave, used with permission.

There are secondary benefits to the environment from the underwater farms as well. The kelp can trap carbon, removing it from the atmosphere and reducing the impact of global warming. Shellfish can help filter pollutants and excess nitrogen out of the water. The farms can even act like coral reefs, providing a hiding place and habitat for other creatures.

"The best fishing in the entire area is surrounding our farms," said Smith. "We have seals, we have ducks, we have sea horses — all these different species that are returning to our areas."

Because of what he's learned, Smith is now helping other fishermen start underwater farms too.

Smith hauls up an oyster cage. Photo from Greenwave, used with permission.

In addition to running his farm, Smith is in charge of GreenWave, a nonprofit that helps other farmers start their own 3D ocean farms. They have a blueprint for 3D farmers to get started as easily as possible. The GreenWave team also helps farmers evaluate locations and feasibility, get permits, and set up and expand their farms.

GreenWave is still a small operation — just a handful of people working toward something they believe could change the world. But what they're doing is actually working, and they've even been awarded the 2015 Buckminster Fuller Prize for ecological design. They've also just opened a big new project, a seaweed hatchery, to help farmers supply other farmers with seed.

Ultimately, Smith thinks we could build a whole new food system using 3D ocean farms.

He wants to break the logic that leads to big, industrial farms on land and create a whole new kind of food industry — one that has sustainability and food justice at its heart.

For example, GreenWave doesn't charge farmers extra for seed, and it encourages farmers to only use local species. A farm in California won't grow the same kind of seaweed and shellfish as a farm in Maine, a practice that can help keep our food system safe from climate change and disease. And Smith says the minimum wage in their processing plants starts at $15 an hour.

There are still a lot of hurdles, of course. Americans still aren't known for their love of seaweed. And it seems like GreenWave will need to build a lot of their infrastructure from scratch, too. But these obstacles do not seem insurmountable.

To me, the most encouraging part of this story is that we can revive the kind of job Smith fell in love with.

Photo from GreenWave, used with permission.

Sometimes it's easy to think of conservation like a museum, trying to capture the world in some unchanging, static preservation, like a bug under glass.

But that's not what Smith is interested in. For him, the question has always been as much about economics as environmentalism. The question isn't "How do we make sure things never change?" The question is "How do we prepare for the future?"

"We need to build a new economy, we need to feed people, we need to create jobs, and we have to give people meaning if we're going to save the planet," Smith said. He finds that the work on his farm still has that meaningful heart that propelled him to the ocean as a teen.

As Smith put it, we have to find the space for "jobs we can still sing songs about." And we can.

Whether that's transitioning coal miners to solar power-plant workers, oil drillers to dam workers, or fishermen to ocean farmers, we can reinvent the old industries into the new.

We can still have jobs you fall in love with.

Photo courtesy of Girls at Work

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Girls are bombarded with messages from a very young age telling them that they can’t, that is too big, this is too heavy, those are too much.

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Pop Culture

Artist uses AI to create ultra realistic portraits of celebrities who left us too soon

What would certain icons look like if nothing had happened to them?

Mercury would be 76 today.

Some icons have truly left this world too early. It’s a tragedy when anyone doesn’t make it to see old age, but when it happens to a well-known public figure, it’s like a bit of their art and legacy dies with them. What might Freddie Mercury have created if he were granted the gift of long life? Bruce Lee? Princess Diana?

Their futures might be mere musings of our imagination, but thanks to a lot of creativity (and a little tech) we can now get a glimpse into what these celebrities might have looked like when they were older.

Alper Yesiltas, an Istanbul-based lawyer and photographer, created a photography series titled “As If Nothing Happened,” which features eerily realistic portraits of long gone celebrities in their golden years. To make the images as real looking as possible, Yesiltas incorporated various photo editing programs such as Adobe Lightroom and VSCO, as well as the AI photo-enhancing software Remini.

“The hardest part of the creative process for me is making the image feel ‘real’ to me,” Yesiltas wrote about his passion project. “The moment I like the most is when I think the image in front of me looks as if it was taken by a photographer.”

Yesiltas’ meticulousness paid off, because the results are uncanny.

Along with each photo, Yesiltas writes a bittersweet message “wishing” how things might have gone differently … as if nothing happened.
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All images provided by Adewole Adamson

It begins with more inclusive conversations at a patient level

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Adewole Adamson, MD, of the University of Texas, Austin, aims to create more equity in health care by gathering data from more diverse populations by using artificial intelligence (AI), a type of machine learning. Dr. Adamson’s work is funded by the American Cancer Society (ACS), an organization committed to advancing health equity through research priorities, programs and services for groups who have been marginalized.

Melanoma became a particular focus for Dr. Adamson after meeting Avery Smith, who lost his wife—a Black woman—to the deadly disease.

melanoma,  melanoma for dark skin Avery Smith (left) and Adamson (sidenote)

This personal encounter, coupled with multiple conversations with Black dermatology patients, drove Dr. Adamson to a concerning discovery: as advanced as AI is at detecting possible skin cancers, it is heavily biased.

To understand this bias, it helps to first know how AI works in the early detection of skin cancer, which Dr. Adamson explains in his paper for the New England Journal of Medicine (paywall). The process uses computers that rely on sets of accumulated data to learn what healthy or unhealthy skin looks like and then create an algorithm to predict diagnoses based on those data sets.

This process, known as supervised learning, could lead to huge benefits in preventive care.

After all, early detection is key to better outcomes. The problem is that the data sets don’t include enough information about darker skin tones. As Adamson put it, “everything is viewed through a ‘white lens.’”

“If you don’t teach the algorithm with a diverse set of images, then that algorithm won’t work out in the public that is diverse,” writes Adamson in a study he co-wrote with Smith (according to a story in The Atlantic). “So there’s risk, then, for people with skin of color to fall through the cracks.”

Tragically, Smith’s wife was diagnosed with melanoma too late and paid the ultimate price for it. And she was not an anomaly—though the disease is more common for White patients, Black cancer patients are far more likely to be diagnosed at later stages, causing a notable disparity in survival rates between non-Hispanics whites (90%) and non-Hispanic blacks (66%).

As a computer scientist, Smith suspected this racial bias and reached out to Adamson, hoping a Black dermatologist would have more diverse data sets. Though Adamson didn’t have what Smith was initially looking for, this realization ignited a personal mission to investigate and reduce disparities.

Now, Adamson uses the knowledge gained through his years of research to help advance the fight for health equity. To him, that means not only gaining a wider array of data sets, but also having more conversations with patients to understand how socioeconomic status impacts the level and efficiency of care.

“At the end of the day, what matters most is how we help patients at the patient level,” Adamson told Upworthy. “And how can you do that without knowing exactly what barriers they face?”

american cancer society, skin cacner treatment"What matters most is how we help patients at the patient level."https://www.kellydavidsonstudio.com/

The American Cancer Society believes everyone deserves a fair and just opportunity to prevent, find, treat, and survive cancer—regardless of how much money they make, the color of their skin, their sexual orientation, gender identity, their disability status, or where they live. Inclusive tools and resources on the Health Equity section of their website can be found here. For more information about skin cancer, visit cancer.org/skincancer.

Pop Culture

'90s kids share movies that will 'take you back to a better time'

It was a magical time when animals played sports and yet somehow things were just simpler.

YouTube/Upworthy photo illustration

Honey, I shrunk the kid named Matilda while jamming in space!

Everyone knows that '90s movies just hit different. From sports movies to rom-coms to even horror, there was an undeniable innocence, without being overly simplistic or juvenile. They didn’t have nearly the amount of money going into production as they do today, but somehow managed to transport us to magical places.

Movies of the '90s are so iconic that there have been several attempts to reboot beloved titles. Which, let’s face it, tends to be a fool's errand at a cash grab. These movies are so timeless that simply viewing the original is more than fine.

Not sure which movie to start with? You’re in luck—a Reddit user by the name of YouBrokeMyTV asked ’90s kids to share movies that took them “back to a better time,” and because the internet can be a wonderful place, tons of people responded with some beloved classics.

These answers certainly don’t make a definitive list (there are just so, so many gems) but they're a fun glimpse into what made '90s cinema so special. A nostalgic romp through memory lane, if you will.

Enjoy these 14 titles that just might leave you jonesing for a rewatch:

1. "Honey, I Shrunk the Kids"

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A perfect example of how '90s movies were silly, but smart at the same time. And oh so wholesome.

2. "The Sandlot"

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It taught us nothing about baseball, but everything about friendship, rooting for the underdog and (most important) how to make s’mores.

3. "Drop Dead Fred"

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Critics might have run this cult classic through the mud during its inception, but audiences fell in love with the bizarre charm of this story about a mischievous little girl and her anarchist imaginary friend. So take that, snotfaces!

4. "The Goonies"

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Everyone just wanted to set off an epic quest with their friends for pirate treasure after seeing this movie.

5. Tim Burton's "Batman"

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Before the superhero genre was the behemoth it is today, a quirky director and the dude who was best known for playing the creepy demon in "Beetlejuice" breathed new life into comic-book movies. Marvel might be the leader on creating stories with adult themes that are digestible for kids nowadays, but this DC film was the first of its kind. Plus, that soundtrack … forget about it.

6. "Hook"

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Pretty much any '90s film starring Robin Williams was an absolute gem, but this one in particular is timeless. His gift of balancing childlike humor with emotional gravitas lent itself so well to playing the now grown and cynical Peter Pan, who must learn to reclaim his joy (relatable, millennials?). It was a bang-a-rang-er, no question.

7. "Space Jam"

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It had Looney Tunes, it had aliens and it had Michael Jordan. That’s a winning combination.

8. "Matilda"

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I don’t think I’m out of line when I say that this movie helped a lot of kids make their way through difficult childhoods.

9. "The Parent Trap"

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Even '90s reboots were awesome. And how fun it is to see that Lisa Ann Walker—the actress who played Chessy the housekeeper—is not only yet again gracing the screens in NBC’s “Abbott Elementary,” but is also being revered as a style icon on TikTok for her ultra casual looks in the film. We all knew she was onto something with long button downs and shorts.

10. "The Land Before Time"

via GIPHY


No cartoon, not even “The Lion King,” was a better depiction of childhood grief. And yet, despite encapsulating tragedy, director Don Bluth still left viewers hopeful. The subsequent 14 (yes 14) sequels definitely pale in comparison to the original, but "The Land Before Time" continues to stand the test of time nonetheless.

11. "Richie Rich"

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The scene where they play tag on four-wheelers is simply iconic.

12. "Dunston Checks In"

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Man, the '90s were the golden age of animal-centered films. And not just monkeys either—we got sports playing golden retrievers and not one, but two movies starring talking pigs. What a time to be alive. These films were made before CGI had reached the levels it’s at today, and the authentic interactions between humans and creatures reached right through the screen.

13. "George of the Jungle"
george of the jungle, brendan faser

Watch out for the tree!!!

Giphy

Have I seen this movie at least 20 times? Probably. It doesn’t get any better than this in terms of silly action films with bird puppets. It’s crazy to think that this role would eventually lead Brendan Fraser to "The Mummy" franchise, turning him into a household name. Though his career has had some tragic ups and downs, we are all grateful for the glorious comeback he’s been having.

14. Anything involving Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen
mary kate and ashley

Yes, they were professional detectives.

Giphy

Whether vacationing in London, Paris or Rome, whether playing magical witches or making a huge billboard so their father could find love … Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen offered zany, whimsical entertainment while wearing fun outfits. Sometimes, that’s all you need.

via Lewis Speaks Sr. / Facebook

This article originally appeared on 02.25.21


Middle school has to be the most insecure time in a person's life. Kids in their early teens are incredibly cruel and will make fun of each other for not having the right shoes, listening to the right music, or having the right hairstyle.

As if the social pressure wasn't enough, a child that age has to deal with the intensely awkward psychological and biological changes of puberty at the same time.

Jason Smith, the principal of Stonybrook Intermediate and Middle School in Warren Township, Indiana, had a young student sent to his office recently, and his ability to understand his feelings made all the difference.

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