Why this photographer wishes his viral underwater photo didn't exist.

Photographer Justin Hofman was snorkeling along the beautiful coast of Indonesia when the tide swept a mountain of garbage his way.

Photo by Justin Hofman used with permission.

"It was really quite gross," he says. He had been snapping underwater photos of the brilliant coral and different kinds of interesting fish when his field of view was suddenly swamped with trash and sewage.


He continued swimming away from the trash, his camera at the ready, when something tiny caught his eye. Below the wave of garbage, a tiny orange seahorse floated by, its tail wrapped serenely around a pink cotton swab. The juxtaposition struck him, and he quickly snapped a picture.

"This image was a perfect combination of our experiences in Indonesia," he explains. "Amazing wildlife, but terrible pollution."

Photo by Justin Hofman/Wildlife Photographer of the Year used with permission

The photo struck a nerve with everyone who saw it. Hofman submitted the image to the Wildlife Photographer of the Year competition held by the Natural History Museum in London, where it's currently a finalist.

He also posted it to his own Instagram account, where it quickly went viral, attracting over 16,000 Likes and endless waves of supportive comments.

"It’s a photo that I wish didn’t exist but now that it does I want everyone to see it," he wrote in the caption. "What sort of future are we creating? How can your actions shape our planet?"

Ocean pollution is a problem that extends far beyond the shores of Indonesia. It's, well, everywhere.

Here's a disgusting thought: Over a billion pounds of garbage enters the ocean from around the world each year. There are masses of plastic and garbage — called "plastic patches" — clumped together floating through the seas, some that are even bigger than some countries.

This isn't a new problem, but it is one that can seem far away, distant and out of sight amidst the endless ocean. Hofman's photo is a reminder that it's anything but. After all, who hasn't used a Q-tip recently? How many of us have thought about where that Q-tip would end up?

There are a lot of smart people coming up with clever ways of cleaning up our oceans, but we can all help by being more responsible with our trash and never, ever littering.

This seahorse "surfing" on a cotton swab might make a fascinating photo, but as Hofman wrote, it'd be a heck of a lot better if it didn't exist at all.

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Shanda Lynn Poitra was born and raised on the Turtle Mountain Reservation in Belcourt, North Dakota. She lived there until she was 24 years old when she left for college at the University of North Dakota in Grand Forks.

"Unfortunately," she says, "I took my bad relationship with me. At the time, I didn't realize it was so bad, much less, abusive. Seeing and hearing about abusive relationships while growing up gave me the mentality that it was just a normal way of life."

Those college years away from home were difficult for a lot of reasons. She had three small children — two in diapers, one in elementary school — as well as a full-time University class schedule and a part-time job as a housekeeper.

"I wore many masks back then and clothing that would cover the bruises," she remembers. "Despite the darkness that I was living in, I was a great student; I knew that no matter what, I HAD to succeed. I knew there was more to my future than what I was living, so I kept working hard."

While searching for an elective class during this time, she came across a one-credit, 20-hour IMPACT self-defense class that could be done over a weekend. That single credit changed her life forever. It helped give her the confidence to leave her abusive relationship and inspired her to bring IMPACT classes to other Native women in her community.

I walked into class on a Friday thinking that I would simply learn how to handle a person trying to rob me, and I walked out on a Sunday evening with a voice so powerful that I could handle the most passive attacks to my being, along with physical attacks."

It didn't take long for her to notice the difference the class was making in her life.

"I was setting boundaries and people were either respecting them or not, but I was able to acknowledge who was worth keeping in my life and who wasn't," she says.

Following the class, she also joined a roller derby league where she met many other powerful women who inspired her — and during that summer, she found the courage to leave her abuser.

"As afraid as I was, I finally had the courage to report the abuse to legal authorities, and I had the support of friends and family who provided comfort for my children and I during this time," she says.

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One little girl took pictures of her school lunches. The Internet responded — and so did the school.

If you listened to traditional news media (and sometimes social media), you'd begin to think the Internet and technology are bad for kids. Or kids are bad for technology. Here's a fascinating alternative idea.

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Norton

This article originally appeared on 03.31.15

Kids can innovate, create, and imagine in ways that are fresh and inspiring — when we "allow" them to do so, anyway. Despite the tendency for parents to freak out because their kids are spending more and more time with technology in schools, and the tendency for schools themselves to set extremely restrictive limits on the usage of such technology, there's a solid argument for letting them be free to imagine and then make it happen.

It's not a stretch to say the kids in this video are on the cutting edge. Some of the results he talks about in the video at the bottom are quite impressive.

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