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When some koalas needed friends, these farmers stepped up.

A new coal mine would uproot 2,000 acres of woodland the koalas depend on for food and shelter.

When some koalas needed friends, these farmers stepped up.
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League of Conservation Voters

The Liverpool Plains of Australia are a tawny green stretch of land in New South Wales, Australia.

Nestled between two mountain ranges, the land is incredibly rich, with fertile soils, a large aquifer, and large swaths of woodland.


Image via Tim J Keegan/Flickr.

It's also sitting on tons of coal.

Something the Australian government and the Shenhua Group — a Chinese mining company — would love to get their hands on. Australia is positively addicted to digging the stuff out of the ground — it's one of the largest coal exporters in the world — and depends on it for 70% of its electricity.

"Coal is good for humanity, coal is good for prosperity, coal is an essential part of our economic future, here in Australia, and right around the world," said then-Prime Minister Tony Abbott in 2014.

But farmers don't want to live next to a coal mine.

The Anglesea coal mine in nearby Victoria is an example of Australian pit mining. Image via Takver/Flickr.

The government's approved a massive 1,000-foot-deep open-pit mine right in the Liverpool Plains to get at the coal. The mine would raze large swaths of land and could pollute the aquifer that locals depend on to live, farm, and ranch.

The land's already bought and sold and the government's already signed the approval. However, farmers have now challenged the government's approval of the mine in court.

They say the miners didn't think about the koalas.


Image via Marc Dalmulder/Flickr.

The mine would uproot 2,000 acres of woodland the koalas depend on for food and shelter.

The Liverpool koala population are already in trouble from the recent droughts and brush fires. Koalas aren't good at keeping cool and need big shady trees to protect them. If the trees are cut down, the koalas overheat.

"They are large animals that live in trees, they can't burrow down or fly away to get away from the heat. We could see a huge reduction in numbers if habitat is not kept properly."

"If we don't plant enough big trees, we will find koalas perish if heatwaves increase," Matthew Crowther, a researcher from the University of Syndey, told Guardian Australia in 2013. More than a quarter of the local Liverpool Plains koala population died in a 2009 heat wave.

"They are large animals that live in trees, they can't burrow down or fly away to get away from the heat. We could see a huge reduction in numbers if habitat is not kept properly."

And climate change is only going to make things harder.

Koalas eat nothing but eucalyptus leaves. But as the weather gets hotter and drier and carbon dioxide levels rise, eucalyptus trees are changing how their leaves grow. They'll have less protein, less nutrients, and more bitter, toxic tannins. Koalas may start to starve.

This is serious enough that the IUCN — the International Union for the Conservation of Nature — specifically named them as one of the animals most at risk from climate change.

Of course, the animals could just eat more or be more picky about which trees they live in, but there's only so much to go around. This'll mean that many koalas may need to travel long distances to stay fed. Scientists are predicting that koala populations may need to move to the south and east.


Koalas are not particularly fast or agile, so being on the ground puts them in a lot of danger from dogs and other predators. Image via Frankzed/Flickr.

And though traveling on the ground is something koalas could do, there's one particular problem the Liverpool koalas will have.

Namely, a giant freaking mine in the way.

Not only would the mine be, you know, a giant barren pit full of giant, dangerous machinery, it would also require new roads and railway lines to be built, which would only make it harder for koalas to migrate.

Plus the fact that burning this coal would release more carbon makes this mine a double whammy against koalas.

"Scientists are not optimistic of the ability of this highly specialised species to adapt to a changing climate," said a 2009 report by the IUCN (PDF). Though koalas are still widespread, they may not stay that way in the future.

The Australian federal government does not currently protect koalas as a threatened species, but farmers hope that by highlighting their plight, they can stop the construction of this mine and save their land (and an Australian icon) while they're at it.

Image via Kate Ausburn/Flickr.

If you're interested in lending a hand not just to koalas but to all animals threatened by fossil fuels and climate change, you can help by signing the League of Conservation Voters' petition telling Congress to support the Clean Power Plan.

Photo by Anna Shvets from Pexels
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Increasingly customers are looking for more conscious shopping options. According to a Nielsen survey in 2018, nearly half (48%) of U.S. consumers say they would definitely or probably change their consumption habits to reduce their impact on the environment.

But while many consumers are interested in spending their money on products that are more sustainable, few actually follow through. An article in the 2019 issue of Harvard Business Review revealed that 65% of consumers said they want to buy purpose-driven brands that advocate sustainability, but only about 26% actually do so. It's unclear where this intention gap comes from, but thankfully it's getting more convenient to shop sustainably from many of the retailers you already support.

Amazon recently introduced Climate Pledge Friendly, "a new program to help make it easy for customers to discover and shop for more sustainable products." When you're browsing Amazon, a Climate Pledge Friendly label will appear on more than 45,000 products to signify they have one or more different sustainability certifications which "help preserve the natural world, reducing the carbon footprint of shipments to customers," according to the online retailer.

Amazon

In order to distinguish more sustainable products, the program partnered with a wide range of external certifications, including governmental agencies, non-profits, and independent laboratories, all of which have a focus on preserving the natural world.

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Anderson Cooper has interviewed hundreds of people, from top celebrities to heads of state to people on the street. He is fairly unflappable when it comes to chatting with a guest, which is what makes his reaction while interviewing inaugural poet Amanda Gorman all the more delightful.

Gorman stole the show at President Biden's Inauguration with a powerful performance of her original poem, "The Hill We Climb." People were blown away by both her words and her poise in delivering them, especially considering the fact that she's only 22 years old. But it's one thing to be able to write and recite well, and another to be able to impress in an off-the-cuff conversation—and Gorman proved in her interview on Anderson Cooper 360 that she can do both at a level most of us can only dream of.

In the interview, Gorman explained how she dove into research to prepare her poem to fit the occasion, and then how that work was disrupted by the attack on the Capitol.

"I'm not going to say that that completely derailed the poem, because I was not surprised at what had happened," she said. "I had seen the signs and the symptoms for a while, and I was not trying to turn a blind eye to that. But what it did is it energized me even more, to believe that much more firmly in a message of hope and unity and healing. I felt like that was the type of poem that I needed to write and it was the type of poem that the country and the world needed to hear."

After explaining how she used tweets and articles and messages about the Capitol insurrection to hone parts of her poem, she shared thoughts on reclaiming the power of words.

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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.