Why Bill and Melinda Gates think time and energy are global superpowers.

Bill and Melinda Gates released their annual letter. Get excited.

Bill and Melinda Gates were chatting with high schoolers when they were asked, "If you could have one superpower, what would it be?"

Their answers to that question may seem pretty simple (and even a little bit boring). But don't be fooled ... they were more clever than they seem.



Melinda said she would want to have more time, and Bill said he would want more energy.

Of course, those super powers could apply to having, say, an additional hour to unwind at the end of a stressful day in Melinda's case or getting an extra energy boost at 3 p.m. (without relying on a third cup of coffee) in Bill's. But, as the duo explained in their foundation's annual letter, which was released this week, it would be great if their superpowers were also applicable to the whole world.

Being time poor (as one might call it) can change the trajectory of a person's whole life.

Yes, food, water, and shelter are all very important (obviously). But it's easy to forget that having access to energy — to charge your phone, wash your clothes, cook your food, get online — has an enormous impact on the time you spend every day simply trying to survive.

When people have more access to energy, that means people have more time, which Bill and Melinda explain will dramatically increase the quality of life for those in developing countries. It is these two interwoven factors — time and energy — that the Gateses focused on in their foundation's annual letter, and these three eye-opening infographics they chose to highlight show we definitely have room for improvement throughout the world:

1. Girls and women spend far more time doing unpaid work — especially in developing nations.

And "it's not just about fairness," according to the Gateses; as the letter reads, "assigning most unpaid work to women harms everyone: men, women, boys, and girls."

On average, women globally spend four and a half hours doing unpaid work — stuff that needs to get done by somebody in order for a society to function (caring for their children, preparing meals, etc.). For men, it's less than half that amount of time.

Graph via the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, used with permission.

Time poverty is a problem in two ways: It's sexist, and it especially hurts people in poor countries.

Take water, for instance. In most places in America, getting clean water is as easy as turning on a faucet. In poor countries, people — often young girls — spend hours every day walking miles to fetch it from a well. For a young person in a poor country — again, more times than not we're talking about girls — fetching water is more important than going to school, getting a job, and (eventually) living financially independent.

"Unless things change, girls today will spend hundreds of thousands more hours than boys doing unpaid work simply because society assumes it’s their responsibility," the Gateses wrote in their letter.

This not only hinders women on an individual level, it hinders a country's overall economic potential. When a woman is stuck fetching water instead of, say, opening a business, it's a bad thing for everyone.

And that brings us to energy.

2. In order to power the world, we need more clean, cheap energy.

Remember that woman who's fetching water? She'd have more time to go to school or start a business if she had access to tap water in her own home. Or an electric stove to prepare meals. Or a car to drive into town.

Having access to an energy source "means you can run hospitals, light up schools, and use tractors to grow more food," the Gateses wrote. And that makes a huge difference when it comes to quality of life.

It's not just enough to have access to energy; energy needs to be clean and cheap. The cheaper the energy, the more people who can afford it, and the cleaner the energy, the better off we'll all be tomorrow.

The good news? The world is slowly losing its dependence on carbon-emitting energy sources.

The bad news? We've got a long way to go.

Graph via the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, used with permission.

Some sources like the U.S. Energy Information Administration and the International Energy Administration put the percent of world renewable-resource energy as high as 13% as of 2012, but still — not that great, right?

It may not seem that important that our new energy sources are clean, seeing as poorer countries are in dire need of it. But it is vital we stay away from oil and coal looking forward because poor countries are actually hit worst when the world spews carbon into our atmosphere.

Which brings us to the point raised in the next chart:

3. The world became increasingly addicted to fossil fuels throughout the 20th century, and poor countries paid the most.

The more fossil fuels we burn, the more carbon is in our air, thus making the planet warmer. And in case you haven't heard, it's been pretty hot out there recently (and it has been for awhile).

See how much the line below spikes upward between about 1950 and 2010? Yeah, not good.

Graph via the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, used with permission.

Probably the most unjust thing about climate change, however, is that the people who contribute to it the least — those in underserved countries, who've used relatively little energy — have been affected the most.

Many people in poor countries rely on agriculture to survive. And when temperatures fluctuate or farmers get too much or too little rain, crops don't grow. When people live directly off the land in their own backyards, they're far more vulnerable to a changing climate.

What's more, a warming planet means more devastating (and frequent) storms. Poor countries don't have the infrastructures in place to be able to recover quickly from, say, a destructive hurricane, so their economies and livelihoods can be drastically affected by just one natural disaster.

But there's a light at the end of the tunnel. We're finally reducing our collective carbon footprint in substantial ways because world leaders have prioritized clean energy in recent years. In fact, 2015 may just be the first year that the global economy has grown while carbon output plateaued (or even declined). Things (not temperatures) are looking up.

Now Bill and Melinda want to know — what would be your superpower?

Something that helps eradicate disease? Provides more access to clean water?

Join the conversation and answer the question "What can you do to improve the world?" by tweeting and posting with the hashtag #SuperpowerForGood.

Images courtesy of Letters of Love
True

When Grace Berbig was 7 years old, her mom was diagnosed with leukemia, a cancer of the body’s blood-forming tissues. Being so young, Grace didn’t know what cancer was or why her mother was suddenly living in the hospital. But she did know this: that while her mom was in the hospital, she would always be assured that her family was thinking of her, supporting her and loving her every step of her journey.

Nearly every day, Grace and her two younger sisters would hand-make cards and fill them with drawings and messages of love, which their mother would hang all over the walls of her hospital room. These cherished letters brought immeasurable peace and joy to their mom during her sickness. Sadly, when Grace was just 10 years old, her mother lost her battle with cancer.“

Image courtesy of Letters of Love

Losing my mom put the world in a completely different perspective for me,” Grace says. “I realized that you never know when someone could leave you, so you have to love the people you love with your whole heart, every day.”

Grace’s father was instrumental in helping in the healing process of his daughters. “I distinctly remember my dad constantly reminding my two little sisters, Bella and Sophie, and I that happiness is a choice, and it was now our job to turn this heartbreaking event in our life into something positive.”

When she got to high school, Grace became involved in the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society and a handful of other organizations. But she never felt like she was doing enough.

“I wanted to create an opportunity for people to help beyond donating money, and one that anyone could be a part of, no matter their financial status.”

In October 2018, Grace started Letters of Love, a club at her high school in Long Lake, Minnesota, to emotionally support children battling cancer and other serious illnesses through letter-writing and craft-making.


Image courtesy of Letters of Love

Much to her surprise, more than 100 students showed up for the first club meeting. From then on, Letters of Love grew so fast that during her senior year in high school, Grace had to start a GoFundMe to help cover the cost of card-making materials.

Speaking about her nonprofit today, Grace says, “I can’t find enough words to explain how blessed I feel to have this organization. Beyond the amount of kids and families we are able to support, it allows me to feel so much closer and more connected to my mom.”

Since its inception, Letters of Love has grown to more than 25 clubs with more than 1,000 members providing emotional support to more than 60,000 patients in children’s hospitals around the world. And in the process it has become a full-time job for Grace.

“I do everything from training volunteers and club ambassadors, paying bills, designing merchandise, preparing financial predictions and overviews, applying for grants, to going through each and every card ensuring they are appropriate to send out to hospitals.”

Image courtesy of Letters of Love

In addition to running Letters of Love, Grace and her small team must also contend with the emotions inherent in their line of work.

“There have been many, many tears cried,” she says. “Working to support children who are battling cancer and other serious and sometimes chronic illnesses can absolutely be extremely difficult mentally. I feel so blessed to be an organization that focuses solely on bringing joy to these children, though. We do everything we can to simply put a smile on their face, and ensure they know that they are so loved, so strong, and so supported by people all around the world.”

Image courtesy of Letters of Love

Letters of Love has been particularly instrumental in offering emotional support to children who have been unable to see friends and family due to COVID-19. A video campaign in the summer of 2021 even saw members of the NFL’s Minnesota Vikings and the NHL’s Minnesota Wild offer short videos of hope and encouragement to affected children.

Grace is currently taking a gap year before she starts college so she can focus on growing Letters of Love as well as to work on various related projects, including the publication of a children’s book.

“The goal of the book is to teach children the immense impact that small acts of kindness can have, how to treat their peers who may be diagnosed with disabilities or illness, and how they are never too young to change the world,” she says.

Since she was 10, Grace has kept memories of her mother close to her, as a source of love and inspiration in her life and in the work she does with Letters of Love.

Image courtesy of Grace Berbig

“When I lost my mom, I felt like a section of my heart went with her, so ever since, I have been filling that piece with love and compassion towards others. Her smile and joy were infectious, and I try to mirror that in myself and touch people’s hearts as she did.”

For more information visit Letters of Love.

Please donate to Grace’s GoFundMe and help Letters of Love to expand, publish a children’s book and continue to reach more children in hospitals around the world.

Ronny Tertnes' "liquid sculptures" are otherworldly.

Human beings have sculpted artwork out of all kinds of materials throughout history, from clay to concrete to bronze. Some sculpt with water in the form of ice, but what if you could create sculptures with small drops of liquid?

Norwegian artist Ronny Tertnes does just that. His "liquid sculptures" look like something from another planet or another dimension, while at the same time are entirely recognizable as water droplets.

I mean, check this out:


Keep Reading Show less
Images courtesy of AFutureSuperhero and Friends and Balance Dance Project
True

The day was scorching hot, but the weather wasn’t going to stop a Star Wars Stormtrooper from handing out school supplies to a long line of eager children. “You guys don’t have anything illegal back there - any droids or anything?” the Stormtrooper asks, making sure he was safe from enemies before handing over a colorful backpack to a smiling boy.

The man inside the costume is Yuri Williams, founder of AFutureSuperhero And Friends, a Los Angeles nonprofit that uplifts and inspires marginalized people with small acts of kindness.

Yuri’s organization is one of four inaugural grant winners from the Upworthy Kindness Fund, a joint initiative between Upworthy and GoFundMe that celebrates kindness and everyday actions inspired by the best of humanity. This year, the Upworthy Kindness Fund is giving $100,000 to grassroots changemakers across the world.

To apply, campaign organizers simply tell Upworthy how their kindness project is making a difference. Between now and the end of 2021, each accepted individual or organization will receive $500 towards an existing GoFundMe and a shout-out on Upworthy.

Meet the first four winners:

1: Balance Dance Project: This studio aims to bring accessible dance to all in the Sacramento, CA area. Lead fundraiser Miranda Macias says many dancers spend hours a day at Balance practicing contemporary, lyrical, hip-hop, and ballet. Balance started a GoFundMe to raise money to cover tuition for dancers from low-income communities, buy dance team uniforms, and update its facility. The $500 contribution from the Kindness Fund nudged Balance closer to its $5,000 goal.

2: Citizens of the World Mar Vista Robotics Team: In Los Angeles, middle school teacher James Pike is introducing his students to the field of robotics via a Lego-building team dedicated to solving real-world problems.

James started a GoFundMe to crowdfund supplies for his students’ team ahead of the First Lego League, a school-against-school matchup that includes robotics competitions. The team, James explained, needed help to cover half the cost of the pricey $4,000 robotics kit. Thanks to help from the Upworthy Kindness Fund and the generosity of the Citizens of the World Middle School community, the team exceeded its initial fundraising goal.

Citizens of the World Mar Vista Robotics Team video update youtu.be

3: Black Fluidity Tattoo Club: Kiara Mills and Tann Parker want to fix a big problem in the tattoo industry: there are too few Black tattoo artists. To tackle the issue, the duo founded the Black Fluidity Tattoo Club to inspire and support Black tattooers. While the Brooklyn organization is open to any Black person, Kiara and Tann specifically want to encourage dark-skinned artists to train in an affirming space among people with similar identities.

To make room for newcomers, the club recently moved into a larger studio with a third station for apprentices or guest artists. Unlike a traditional fundraiser that supports the organization exclusively, Black Fluidity Tattoo Club will distribute proceeds from GoFundMe directly to emerging Black tattoo artists who are starting their own businesses. The small grants, supported in part with a $500 contribution from the Upworthy Kindness Fund, will go towards artists’ equipment, supplies, furnishings, and other start-up costs.

4: AFutureSuperhero And Friends’ “Hope For The Holidays”: Founder Yuri Williams is fundraising for a holiday trip to spread cheer to people in need across all fifty states.

Along with collaborator Rodney Smith Jr., Yuri will be handing out gifts to children, adults, and animals dressed as a Star Wars’ Stormtrooper, Spiderman, Deadpool, and other movie or comic book characters. Starting this month, the crew will be visiting children with disabilities or serious illnesses, bringing leashes and toys to animal shelters for people taking home a new pet, and spreading blessings to unhoused people—all while in superhero costume. This will be the third time Yuri and his nonprofit have taken this journey.

AFutureSuperhero started a GoFundMe in July to cover the cost of gifts as well as travel expenses like hotels and rental cars. To help the nonprofit reach its $15,000 goal, the Upworthy Kindness Fund contributed $500 towards this good cause.

Think you qualify for the fund? Tell us how you’re bringing kindness to your community. Grants will be awarded on a rolling basis from now through the end of 2021. For questions and more information, please check out our FAQ's and the Kindness Toolkit for resources on how to start your own kindness fundraiser.

Rabbi Charlie Cytron-Walker of Congregation Beth Israel.

A stranger knocked on the door of Congregation Beth Israel in Colleyville, Texas on Saturday morning shortly before Shabbat service. It was 20 degrees Fahrenheit outside, so Rabbi Charlie Cytron-Walker, 46, made him a cup of tea. The rabbi and Malik Faisal Akram, 44, a British national, spoke for a few moments and then the rabbi went on to perform his regular 10 a.m. Shabbat prayers for his congregation.

When the rabbi turned his back to face Jerusalem, he heard a click come from the stranger. "And it turned out, that it was his gun," Cytron-Walker told CBS News.

Akram began screaming and a congregant, Jeffrey Cohen, the vice president of the synagogue's board of trustees, quickly pulled out his phone and dialed 911. A livestream broadcasting the prayer ceremony to congregants participating from home caught some of what Akram was shouting. "I'm gunned up. I'm ammo-ed up," he told someone he called nephew. "Guess what, I will die."

The FBI got word of the 911 call and quickly set up a perimeter around the synagogue. Akram took four people hostage, including the rabbi.

Keep Reading Show less
More

The airplane graveyard that 3 families call home is the subject of a stunning photo series.

From the skies to the ground, these airplanes continue to serve a purpose.

This article originally appeared on 09.18.15


What happens to airplanes after they're no longer fit to roam the skies?


An abandoned 747 rests in a Bangkok lot. Photo by Taylor Weidman/Getty Images.

Decommissioned planes are often stripped and sold for parts, with the remains finding a new home in what is sometimes referred to as an "airplane boneyard" or "graveyard." Around the world, these graveyards exist; they're made up of large, empty lots and tons of scrap metal.

Keep Reading Show less