Love songs are where we get our passion, our soul — and most of our worst ideas.
Throughout human history, oceans have been crossed, mountains have been scaled, and great families have blossomed — all because of a few simple chords and a melody that inflamed a heart and propelled it on a noble, romantic mission.
On the other hand, that time you told that girl you just started seeing that you would "catch a grenade" for her? You did that because of a love song. And it wasn't exactly a coincidence that she suddenly decided to "lose your number" and move back to Milwaukee to "figure some stuff out."
Nothing good can come of this. Photo by Achim Voss/Flickr.
That time you held that boom box over your head outside your ex's house? You did that because of a love song. And 50 hours of community service later, you're still not back together.
Love songs are great. They make our hearts beat faster. They inspire us to take risks and put our feelings on the line. And they give us terrible, terrible ideas about how actual, real-life human relationships should work.
They're amazing. So amazing. And also terrible.
Here are six love songs that sound romantic but aren't, and one song that doesn't sound romantic but totally is:
You can keep your "Surfin' Safaris," your "I Get Arounds," and your "Help me Rhondas."
When it comes to The Beach Boys, "God Only Knows" is where it's at. A lush garden of soft horns and breezy melody. A tie-dye swirl of sound. A landscape of haunted innocence with some of the most heartrending lyrics ever committed to the back of a surfboard.
Youth! Youth! Youth! Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images.
Here's why it sounds romantic:
If you're traipsing through a meadow in a sundress with your beloved and not playing "God Only Knows" on your iPod, you should really stop and start over.
If you're lazily bumping a beach ball over a volleyball net and "God Only Knows" isn't playing somewhere in the back of your mind, you need to rethink the choices that got you to this point.
If you're a video editor compiling footage of grainy hippies frolicking in the mud and you're not underscoring it with the opening chords of "God Only Knows," you are doing it wrong.
It's a song that just feels like love. Pure love. Young love. Love with a chill, kelp-y vibe.
What could be wrong with that?
Here's why it's actually really, really unromantic:
There's nothing wrong with loving someone. Sending them flowers. Leaving over-the-top notes in their P.O. boxes. Stroking their hair as they fall asleep while you whisper the complete works of Nicholas Sparks into their ear.
"Miles Ryan stood on the back porch of his house, smoking a cigarette…" Photo by hatchettebookgroup.biz.
But there is such a thing as loving someone a skosh too much.
Look, I get it. Breakups suck. There's no getting around that. But good God.
There's a huge difference between saying: "Hey babe, you are my first and foremost everything and I'll be bummed if you go." And saying: "Welp, you accepted that job in Seattle, so I'm just gonna chug a bunch of nightshade and call it a life."
But that's pretty much the gist here. Which makes this line…
…horror-movie creepy. Because the answer, apparently, is: "I'd be a corpse!"
That's not love. That's codependency (to put it mildly). Oh, and hey! Threatening to kill yourself if your partner leaves isn't loving. It's a form of emotional abuse.
Investing all your happiness and sense of self-worth in any relationship — one that, by definition, might one day end — is putting a lot of eggs in one basket. Sure, God may only know what you'd be without her, but God probably also hopes you have, I don't know, some hobbies. Take a yoga class. Google some woodworking videos. Try kite surfing.
"Yeah! Hell yeah! What was her name again?" Photo by Jim Semlor/Federal Highway Administration.
One person cannot be anyone's be-all and end-all. It's too stressful. And it prevents you from doing you, which is a thing that's gotta be done before you can do anything else.
No wonder she took that job in Seattle.
Sure, it's a blatant rip off of every Michael Jackson song you've ever heard. But, we don't have Michael Jackson anymore, and as tribute acts go, you could do a lot worse than Bruno Mars.
Look at that face. That face! Photo by Brothers Le/Flickr.
Here's why the song sounds romantic:
Pass those lyrics to anyone on a used napkin at an eighth-grade make-out party and you'll likely get an instant toll pass on the highway to tongue-town (ew).
Pass them to your spouse and, chances are, date night is going to culminate in 47 minutes of chaste-yet-passionate frenching.
Pass them to a cop who pulls you over for running a stop sign, and they will think you're weird — but probably still make out with you.
In fact, Bruno Mars basically has a lifetime pass to make out with America because of this song.
And I'm OK with that.
But, here's why "Treasure" isn't as romantic as it seems:
Everything about "Treasure" is retro. Everything.
Including its attitudes about gender.
Things start to go south right from the very beginning:
Ah yes. Nothing screams "respect" quite like a man lecturing a strange woman on the street about something she "doesn't know about herself."
What could it be? Could it be that her jokes are funny? Could it be that she's got something in her teeth? Could it be that her nonfiction book about early modern German history is extremely detailed and informative?
"Thanks for teaching me all about Martin Luther's bible!" Photo by Torsten Schleese/Wikimedia Commons.
Spoiler Alert: It's none of those.
Oh. It's that she's sexy. Cool, bro. Very original.
Word of advice? Regardless of how she's walking, the lady knows she's sexy. Even if she doesn't, it really doesn't affect her day-to-day so much that you, a complete stranger, need to shout it at her (even over a funky disco snare).
So what if she does want to be someone else? I'd love to be someone else! I think being Ryan Gosling would be quite nice. A good way to spend a three-day weekend.
And then later, of course, the narrator can't help himself:
He respects her so much, he's actually straight-up telling her to smile! Much like Mars' character "Uptown Funk," who appears to get off on angrily exhorting girls to "hit [their] hallelujah." Which, you know, I guess everybody's got a thing.
Yes, in the world of "Treasure," a healthy relationship is an unending stream of a man complimenting a strange woman and said woman being so totally flattered that she immediately dispenses "the sex."
He then proceeds to talk to his potential lover like the world's creepiest pirate:
By this point, in his mind, she's a literal thing. An object. Which is fitting.
I suppose it could be worse, though. At least she's not just any thing.
GIF from "The Two Towers."
That's … something, right?
For as long as humans have been dating each other, humans have been breaking up with each other. And "Don't Think Twice" is a portrait of a relationship going down in flames. Glorious, poetic, acoustic flames.
File:Joan Baez Bob Dylan crop.jpg – Wikimedia Commonscommons.wikimedia.org
Here's why it sounds romantic:
Boom. Strummed on out of that friends-with-benefits situation like whoa.
"Don't Think Twice" is a raw song. An honest song. A powerful song. It's the song your older sister played on continuous loop for six months after her boyfriend left for college. The song that convinced your Aunt Roslyn to leave her bank-teller job, load her four Australian shepherds into the van, and open a wind chime store in Mendocino. The song your friend's cool dad always wants to play when he invited your high school band over to his apartment to jam.
Sure, it's about the end of a relationship, but it sounds romantic. And at the end of the day, shouldn't that be enough?
Here's why it's actually sooooo messed up:
Relationships end. For a lot of reasons. And while there is no right way to call it quits with someone, when the dust settles, both parties can certainly benefit from a difficult, honest discussion about what went wrong.
In "Don't Think Twice," that discussion basically boils down to: "It's your fault."
Let's review the reasons the dude in "Don't Think Twice" is splitting with his lady friend:
Ugh, women, right? You're all like, "Babe, I just have so much unspecified love to give," and she's like, "Take out the trash!" And you're like, "But baaaaaaabe, shouldn't my heart be enough?" And she's like, "No, seriously. I already did the laundry, cleaned the whole house, fed the dog, did the dishes, and made both of our lunches for the week. All I need you to do is take out the trash." And you're like, "You're bumming me out. I'm gonna go play guitar." And then she gets all mad! What did you do? Why is she trying to change you? UGH!
Yes. You do mind! You mind! You wrote a song about it, you passive-aggressive prick.
Ah yes. Your time is so precious! Think about all the hours you wasted plumbing the ocean-deep, ecstatic mysteries of human partnership when you could have been futzing around with that home-brew kit.
Yes, this was worth it.Photo by Bill Bradford/Flickr.
The minute you start breaking it down, the message of "Don't Think Twice" suddenly starts to seem a lot less romantic. Like your sister's ex-boyfriend, who worked at the Bass Pro Shop in town for a while and now might be in jail. Like your aunt's wind chime store, which would have closed forever ago had she not received that inheritance from her mom in the '80s. Like your friend's cool dad, who wasn't exactly, technically, paying child support.
Oh yeah, and the song's narrator also point-blank refers woman he's leaving as:
That's right. In addition to being a run-of-the-mill passive-aggressive jerk — turns out, he's also possibly a pedophile.
Even if we are to accept that this is a metaphor and she's not actually a child — which there's no indication it is, but OK, Bob Dylan — the fact that Commitmentphobe Gunderson here would willingly choose an immature partner reflects way more poorly on him than it does on her.
Breaking up with anyone in such a cruel, dismissive way is a recipe for sticking them with years of therapy bills.
Which, I suppose, may be the point.
Who has two thumbs and wrote a bittersweet folk song about hurtling through the stratosphere in a giant aluminum tube at 600 miles per hour?
This guy.Photo by Hughes Television Network/Wikimedia Commons.
Here's why it sounds romantic:
"Leaving on a Jet Plane" is a lovely song. And impressive in its loveliness because jet planes were still kind of new at the time it was written.
To a modern ear, this would be sort of like singing, "I'm a scoooting away on my hoverboooooard," but in a way that's somehow still folksy and heartbreaking and singable by 9-year-olds at summer camp. Not easy to do!
You see — he hates to go! He just hates it! We know this, because he tells us he hates it. And why would he hate to go if he didn't love his partner just that much?
Photo by Altair78/Wikimedia Commons.
Here's why it's actually not that romantic at all:
All the plaintive guitar, loping bass line, and twangy, melancholy warbling in the world can only distract so much from the fact that the song's main character is well, kind of a jerkweed.
And in reality — surprise surprise! — it doesn't actually seem like he hates being away all that much:
"Babe, I promise! All the movies I watched alone while you were home nursing the quadruplets. All the times I drained our life savings on Zoo Zillionaire. All the random sex I had with other women. Totally meaningless. Certainly fun to do! Really fun. Like, I had a fantastic time. But rest assured — completely empty, in an ontological sense."
Yes, when you break it down, "Leaving on a Jet Plane," is less of a passionate tribute to love overcoming distance and more the deluded ramblings of a guy who needs to convince himself he's "good" despite all evidence to the contrary.
And for all he claims to be broken up about having to part from his one and only, the dude seems pretty excited about the flight. Oh, you're leaving on a jet plane, are you? Are you Zone 1? Gonna humblebrag on Twitter about the "terrible" Cibo express salad you were forced to choke down as you sat waiting to embark on your fun, mysterious adventure?
"Life so hard @ LGA #missingmybabe." Photo by Gesalbte/Wikimedia Commons.
Ah cool. He'll think about her while strumming and making "my love is delicate as the morning dew" eyes at a waif-y grad student in the front row. That pretty much makes up for it all.
Then he demands:
After all the betrayal and heartbreak, after basically revealing himself to be a grade-A sleaze who can't be trusted, he still has the gall to tell her to wait? To wait for him?
And here's the kicker:
Ah yes. He'll put a ring on it. Finally.
Unlike all the previous trips, where he's cheated a billion times, drained the family bank account, and just been a general screwup and disappointment.
But yeah. This time he says he'll bring back a wedding ring.
I hope she joins a polyamorous octad and never looks back.
When you look up "soul" in the dictionary, the book plays you a recording of this song.
Percy Sledge, having a few thoughts. Photo by Gene Pugh/Flickr.
Specifically, it plays you the very first line.
Here's why it sound very romantic:
Sure, you can write the lyrics down, but it doesn't even come close to capturing the heartache. The yearning. The delicious, delicious pain-belting:
Closer … but still no.
Yes! Sing it, Percy Sledge!
It's an elemental lyric.
It's a heart-shattering lyric.
It's a lyric that demands you put your back into it.
As long as you don't keep listening.
Here's why the song is actually pretty horrifying:
From the opening lines of "When a Man Loves a Woman," we know that, at least on occasion, a man loves a woman.
Which raises the question: What happens when said man loves said woman?
Whoa! OK. No. Back up. A man, no matter how devoted, no matter how selfless, no matter how in love, needs shelter. Otherwise, a man will die of exposure and hypothermia.
No! Jeez. No. A man can't put up with that kind of isolating behavior. A man needs friends! Once a man's whole support system erodes out from under him, a man will be bitter, ungrounded, and alone. And a man's mental health will deteriorate.
This is not what happens "when a man loves a woman." It's what happens when a man loves a controlling, manipulative woman. An abusive woman. A woman who, in truth, only loves a woman. Herself.
"It's Chris or me." Photo by geralt/Pixabay.
And that's not healthy.
Run, Percy Sledge, run! We're here for you.
(Side note: Lest it go unsaid, there is way more than one way for a man to love a woman. Maybe they spend every waking moment cuddling and bopping each other on the nose. Maybe they sleep in separate bedrooms. Maybe they dress up in large, plush cat costumes and refer to each other Mr. and Mrs. Kittyhawk. And when a man loves a man, I imagine it feels much the same. Or when a woman loves a woman. Or when a gender nonconforming person loves a gender nonconforming person.)
Regardless of the depth of commitment, living situation, or combination of genders or sexual orientations, there's no one-size-fits-all love solution. Every relationship is a unique snowflake. Variety is the spice of life. Necessity is the mother of invention. There's more than one way to skin a cat. A spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down.
It doesn't matter if it's the right metaphor, as long as it's a metaphor. Photo by Rosmarie Voegtli/Flickr.
Point being: Generalize at your peril, Sledge. And please, seek help! You can do this! And if you ever find yourself in a similar situation, please give these people a call.
Honestly, Heart could sing a list of the most popular AllRecipes ("Jaaaamie's Cranberry Spinach Saaaaalad/World's Best Lasaaaaagna/Sour Creeeeeam Cutouts") and it would make me want to bawl my eyes out in the arms of a tall, dark stranger at the end of a pier.
This song is perfect. You should always be listening to it. If you're not listening to it now, smack yourself in the face and Google it. It's just that important.
I am singing the phone book. You are weeping like a tiny baby. Photo by FatCat125/Wikimedia Commons.
So much passion. So much pain. So much hair.
Here's why it sounds romantic:
Over pounding drums and a soaring melody, Heart sisters Nancy and Ann Wilson deliver a primal tribute to the one true romantic fantasy shared by every living being on Earth: picking up an unnervingly attractive man for one night of mind-blowing sex and then releasing him back into the wild to bone — but never quite as compellingly ever again.
I don't have to go on because you know what happens next, and it's awesome.
Now, here's why this song is not romantic at all:
The relationship in "All I Wanna Do" seems too good to be true. And it is. Because it's not an equally loving ,or even equally lusty, pairing at all.
Well. You know what it is:
Good at recognizing no-win situations and delicious with lemon?! Photo by Pikawil/Flickr.
For a while, things are humming along just fine, like any wholesome, illicit, anonymous affair should:
Sure, many of us might hesitate to pick up a strange leather-jacket-clad man standing on the side of the road for a no-strings-attached screw, but our narrator just has a feeling about this guy, and sometimes, you gotta go with your gut.
I can respect that.
Great! Seems like it was a good decision. Bonking the hitchhiker is payin' off big time.
But then, without warning, the song starts to sound less like an all-time great romance and more like a story men's rights activists tell each other as they vape around a campfire:
I'm not a poet. Symbolic language often eludes me. But unless "flower," "seed," "garden," and "tree," suddenly mean wildly different things in the context of human reproduction than they have since sex was first invented in the early-1970s, we're talking about a surprise, non-mutually-consensual pregnancy!
HELLO! Photo by Avsar Aras/Wikimedia Commons.
Of course, metaphors are opaque, interpretations vary, etc., etc., etc. You might be tempted to think, "Maybe Heart meant something else by that."
To that I say, no, they definitely meant it:
There are two possibilities here.
One: The narrator of the song is recently-deceased Jerry Orbach from this creepy New York City subway ad from nine years ago:
Photo by eyedonation.org.
Or two: She totally conned a dude into whipping up a baby on the sly.
Ah, sure. Yeah. No worries.
Cool, so this all makes sense and is in no way the nightmarish scheme of a deranged sociopath who has now wrecked not one but two lives.
A HUMAN LIFE! A REAL SENTIENT HUMAN LIFE THAT IS NOT INCIDENTAL TO ALL OF THIS!
The best you can say about that is that it's not technically illegal, and that leather-jacket man probably should have been responsible for his own birth control. Or, at the very least, asked more questions .
But … it's not cute. It's not romantic (even the Wilson sisters themselves agree).
And at the end of the day, the shadiest character in this song is somehow not the rain-soaked hitchhiker wandering to nowhere in the night.
Which… is saying something.
A song that does everything right.
A song that paints a portrait of a healthy partnership built to last.
A song that can double as a manual for the ideal human romantic relationship.
And that song is…
Here's why you might be — OK, almost definitely are — skeptical:
As catchy as "Candy Shop" is, as fun it is to dance to, and as cathartic as it can be to scream in the middle of a crowded fraternity house at 2 a.m., there's no getting around the fact that the song begins like this:
I'll post that again, in case you missed some of the nuance:
Way to take one for the team, narrator of "Candy Shop"!
At first glance, "Candy Shop" is nobody's idea of a classic love song.
The lyrics are … unusually forward. The beat is kinda basic. The hook is like the music they play when Abu Nazir sidles scarily by in "Homeland."
OooooOOOOoooooOOOo. GIF from "Homeland."
It doesn't get played much anymore. When it does resurface, it feels … kinda dated. Like watching that DVD of "Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire" on your new Xbox 360.
It's not a song you'd put on a mixtape for your crush. It's not a song you'd play for your spouse when the kids are at home with the babysitter and you've got nine hours to tear up the Piscataway Hampton Inn. It's certainly not a song you'd include on the video photo montage you made for your grandparents' silver anniversary.
It's just not.
But it should be.
The bass drum hits. The MIDI violins whine. The singer starts filling out his fellatio permission slip. It's only been 20 seconds, and you're already getting ready to hang it up with "Candy Shop."
But then … over the square thrum and the mewling strings, a miracle occurs — in the form of a female voice joining the track, cutting through the din like a clarion call.
It's mutual! It's mutual! They're performing oral sex oneach other!
Ring the bells! Bang the drums! Release the doves!
Go, cunnilingus doves, go! Photo by liz west/Flickr.
50 Cent himself may not be the world's greatest partner — for example, according to one of his exes, he's done some pretty unforgivable things.
But the narrator of "Candy Shop"? He gets it:
Rather than simply imposing his desires on the person he's with — a la the dude in "God Only Knows ("I'm going to invest my entire sense of self-worth in you!") or the street heckler in "Treasure" ("I'm going to treat you like a chest full of gold doubloons!") or the sociopath in "All I Wanna Do is Make Love to You," ("I'm going to trick you into knocking me up!") — the "Candy Shop" guy actually asks his partner what she wants.
Which, in the world of popular music, is good for about 50,000 trillion points.
And where are they going to do it? The hotel? Back of the rental? The beach? The park?
'Cause consent is sexy!
The narrator of "Candy Shop" is certainly … assertive about his desires.
But here's the key thing: the lady on the receiving end of those desires? She's clearly into it. And we know this because she says so.
The lines of consent in "Candy Shop" are bright red, highlighted, and soldered into the weirdly sticky club floor.
Meanwhile, Robin Thicke is outside trying to convince the bouncer that his uncle is a lawyer. Photo by Grim23/Wikimedia Commons.
No matter how nasty they freak, it will be intimate. It will be private. There will be no revenge porn (the epilogue to "Blurred Lines," to wit, would definitely be a protracted, emotionally devastating lawsuit).
Sexual compatibility is key to the survival of any relationship, whether years, weeks, or (very possibly in the case of "Candy Shop") minutes long.
She may have a high sex drive, but dude is graciously offering to accommodate her. What a gentleman! These crazy kids just might go the distance after all.
And at the end of the day, what is a relationship but two nymphos, sharing health insurance?
Thanks, Obamacare! Photo by Wonderlane/Flickr.
Again, everybody is having a great time. And, critically, an equally great time.
Of course, it wouldn't be a pop/hip-hop hit without a spot of random braggadocio, but if we're to take him at his word, "Candy Shop" guy is at least as good at "doing everything right" as the anonymous hitchhiker from "All I Wanna Do is Make Love to You" — except without all the creepy surprise baby nonsense.
The "Candy Shop" guy is a keeper. Because he's not a hero or a stranger in the night or a funky, shimmering love god. He's a good partner.
"Candy Shop" is raunchy. It's dirty. It's not your grandmother's love song.
But when you strip away the swagger, the back beat, and the weird strings from "Best of Public Domain Middle Eastern Music 1993," by the end of the song, both people are satisfied. And at the end of the day, isn't that what a healthy relationship is all about?
This article originally appeared on 08.09.18
If you like cats, The Beatles, and Starbucks, you tend to vote Democrat. If you're into Toby Keith, Budweiser, and Dunkin' Donuts, you tend to vote Republican.
But an interesting new quiz claims to be 98 percent effective at determining people's political affiliations by asking questions that have zero to do with politics.
Click here to take the quiz.
So how does it work? (Don't read the answer if you haven't taken the quiz yet.)
According to ChartsMe, recent studies have found that people who were more prone to disgust are more conservative. This leads them to more closely align with the Republican Party.
Some scientists believe it's ancestral and that the adverse reactions to conditions we'd label “disgusting" were used to protect primitive ancestors from contamination and disease. This way a person wouldn't confuse drinking water with dirty pond scum. But if the test told you that you're a Republican, you probably won't accept that explanation because studies show you probably don't believe in evolution.
Click here to take the quiz.
These powerful before-and-after photos reveal just how beautiful aging can be.
This article originally appeared on 12.08.17.
Czech photographer Jan Langer's portrait series "Faces of Century" shows them in a different light: as human beings aged by years of experience, but at their deepest level, unchanged by the passing of time.
In the series, Langer juxtaposes his portraits with another portrait of the subject from decades earlier. He recreates the original pose and lighting as closely as he can — he wants us to see them not just as they are now, but how they have and haven't changed over time. That is the key to the series.
These are the rare faces of people who have lived through two world wars, a cavalcade of regimes, and the rush of advancements in modern life. These photos, and the stories of the lives lived by the people in them, show not only the beauty of aging, but how even as we age, we still remain essentially ourselves.
All photos by Jan Langer.
Vejdělek is a former metallurgical engineer who will never forget the taste of warm fresh goat's milk.
Originally born in Merano, Italy, Köhlerová wishes to visit Italy one more time.
Chybík is a former postal carrier and says he will never forget the route he worked every day.
Jetelina spent eight years in prison after World War II. Now, he just wants to live the rest of his life in peace.
Fejfarová burned all her material memories, including old photographs, when she decided to move to a long-term care facility. She lived a dramatic life, hiding from the Nazis and then the Russians, but eventually she was able to travel the world with her husband. Her experiences show there's no such thing as too late in life to start a new chapter.
Kovář is a former musician whose daughter comes to visit him every day. He wishes to play the clarinet once more.
Vašinová will always remember the day her husband was taken away by the Nazis. She wishes to be reunited with him after death.
Spáčil was an electrical engineer throughout his life and thinks that it's too early in his life to think about the past.
Pochobradská was a farmer. She now lives a quiet life and is thankful that her daughter visits her every weekend.
Baldrman was a clerk early in life and keeps up with current events by reading the newspaper.
Burešová loves talking to her family and wishes to have them all together again.
Čížková cooked in the dining room at the airport in the small village of Vodochody. She'll never forget reciting her own poetry at wedding ceremonies.
Vysloužilová stays active every day by chopping wood, shoveling snow, and doing work around her house.
The photographer Langer was initially inspired to document the lives of elderly people because of what he saw as the media's lack of coverage of them. He decided to focus on people over the age of 100 — a very rare demographic indeed. The 2010 U.S. Census reported only 53,364 centenarians, which is only 0.19% of the population of people 70 years or older.
“One should live every single moment according to their best knowledge and conscience because one day we will see clearly what has a real value," Langer says of what he learned from his subjects while photographing them.
The series was originally part of a story that Langer did for the Czech news outlet aktuálně.cz. You can see more photos from the portrait sessions by following the link.
This change in perspective could change humanity.
Our home, from space.
Sixty-one years ago, Yuri Gagarin became the first human to make it into space and probably the first to experience what scientists now call the "overview effect." This change occurs when people see the world from far above and notice that it’s a place where “borders are invisible, where racial, religious and economic strife are nowhere to be seen.”
The overview effect makes man’s squabbles with one another seem incredibly petty and presents the planet as it truly is, one interconnected organism.
In a compelling interview with Big Think, astronaut, author and humanitarian Ron Garan explains how if more of us developed this planetary perspective we could fix much of what ails humanity and the planet.
Garan has spent 178 days in space and traveled more than 71 million miles in 2,842 orbits. From high above, he realized that the planet is a lot more fragile than he thought.
“When I looked out the window of the International Space Station, I saw the paparazzi-like flashes of lightning storms, I saw dancing curtains of auroras that seemed so close it was as if we could reach out and touch them. And I saw the unbelievable thinness of our planet's atmosphere. In that moment, I was hit with the sobering realization that that paper-thin layer keeps every living thing on our planet alive,” Garan said in the video.
“I saw an iridescent biosphere teeming with life,” he continues. “I didn't see the economy. But since our human-made systems treat everything, including the very life-support systems of our planet, as the wholly owned subsidiary of the global economy, it's obvious from the vantage point of space that we're living a lie.”
It was at that moment he realized that humanity needs to reevaluate its priorities.
“We need to move from thinking economy, society, planet to planet, society, economy. That's when we're going to continue our evolutionary process,” he added.
Garan says that we are paying a very “high price” as a civilization for our inability to develop a more planetary perspective and that it’s a big reason why we’re failing to solve many of our problems. Even though our economic activity may improve quality of life on one end, it’s also disasterous for the planet that sustains our lives.
It’s like cutting off our nose to spite our face.
Actor William Shatner had a similar experience to Garan's when he traveled into space.
"It was among the strongest feelings of grief I have ever encountered," Shatner wrote. "The contrast between the vicious coldness of space and the warm nurturing of Earth below filled me with overwhelming sadness. Every day, we are confronted with the knowledge of further destruction of Earth at our hands: the extinction of animal species, of flora and fauna … things that took five billion years to evolve, and suddenly we will never see them again because of the interference of mankind."
“We're not going to have peace on Earth until we recognize the basic fact of the interrelated structure of all reality,” Garan said.
However dire the situation looks from the surface of Earth, the astronaut has hope that we can collectively evolve in consciousness and wake up and embrace a larger reality. “And when we can evolve beyond a two-dimensional us versus them mindset, and embrace the true multi-dimensional reality of the universe that we live in, that's when we're going to no longer be floating in darkness … and it's a future that we would all want to be a part of. That's our true calling.”
12,000 tons of food waste and 21 years later, this forest looks totally different.
This article originally appeared on 08.23.17
In exchange for donating a portion of unspoiled, forested land to the Área de Conservación Guanacaste — a nature preserve in the country's northwest — the park would allow the company to dump its discarded orange peels and pulp, free of charge, in a heavily grazed, largely deforested area nearby.
One year later, one thousand trucks poured into the national park, offloading over 12,000 metric tons of sticky, mealy, orange compost onto the worn-out plot.
The site was left untouched and largely unexamined for over a decade. A sign was placed to ensure future researchers could locate and study it.
Treuer initially set out to locate the large placard that marked the plot — and failed.
The first deposit of orange peels in 1996.
Photo by Dan Janzen.
"It's a huge sign, bright yellow lettering. We should have been able to see it," Treuer says. After wandering around for half an hour with no luck, he consulted Janzen, who gave him more detailed instructions on how to find the plot.
When he returned a week later and confirmed he was in the right place, Treuer was floored. Compared to the adjacent barren former pastureland, the site of the food waste deposit was "like night and day."
The site of the orange peel deposit (L) and adjacent pastureland (R).
Photo by Leland Werden.
"It was just hard to believe that the only difference between the two areas was a bunch of orange peels. They look like completely different ecosystems," he explains.
The area was so thick with vegetation he still could not find the sign.
The results, published in the journal "Restoration Ecology," highlight just how completely the discarded fruit parts assisted the area's turnaround.
The ecologists measured various qualities of the site against an area of former pastureland immediately across the access road used to dump the orange peels two decades prior. Compared to the adjacent plot, which was dominated by a single species of tree, the site of the orange peel deposit featured two dozen species of vegetation, most thriving.
Lab technician Erik Schilling explores the newly overgrown orange peel plot.
Photo by Tim Treuer.
In addition to greater biodiversity, richer soil, and a better-developed canopy, researchers discovered a tayra (a dog-sized weasel) and a giant fig tree three feet in diameter, on the plot.
"You could have had 20 people climbing in that tree at once and it would have supported the weight no problem," says Jon Choi, co-author of the paper, who conducted much of the soil analysis. "That thing was massive."
In a 2016 study published in Nature, researchers found that such forests absorb and store atmospheric carbon at roughly 11 times the rate of old-growth forests.
In many parts of the world, rates of deforestation are increasing dramatically, sapping local soil of much-needed nutrients and, with them, the ability of ecosystems to restore themselves.
Meanwhile, much of the world is awash in nutrient-rich food waste. In the United States, up to half of all produce in the United States is discarded. Most currently ends up in landfills.
The site after a deposit of orange peels in 1998.
Photo by Dan Janzen.
"We don't want companies to go out there will-nilly just dumping their waste all over the place, but if it's scientifically driven and restorationists are involved in addition to companies, this is something I think has really high potential," Treuer says.
The next step, he believes, is to examine whether other ecosystems — dry forests, cloud forests, tropical savannas — react the same way to similar deposits.
Since his first scouting mission in 2013, Treuer had visited the plot more than 15 times. Choi had visited more than 50. Neither had spotted the original sign.
In 2015, when Treuer, with the help of the paper's senior author, David Wilcove, and Princeton Professor Rob Pringle, finally found it under a thicket of vines, the scope of the area's transformation became truly clear.
The sign after clearing away the vines.
Photo by Tim Treuer.
"It's a big honking sign," Choi emphasizes.
19 years of waiting with crossed fingers had buried it, thanks to two scientists, a flash of inspiration, and the rind of an unassuming fruit.