Thrilling penguin news! Chile is killing an iron mine that would harm the waddly birds.
Photo by farenheit75/Flickr.

Ah, Chile. While not typically top of mind for the average American, the unassuming coastal strip has quietly become a sort of ... yang to our yin. The delicate floral sucking candy to our taste-bud-annihilating chocolate-caramel-peanut butter-sour-red-hot mouth bomb.

And, increasingly, they are the #RESIST window sticker to America's MAGA hat.


While the Trump administration rolls back LGBTQ protections, Chile's president is touting a marriage equality bill. While dozens of U.S. states are trying to regulate out as many Planned Parenthood clinics as the law will allow, Chilean lawmakers recently relaxed the country's abortion ban, which was one of the world's strictest (though their new law carves out several exceptions, the procedure is still largely banned in Chile, but still — progress!).

Now, the skinny South American nation is once again playing the U.S.'s bizarro world doppelganger — by siding with a bunch of penguins in a dispute with a mining company.

Photo by Martin Bernetti/Getty Images.

According to an AFP report, Chile recently killed a $2.5-billion iron-mining project to save the health (and, potentially, lives) of thousands of the waddly little birds.

The project was slated to be built just south of three islands where over 80% of the world's Humboldt penguins live and would include a port to ship iron all over the world. A review by 14 agencies found that the plan failed to sufficiently guarantee that the animals would not be affected.

"We are not against economic development or projects that are necessary for the country's growth, but they must offer adequate solutions for the impact they will have," Environment Minister Marcelo Mena told the AFP.

That's not just the polar opposite of what the U.S. would do. It's the polar opposite of what the U.S. government actually is doing.

Blowing up this mountain in Virginia to get at the coal underneath seems fine. Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images.

In August, the Interior Department outlined a plan to prioritize oil extraction over efforts to protect the greater sage-grouse, a grassland bird that looks like the result of an unforgettable evening between a peacock, a porcupine, and a tarantula.

Earlier this year, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, under President Trump, canceled an Obama-era rule designed to protect whales and sea turtles from fishing nets.

Meanwhile, the Trump administration wants to blow up mountaintops so badly they've stopped studying whether doing so is detrimental to the health and safety of animals — and human beings — that live nearby.

It's not just Chile stepping up either, at least where safeguarding the natural world we all share is concerned.

Just ask the 195 other countries that signed the Paris Climate Accord — which commits parties to holding the Earth's temperature rise below two degrees Celsius — that President Trump announced the U.S. would soon be leaving.

It all adds up to a pretty clear message: The rest of the world is getting with the program, while the U.S. government is sitting here, arms folded, hoping rare birds can adjust to a coal dust and jagged pebble diet.

Photo by Martin Bernetti/Getty Images.

Want the U.S. to get back on the bandwagon? You can let your elected representatives know how you feel and help out groups, like the Environmental Defense Fund, that are pushing back against regulation rollback.

In the meantime, thanks to their friends in Chile, a few thousand penguins are getting to celebrate the news of a lifetime. It may not be happening in the U-S-of-A, but it's a Hollywood ending all the same. (Anyone know how to say "Morgan Freeman" in Spanish?)

Several years ago, you wouldn't have known what QAnon was unless you spent a lot of time reading through comments on Twitter or frequented internet chat rooms. Now, with prominent Q adherents making headlines for storming the U.S. Capitol and elements of the QAnon worldview spilling into mainstream politics, the conspiracy theory/doomsday cult has become a household topic of conversation.

Many of us have watched helplessly as friends and family members fall down the rabbit hole, spewing strange ideas about Democrats and celebrities being pedophiles who torture children while Donald Trump leads a behind-the-scenes roundup of these evil Deep State actors. Perfectly intelligent people can be susceptible to conspiracy theories, no matter how insane, which makes it all the more frustrating.

A person who was a true believer in QAnon mythology (which you can read more about here) recently participated in an "Ask Me Anything" thread on Reddit, and what they shared about their experiences was eye-opening. The writer's Reddit handle is "diceblue," but for simplicity's sake we'll call them "DB."

DB explained that they weren't new to conspiracy theories when QAnon came on the scene. "I had been DEEP into conspiracy for about 8 years," they wrote. "Had very recently been down the ufo paranormal rabbit hole so when Q really took off midterm for trump I 'did my research' and fell right into it."

DB says they were a true believer until a couple of years ago when they had an experience that snapped them out of it:

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True

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.

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Two weeks ago, we watched a pro-Trump mob storm the U.S. Capitol in an attempt to overthrow the results of a U.S. election and keep Donald Trump in power. And among those insurrectionists were well-known adherents of QAnon, nearly every image of the crowd shows people wearing Q gear or carrying Q flags, and some of the more frightening elements we saw tie directly into QAnon beliefs.

Since hints of it first started showing up in social media comments several years ago, I've been intrigued—and endlessly frustrated—by the phenomenon of QAnon. At first, it was just a few fringey whacko conspiracy theorists I could easily roll my eyes at and ignore, but as I started seeing elements of it show up more and more frequently from more and more people, alarm bells started ringing.

Holy crap, there are a lot of people who actually believe this stuff.

Eventually, it got personal. A QAnon adherent on Twitter kept commenting on my tweets, pushing bizarro Q ideas on many of my posts. The account didn't use a real name, but the profile was classic QAnon, complete with the #WWG1WGA. ("Where we go one, we go all"—a QAnon rallying cry.) I thought it might be a bot, so I blocked them. Later, I discovered that it was actually one of my own extended family members.

Holy crap, I actually know people who actually believe this stuff.

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Images via Canva and Unsplash

If there's one thing that everyone can agree on, it's that being in a pandemic sucks.

However, we seem to be on different pages as to what sucks most about it. Many of us are struggling with being separated from our friends and loved ones for so long. Some of us have lost friends and family to the virus, while others are dealing with ongoing health effects of their own illness. Millions are struggling with job loss and financial stress due to businesses being closed. Parents are drowning, dealing with their kids' online schooling and lack of in-person social interactions on top of their own work logistics. Most of us hate wearing masks (even if we do so diligently), and the vast majority of us are just tired of having to think about and deal with everything the pandemic entails.

Much has been made of the mental health impact of the pandemic, which is a good thing. We need to have more open conversations about mental health in general, and with everything so upside down, it's more important now than ever. However, it feels like pandemic mental health conversations have been dominated by people who want to justify anti-lockdown arguments. "We can't let the cure be worse than the disease," people say. Kids' mental health is cited as a reason to open schools, the mental health challenges of financial despair as a reason to keep businesses open, and the mental health impact of social isolation as a reason to ditch social distancing measures.

It's not that those mental health challenges aren't real. They most definitely are. But when we focus exclusively on the mental health impact of lockdowns, we miss the fact that there are also significant mental health struggles on the other side of those arguments.

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