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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.

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When Sue Hoppin was in college, she met the man she was going to marry. "I was attending the University of Denver, and he was at the Air Force Academy," she says. "My dad had also attended the University of Denver and warned me not to date those flyboys from the Springs."

"He didn't say anything about marrying one of them," she says. And so began her life as a military spouse.

The life brings some real advantages, like opportunities to live abroad — her family got to live all around the US, Japan, and Germany — but it also comes with some downsides, like having to put your spouse's career over your own goals.

"Though we choose to marry someone in the military, we had career goals before we got married, and those didn't just disappear."

Career aspirations become more difficult to achieve, and progress comes with lots of starts and stops. After experiencing these unique challenges firsthand, Sue founded an organization to help other military spouses in similar situations.

Sue had gotten a degree in international relations because she wanted to pursue a career in diplomacy, but for fourteen years she wasn't able to make any headway — not until they moved back to the DC area. "Eighteen months later, many rejections later, it became apparent that this was going to be more challenging than I could ever imagine," she says.

Eighteen months is halfway through a typical assignment, and by then, most spouses are looking for their next assignment. "If I couldn't find a job in my own 'hometown' with multiple degrees and a great network, this didn't bode well for other military spouses," she says.

She's not wrong. Military spouses spend most of their lives moving with their partners, which means they're often far from family and other support networks. When they do find a job, they often make less than their civilian counterparts — and they're more likely to experience underemployment or unemployment. In fact, on some deployments, spouses are not even allowed to work.

Before the pandemic, military spouse unemployment was 22%. Since the pandemic, it's expected to rise to 35%.

Sue eventually found a job working at a military-focused nonprofit, and it helped her get the experience she needed to create her own dedicated military spouse program. She wrote a book and started saving up enough money to start the National Military Spouse Network (NMSN), which she founded in 2010 as the first organization of its kind.

"I founded the NMSN to help professional military spouses develop flexible careers they could perform from any location."

"Over the years, the program has expanded to include a free digital magazine, professional development events, drafting annual White Papers and organizing national and local advocacy to address the issues of most concern to the professional military spouse community," she says.

Not only was NMSN's mission important to Sue on a personal level she also saw it as part of something bigger than herself.

"Gone are the days when families can thrive on one salary. Like everyone else, most military families rely on two salaries to make ends meet. If a military spouse wants or needs to work, they should be able to," she says.

"When less than one percent of our population serves in the military," she continues, "we need to be able to not only recruit the best and the brightest but also retain them."

"We lose out as a nation when service members leave the force because their spouse is unable to find employment. We see it as a national security issue."

"The NMSN team has worked tirelessly to jumpstart the discussion and keep the challenges affecting military spouses top of mind. We have elevated the conversation to Congress and the White House," she continues. "I'm so proud of the fact that corporations, the government, and the general public are increasingly interested in the issues affecting military spouses and recognizing the employment roadblocks they unfairly have faced."

"We have collectively made other people care, and in doing so, we elevated the issues of military spouse unemployment to a national and global level," she adds. "In the process, we've also empowered military spouses to advocate for themselves and our community so that military spouse employment issues can continue to remain at the forefront."

Not only has NMSN become a sought-after leader in the military spouse employment space, but Sue has also seen the career she dreamed of materializing for herself. She was recently invited to participate in the public re-launch of Joining Forces, a White House initiative supporting military and veteran families, with First Lady Dr. Jill Biden.

She has also had two of her recommendations for practical solutions introduced into legislation just this year. She was the first in the Air Force community to show leadership the power of social media to reach both their airmen and their military families.

That is why Sue is one of Tory Burch's "Empowered Women" this year. The $5,000 donation will be going to The Madeira School, a school that Sue herself attended when she was in high school because, she says, "the lessons I learned there as a student pretty much set the tone for my personal and professional life. It's so meaningful to know that the donation will go towards making a Madeira education more accessible to those who may not otherwise be able to afford it and providing them with a life-changing opportunity."

Most military children will move one to three times during high school so having a continuous four-year experience at one high school can be an important gift. After traveling for much of her formative years, Sue attended Madeira and found herself "in an environment that fostered confidence and empowerment. As young women, we were expected to have a voice and advocate not just for ourselves, but for those around us."

To learn more about Tory Burch and Upworthy's Empowered Women program visit https://www.toryburch.com/empoweredwomen/. Nominate an inspiring woman in your community today!

Vanna White appeared on "The Price Is Right" in 1980.

Vanna White has been a household name in the United States for decades, which is kind of hilarious when you consider how she gained her fame and fortune. Since 1982, the former model and actress has made millions walking back and forth turning letters (and later simply touching them—yay technology) on the game show "Wheel of Fortune."

That's it. Walking back and forth in a pretty evening gown, flipping letters and clapping for contestants. More on that job in a minute…

As a member of Gen X, television game shows like "Wheel of Fortune" and "The Price is Right" send me straight back to my childhood. Watching this clip from 1980 of Vanna White competing on "The Price is Right" two years before she started turning letters on "Wheel of Fortune" is like stepping into a time machine. Bob Barker's voice, the theme music, the sound effects—I swear I'm home from school sick, lying on the ugly flowered couch with my mom checking my forehead and bringing me Tang.

This video has it all: the early '80s hairstyles, a fresh-faced Vanna White and Bob Barker's casual sexism that would never in a million years fly today.

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