How sex censorship killed the internet we love

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When was the last time you thought of the internet as a weird and wonderful place?

I can feel my anxiety climbing as I try to find current news stories about sex. Google News shows one lonely result for "porn," an article that is 26 days old. I log out of everything and try different browsers because this can’t be right.

I pop over to Yahoo News and try the same searches, exhaling relief to see 892 news articles for "porn" from outlets ranging from Associated Press to Rolling Stone. They’re there. It’s just that Google’s 2018 algorithm upgrade filters out news with the word "porn" in it. Like articles about porn performer suicide, tips for revenge porn victims, parents who oppose porn website age-verification (turns out, today’s parents are more afraid of data collection than their kids watching porn).

Stories with the word "porn" in them are important because they’re about censorship, sexual health, business trends, sex work, politics, gender and women. They’re about people.

But not for the world’s most popular search engine. Google’s war on sex took root in 2011 when Google Plus launched with a strict no-sex policy. In 2013, the company enacted a porn purge across Blogger, and Android’s Google Keyboard was updated to exclude more than1,400 "inappropriate" words, like "lovemaking," "condom," and "STI." In 2014 Google Play banned sex-themed apps, and an algorithm change in Search destroyed organic results for sex websites. That same year Google made changes to its AdWords policies to prohibit sex-related advertising.

When Google launched in 1998, Nerve was one of the internet’s leading websites. It was an online magazine about sex with articles and featured erotic artists, busy personals, packed forums. It published terrific sex books by writers and photographers, and had a wildly popular free blogging service (one of the first). From 1997 through the early ’00s, Nerve was the fun, exciting, sex-positive place to be and hang out, bursting with creative communities, optimism, and hope that a vital future was being explored.

For many, Nerve represented a new era in which we could finally, freely talk about sex, gender, orientation, sex culture — and exchange ideas. Thanks to Nerve’s "literate smut" tagline and ethos, private acts of creation could make tortured people feel valid and whole. People don’t make sites like Nerve anymore. No one can.

When was the last time the internet made you feel good?

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I can feel my anxiety climbing as I search for art and photography. I am looking for black erotic art, because this kind of visibility matters to me. Like the millions of people who enjoyed Tumblr, I do not want the stereotypes and advertising assault of commercial porn ‘tube’ sites, which performers say profit unfairly off their hard work.

We used to have a living, breathing museum-of-sex culture online. But in December 2018, Tumblr banned and removed adult content from its service. Estimated loss: at least 12.5 million blogs.

When Tumblr started in 2007, it made people feel like the battle to defend erotic art as socially and sexually valid was won, and the necessity of sexual communities was cemented. We found out so much, like that transgender people had hot sex and great erotic art too, and this was … just incredibly cool.

When Tumblr erased millions of sex blogs and communities overnight, many lamented that without the website they would’ve been lost and suicidal trying to figure out their sexuality. When I worked the sex crisis call lines in 2005, before Tumblr, our most common call was from teens in abstinence-only education states who did not know how to prevent sexual disease, infections, injuries or pregnancy — and youth who were terrified they weren’t "normal."

The kids we spoke to were afraid and alone. At the call center, we sometimes doubled as a suicide crisis line (the office next to ours was, in fact, the suicide hotline). I can tell you for a fact that Tumblr helped a generation of frightened, isolated kids trying to figure out their sexual identity. Now Tumblr is a sex-free haven for white nationalists and Nazis.

In 1997, Ann Powers wrote an essay called "In Defense of Nasty Art." It took progressives to task for not defending rap music because it was "obscene" and sexually graphic. Powers puts it mildly when she states, "Their apprehension makes the fight to preserve freedom of expression seem hollow." This is an old problem. So it’s no surprise that the same websites forbidding, banning, and blocking "sexually suggestive" art content also claim to care about free speech.

Like Facebook. Artnet wrote last March that Facebook’s brutal art censorship includes the Venus of Willendorf, Gustave Courbet’s The Origin of the World, "the banning of Gerhard Richter’s blurred rendering of a nude descending a staircase, Evelyne Axell’s pop art painting of a woman licking an ice cream cone, and Danish Modernist Edvard Eriksen’s beloved, more than 100-year-old public sculpture The Little Mermaid."

The erasure of erotic art, to me, represents a crisis point of culture, of democracy. Art effects the greatest change and empowerment when it’s transgressive, scandalous, nude, erotic. Visibility matters. Art is where minds are opened, ideas challenged, viewpoints explored, where people who hate have a chance to be changed, even if for a minute.

When was the last time the internet gave you hope?

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I can feel my anxiety climbing as I look for the voices of adult performers and sex workers online. The silence is so overwhelming it’s suffocating. In 2018, an estimated 42 million sex workers worldwide were evicted from the open internet and essentially went into hiding with the passage of FOSTA-SESTA.

The censorship wave was unprecedented in internet history. Twitter, Facebook, and all major web service providers immediately changed their rules to tightly police what was posted and messaged about sexual content, by anyone. Entire online communities were kicked off services like Cloudflare (55,000 users of Switter), and hundreds of thousands were disappeared by the shuttering of safety forums and advertising-screening services. Reddit removed entire communities overnight. Recently, YouTube banned videos where people simply talk to sex workers.

The voices erased are the voices of women. Of gay and straight men, transgender people, the voices of people of color. These populations make up the majority of sex workers. So in America, FOSTA is analogous to how the World Health Organization is categorized as "pornography" in web filters used in Kuwait and the UAE.

The law legalized sex censorship online. FOSTA was pushed by Sheryl Sandberg and Facebook — who used their support of FOSTA to appease Sen. John Thune (R-South Dakota). Thune pushes the false narrative that Facebook censors conservatives and previously said he wanted to regulate the company. FOSTA falsely states that consensual adult sex work is the same as sex trafficking, and was opposed by the Department of Justice, the ACLU, the EFF, numerous online free-speech organizations and actual sex-trafficking organizations.

FOSTA claimed to stop sex trafficking and has utterly backfired. San Francisco just released its 2018 crime statistics. The only violent crime that increased in San Francisco in 2018 was "human trafficking" — up by an astonishing 170%. These are not sex-worker arrests, which fall under a "vice" subcategory.

Before FOSTA, the voices of sex workers were readily available. Anyone could ask sex workers who they are, why they make the choices they do and what actual sex workers think about doing sex work.

It was an incredible moment because before free blogging and social-media sites, the only way we heard the voices of sex workers and porn performers was through media outlets that portrayed them as broken rape victims — or sex-trafficked children. Adults having consensual sex for entertainment were not given a voice unless it validated a narrative of sin, of pain, of regret.

Now all the women (and LGBTQ, PoC) who could speak truth to any of this have been driven underground, silenced by algorithms, bans, and FOSTA-empowered 4chan troll brigades.

When was the last time you felt free on the internet?

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I can feel my anxiety climbing as I type. Starbucks is filtering its WiFi with a secret porn blacklist. Patreon, Cloudflare, PayPal, Facebook, Instagram, and Square will eject you for getting near a sex business, linking to perceived sex sites, letting the wrong people use your online business.

Facebook recently banned sexual slang; YouTube bans users for sex ed or LGBTQ content because it might be about sex; Twitter has a mysterious sex-shadowban that no one can get a straight answer on. Tumblr can’t tell a potato from a boob. Guides on sexual self-censoring are popular — and necessary. Google Drive scans your files and deletes what it believes to be explicit content. Apple just straight-up hates sex.

It’s critical at this harrowing juncture to understand that apps won, and the open internet lost. In 2013, most users accessing the internet went to mobile and stayed that way. People don’t actually browse the internet anymore, and we are in a free-speech nightmare.

Because of Steve Jobs, adult and sex apps are super-banned from Apple’s conservative walled garden. This, combined with Google’s censorious push to purge its Play Store of sex has quietly, insidiously formed a censored duopoly controlled by two companies that make Morality in Media very, very happy. Facebook, even though technically a darknet, rounded it out.

In fact, Facebook’s FOSTA-SESTA law should share credit for its success with Morality in Media (rebranded as "National Center on Sexual Exploitation"), which claimed the victory as well. Morality in Media was also behind Apple’s massive "sexy apps" purge in 2010. And Google’s 2014 AdWords sex ban was claimed by Morality In Media as a victorious outcome from their pressure and meetings with Google to crack down on porn.

When was the last time you thought of the internet as a weird and wonderful place?

woman

We are on the other side now. Like everyone I know, my anxiety climbs as I open any new browser window, check any app or news site. As corporations have scuttled the weird and the wonderful, the taboo voices and forbidden artwork, we wonder only … what hate will we see today? What attacks await, now that the common rooms and public squares are the playgrounds of racist and anti-sex algorithms, of incels and Nazis, of advertisers and corporations ruling platforms with the iron fist of dated conservative values.

Because it is women, people of color, LGBTQ communities, writers and artists who compose the majority population of sex communities, it is everyone who pays the price. It is a curtailing of our freedoms, period.

The people who excised the erotic artists and photographers from Tumblr, who decided that sex talk on iTunes podcasts must not titillate, those who implement anti-sex language filters in anything … they will pay for it, too. Just not in the ways we’d like (their pocketbooks, their conscience).

They’ll pay with a little piece of their soul when a young intersex girl can’t find a healthy representation of pleasurable sexuality for her own body and decides that suicide is better than her oppressor’s moralistic illusion of isolation. The ignorance behind the war on sex raged by the Facebooks, the Apples, the Googles, the advertisers, the algorithms, is not only dated, but dangerous. As women fight for control of our reproductive organs, as trans people fight for the right to use a bathroom, the trolls have convinced the gatekeepers that sex must be silent, and 4chan — acting on the urges of right-wing populists — deserves a voice.

I don’t know what would’ve happened if the internet could’ve been allowed to continue without the war on sex. But I know it wouldn’t be the terrible place of anxiety and fear we’re in now.

Images: BERTRAND GUAY/AFP/Getty Images (Picasso painting study for ‘Les demoiselles d’Avignon’ nude – Picasso Museum 2014); JEWEL SAMAD/AFP/GettyImages (Starbucks); Joachim Beuckelaer / Jon Turi (Digital brothel painting modified); PORNCHAI SODA via Getty Images (Woman, hand)

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Hoboman in Netflix’s ‘Velvet Buzzsaw’ represents the director’s version of Superman after Hollywood destroyed his ‘Superman Lives’ movie starring Nic Cage

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Hoboman Velvet Buzzsaw Netflix

  • Netflix’s movie "Velvet Buzzsaw" features an animatronic art exhibit called "Hoboman."
  • The movie’s director, Dan Gilroy, told Business Insider that the character represents his attempt to bring Superman to the screen while writing the screenplay for the failed "Superman Lives" movie to be directed by Tim Burton and starring Nicolas Cage as the Man of Steel.
  • "I wanted to draw a connection, do a piece that has to do with a superhero," Gilroy said.

 

Superman is one of the most beloved comic-book characters ever, and that might be why Hollywood has had so much trouble getting him right on the big screen.

Since the Man of Steel’s first big movie release in 1978 with Christopher Reeve in the lead role (which led to three sequels), the character has found more success in TV and animation, as the latest movie reboot of the character with Henry Cavill playing the role left audiences very mixed.

But before Cavill, Nicolas Cage was prepared to take a crack at Superman with Tim Burton directing.

“Superman Lives” was to be based on the 1992 comic “The Death of Superman,” but ended up becoming one of the biggest behind-the-scenes fiascos in movie history as production was canceled three weeks before filming was to begin in April of 1998. (If you want the details, seek out the documentary “The Death of ‘Superman Lives’: What Happened?”).

Dan Gilroy was one of the screenwriters on the project, brought on at the end of its life when he was enlisted to rewrite a version that could get the budget down. Gilroy was in total shock when the movie was scrapped. Finding a way to cope with the experience, a few years ago he wrote the script for “Velvet Buzzsaw” (available now on Netflix), in which artworks kill those who attempt to profit from them.

Hoboman Velvet Buzzsaw 2 NetflixAnd one character in it was inspired by Superman himself.

“Hoboman” — an animatronic figure that is featured in one of the exhibits Jake Gyllenhaal’s character, art critic Morf Vandewalt, comes across (later in the movie the two have a much darker interaction) — may not look like Superman, but Gilroy said that’s the point.

Gilroy told Business Insider he wanted the character to represent the aftermath of his Superman after the games played by Hollywood in trying to make “Superman Lives.”

Read more: Netflix’s new "Celebrate the Oscars" feature makes it easy to stream movies generating awards buzz — and past winners

"I was there for all the visual tests and the design of so many elements of it," Gilroy said of the preproduction of "Superman Lives,” which in the early days of the internet became a viral sensation when photos of Cage dressed in a Superman costume were leaked online. "So I wanted to draw a connection, do a piece that has to do with a superhero."

Superman Lives Schneppzone IncGilroy mixed that with a real animatronic exhibit he came across, Jordan Woldson’s “Female Figure.”

Gilroy said at first he was planning to create an animatronic character, but with the cost somewhere in the range of $800,000 to make it, even the deep pockets at Netflix wouldn’t go for it. So Hoboman is a real person under the costume with CGI used to make it look like the character is animatronic.

Gilroy believes it works perfectly for a movie that is as much a commentary on art versus commerce as it is his therapeutic attempt at getting over the experience of “Superman Lives.”

“The movie is set in the world of pop art,” he said, “and pop art takes contemporary iconography and challenges traditions, so I couldn’t think of a more contemporary icon than a superhero, particularly one that was broken down.”

SEE ALSO: Netflix’s "Russian Doll" has a 100% score on Rotten Tomatoes, and the creators have already pitched multiple seasons

Join the conversation about this story »

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Elon Musk shows off SpaceX’s Starship Raptor engine firing

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Who knew seeing a rocket fire up close could be so pretty?

On Sunday, SpaceX CEO Elon Musk shared photos and video of the company’s Starship Raptor engine firing in its first ground test.

A still shows a kaleidoscope of colours streaming from the engine, although that could be just the camera not quite keeping up with the fire’s intensity.

“Green tinge is either camera saturation or a tiny bit of copper from the chamber,” Musk added in a tweet.

Another video shows the full force of the rocket.

SpaceX has been developing its Raptor engine for years, but the latest iteration has been radically redesigned, according to a tweet from Musk in December.

Sunday’s test firing comes after Musk gave us a glimpse of the Starship’s first test vehicle in January, which will be used for suborbital take-off tests from SpaceX’s facility in Texas as soon as February.

The Starship, formerly known as the BFR, is slated to replace SpaceX’s existing family of vehicles. It will be used for a moon mission carrying Japanese billionaire Yusaku Maezawa and a group of artists, which aims to takeoff in 2023.

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What is CBD and where can you buy it? Here’s everything you need to know.

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All CBD products listed in this story are derived from hemp. Some CBD products, like those derived from marijuana, are only legal in certain states; see here to determine whether or not you can legally make a purchase. Additionally, THC/CBD edibles and additives are not necessarily FDA-approved.


Despite the fact that it’s been around for years, CBD seems to be everywhere lately. What used to be a niche obsession is quickly turning mainstream, from the coffee shop down the street that’ll add a drop of oil to your morning latte to recipes for CBD cocktails on GOOP. Even Coca-Cola is looking into it.

Its reputation can mostly be attributed to the oil, but beverages aren’t the only way to get a dose of CBD. Candy edibles, vape pens, and skin creams are just a few alternatives — CBD for dogs is a thing, too.

Only around 35% of people know what the “CBD” in “CBD-infused” stands for.

Despite the fact that mentions of CBD seem to be growing exponentially, the weird part is that no one really knows what it is: Mashable surveyed more than 2,000 U.S. consumers via Google Surveys between Jan. 22 and Jan. 25, 2019 and found that only around 35% of people knew what the “CBD” in “CBD-infused” stands for. A whopping 60% were completely clueless. (It stands for cannabidiol, BTW.)

In light of these statistics, it’s probably no surprise that a massive 81% of the people we surveyed haven’t tried CBD — meaning that even if a person knew what it was, they still hadn’t taken the CBD plunge and tried it themselves. Even with the random surge in CBD popularity, there’s clearly a knowledge gap surrounding the world of CBD — a gap that we’re intent on closing.

We know you’re not about to buy some random oil made in a sketchy basement somewhere. This guide acts as your CBD101, sifting through the safety stuff, the legal stuff, and the fun stuff.

What is CBD?

CBD (short for cannabidiol) is a non-psychoactive compound found in cannabis. Because it contains super low levels of THC (like less than .3%), CBD is not going to get you high. THC is the part of the weed that gets you high (standard-issue pot is about 18% THC, for reference). These THC levels are so low that CBD lacks the psychoactive properties. Instead, CBD fans swear by the stuff as a way to relax, get better sleep, and manage anxiety, among other things.

Why all the hype?

People like marijuana for all kinds of reasons, including relaxation, pain relief, and overall good vibes, right? It’s the same story with CBD, just without the mind-altering high (or the munchies). You’re essentially getting that chill factor without actually feeling different, and you’re leaving behind the red eyes and hysterical laughing, too.

The FDA has officially approved the use of CBD for seizures and epilepsy, but people are finding that it’s helpful with so much more. Users who swear by this stuff have become enthusiastic advocates in online reviews and social media, trumpeting the benefits they’ve experienced: For these fans, CBD has helped them combat anxiety, depression, sleep troubles, stress, pain, and inflammation — take that, cortisol. Apparently, it can also help with your sex drive and sexual pleasure.

Professional athletes are also starting to join the CBD party. The anti-inflammatory properties of CBD already made it attractive to heavily active folk for better recovery times and pre-game stress reduction. Once CBD was removed from the World Anti-Doping Agency’s (WADA) list of banned substances, it gave runners, bikers, NBA, NHL, and NFL players alike more of a reason to ditch OTC pain pills.

AARP is even pro-CBD for seniors, citing it as an option to combat arthritis and other pains, help manage osteoporosis and blood pressure, and even tremors due to cancer. While your conservative grandma probably isn’t going to roll a joint anytime soon, these benefits may just have her asking to hit your CBD pen.

Is CBD safe to use?

CBD isn’t a fix-all and usage should probably be discussed with your doctor first. Formal research and scientific findings on this stuff is pretty limited at the moment, so most of the knowledge we have about effects comes from real-life users. But FDA approval of CBD for seizures and epilepsy could certainly pave the way for more widespread use.

The World Health Organization has said that there’s no evidence of public health-related problems correlated with the use of pure CBD. You could feel fatigued or irritable, but that’s the extent of the bad parts.

But we can’t take that statement and run with it just yet. In the spring of 2018, the Natural Products Expo estimated that the CBD industry doubled in size in the last two years, which is super fast for a product that so many people are clueless about — let alone the fact that it’s associated with marijuana and drags along negative connotations. 

It’s awesome that so many people have seemingly found the relief they’ve been looking for, but it needs to be met with caution. Clinical trials are having a hard time keeping up with the demand, and people should chill with their dosages and talk to their doctors if symptoms become too intense.

This isn’t bad news, though, and the trials that have already happened have found that the seemingly too-good-to-be-true compound might be for real, as long as it’s not a mix of THC and CBD disguised as pure CBD. Everyone will obviously react differently, and we’re not trying to play doctor here — we’re just telling you what we’ve heard.

NYU’s Dr. Esther Blessing is a psychiatrist and researcher in the midst of testing numerous possible benefits of CBD — like combatting PTSD and substance abuse — and who has received funding for her studies from the National Institutes of Health, a good sign for anyone who’s been on the fence. NPR talked with her in 2018 about CBD:

“It may seem counterintuitive that a component of marijuana could be useful in treating addiction to another drug. But Blessing says using CBD is very different from using marijuana. Though CBD is extracted from cannabis, it does not lead to altered perception and cognition.  

‘Drugs can be non-psychoactive and still have an effect on the brain,’ Blessing says. ‘CBD does have an effect on the brain, but it seems to affect the brain in possibly medicinal ways.'”

Final results from all of Blessing’s studies as well as others likely won’t reach the public for a few more years. So until then, we’ll have to keep scanning Reddit and listening to our friends on their CBD-scented soapboxes.

Is CBD legal?

If the CBD is derived from hemp (like all of the products mentioned below), you’re pretty much in the clear. Hemp’s low THC content (under .3%) isn’t enough to get you high, which was a good enough reason for the senate to pass this 2018 farm bill to legalize hemp. 

CBD derived from marijuana is where things get a hazy — this is where THC to CBD ratios matter, and it’s all up to your state’s discretion. We’re not advocating for you to break the law here, and you should definitely deep-dive into your state’s weed laws before purchasing any CBD, even if it’s hemp derived. (This table goes into more detail and is super helpful.)

That said, it’s worth noting that hemp-derived CBD and marijuana-derived CBD aren’t exactly the same thing. According to The Growthop:

“Although CBD oil and hemp oil are both low in THC, the difference in the amount of CBD these products contain is huge. Hemp oil has only traces of CBD (around 3.5 percent,) while CBD oil can have up to 20 percent. It is the higher concentration that makes CBD beneficial in the treatment of various health disorders. Hemp oil based CBD products do not contain enough of the compound to be considered much more than a health supplement.”

But starting with a hemp-based CBD could be a low stakes intro to the entire world of CBD. And that’s where we come in.

What is the best CBD and where can you buy it online?

The online CBD market can be tricky to navigate. Swimming through customer reviews and Reddit threads to find the best ones could take forever and will likely add to the stress that made you want to try CBD in the first place. That’s why we’ve done the work for you. CBD is available in physical retail stores, but your options are likely to be limited. And if you don’t live in a super populated area, you may not be able to find it IRL at all.

Most online retailers will offer a selection of oils, tinctures, capsules, vape juices, drinkable syrups, topical creams, and gummies, so even the pickiest folks should be able to find a form that they can tolerate. Some retailers also offer special pet products for dogs and cats who need to chill as well.

Heads up: Remember that farm bill that we mentioned? While it does legalize hemp and hemp products, the FDA still isn’t psyched about brands encouraging customers to put CBD in food or brands claiming that their CBD products are dietary supplements. However, it’s nearly impossible to find one online CBD retailer that doesn’t do one or the other.

In attempts to get around this, most retailers will have a disclaimer emphasizing that none of their products are approved by the FDA and are not intended to cure or treat any diseases. Remember that survey we mentioned at the beginning of the article? Edibles were the most popular CBD product of the people who have tried it before. ‘Nuff said.

Hemp-derived CBD products fall under one of two categories that speak to how much of the plant was used:

Isolates are the purified, THC-free stuff. This means that the CBD has been isolated and other cannabinoids and terpenes have been filtered out, giving most isolate products a light or clear color. They won’t really smell or taste like anything, which can be good if you’re grossed out by the hemp scent or are just picky in general. Many times, you’ll see these labeled simply as “THC-free.” 

Full spectrum is the mixed, heavier-duty stuff. This means that the oil, capsule, or whatever you’ve chosen was made from the entire plant and contains cannabinoids other than CBD, terpenes, and fatty acids naturally found in cannabis.

The majority of users, unless they’re super paranoid about THC, seem to prefer full spectrum products over isolates simply because, well, they just work better. When all of the cannabinoids, terpenes, and all of that other good stuff team up, they work together in synergy to offer the human body more relief, creating what scientists have coined as the entourage effect.

Full-spectrum CBD should be fine and dandy in most places, but should be used with caution in states that are less lenient. You should probably stick with isolates if:

  • You live in a state that’s strict about cannabis without a medical marijuana card or where CBD is only legal if there’s 0% THC

  • You get drug tested (or could get drug tested) regularly at work

  • Your body has had a negative reaction to THC in the past

The price-per-dose is how to really find out if you’re getting your money’s worth.

Though full-spectrum CBD is still derived from the hemp plant and technically legal under the farm bill, it doesn’t go through the rigorous extraction processes that isolates do and may still contain small traces of THC (less than .3%). It’s not enough to alter your cognition, but it could still be in your system.

Most brands use extensive extraction methods (usually via CO2 or heating) to get the excess stuff out and preserve only the helpful cannabinoids and terpenes. Most times, the only extra ingredients will be hemp oil or coconut oil, plus other added seeds and fruits.

As for the dosage you should take, it depends on a few key factors including tolerance, weight, and the intended use. For example, someone with severe chronic pain will probably need a higher dose than someone who needs help falling asleep. Most online vendors will give dosage recommendations for each of their products, and Medium has a great deep dive into CBD concentrations if you want more details.

It’s up to you to decide what works for your situation. We know this is a lot of information to take in, but we’ll help by telling you which of our favorite brands have THC-free options, full spectrum options, or both. 

Price wise, there’s more to look at than simply comparing the price of two different 30-capsule bottles. A bottle of 30 capsules may be cheaper on one site than the other, but this may be because the cheaper site’s capsules are less potent and require two pills to feel the same effect as taking one pill from the other site.

The price-per-dose is how to really find out if you’re getting your money’s worth. Aside from telling you where prices start on each site, we’ll list the cost effectiveness as the “true price.” To calculate it, just take the price of the product divided by the total dosage in milligrams. For instance, if a bottle of 30 capsules contains a total of 500 mg and the price is $44.95, the price per mg is around $0.09 (which is a great price, BTW.) Math!

Let’s get shopping.


The Good

Best vape selection by far • 10% veteran’s discount • Extremely fair prices • Beloved on the internet

The Bad

Isolate extraction process not specified • Navigating the site can be confusing

The Bottom Line

Especially great for people who vape, CBDistillery’s wide product selection and market-leading prices ensure you’ll have plenty of options to suit a budget.

1. CBDistillery

A favorite of the Reddit community, CBDistillery is an all-encompassing site with versatile products and below average prices.

  • True price:
    $0.08/mg
  • Product selection:
    Oil, gummies, powder, capsules, topical creams, vape pens, wax, lip balm, and suppositories
  • Isolates or full spectrum:
    Both
  • Dosage range:
    30 mg to 5,000 mg
  • Pet products:
    Oil
Who they are:

Based in Colorado and run by Colorado natives, you could say the folks at

CBDistillery

knows a

little

bit about cannabis. According to the site’s about section, the company’s goal is to sell quality, affordable CBD products in attempts to educate and help as many people as possible. You can see the magic behind the production with an informational video and photo introductions to every single member of the team, as well as third party tests and certificates listed under every product.

A fan favorite of the CBD section of the internet, the general consensus here is that CBDistillery has taken the time to perfect their products and earn customer loyalty. The brand makes its way into nearly every “Best CBD” story you can find, and when you see a brand constantly pop up on Reddit, you know it must be good — Redditors can be a tough crowd.

Why they’re unique:

No brand is perfect, but CBDistillery seems to hit nearly every important mark. With the best cost efficiency in our lineup and high-concentrations that’ll have you feeling the effects without using half the bottle in one sitting, it’s easy to see why customers keep coming back. The product selection is amazing, too, making it a go-to place to discover new products without totally breaking the bank.

What products they have:

Oil,

gummies

, powder, capsules,

topical creams

, vape pens, wax,

lip balm

(!!!), and suppositories. With a good handful of full-spectrum products and THC-free products, it’s one of the best product lineups on the internet. Did we mention that it’s cheap?

If you’re into vaping, look no further. CBDistillery’s selection of

vape products

sets it apart from competitors big time, offering e-liquid on its own, separate cartridges, and pre-filled vape pens. Flavors like vanilla, strawberry lemonade, and grape are made with natural ingredients that taste more like freshly-squeezed juice than candy. To try flavors risk-free, they offer

variety three-packs at 200 mg each

.

The site could be better organized when it comes to separating products that do contain THC from those that don’t, but that’s just a measly complaint. (Sorry, no THC-free gummies or vapes.)

In his review for this CBD tincture,

customer Richard Y. writes

:

“Having tried several different brands and strengths of tinctures, I keep coming back to these CBDistillery full spectrum products because they just work the best for me. After finding the right dose, I sleep much better and I feel so much more calm during the day.”

Bonus: You get free shipping on all orders over $75, so stocking up is smart. And with prices this cheap, that’s a great deal.


The Good

Shows production process step-by-step • Exceptional flavor selection • Multiple products for pets • 25% lifetime discount for veterans

The Bad

Small dosage range

The Bottom Line

For customers who love oil, Koi offers a stellar experience with step-by-step transparency and amazing flavors.

2. Koi CBD

Koi goes above and beyond to give a top notch experience with transparency and exceptional oil flavors.

  • True price:
    $0.16/mg
  • Product selection:
    Oil, vape juice and pens, gummies, lotion
  • Isolates or full spectrum:
    Full spectrum
  • Dosage range:
    200 to 1,000 mg
  • Pet products:
    Chews, spray
Who they are:

A name mentioned in nearly every “Best CBD oils” post we could find,

Koi CBD

is known for its potent oils and great transparency. Though their headquarters is based in the UK, Koi has two offices in California and sources their hemp from Colorado. They’re notorious for flavor and being hella transparent and detailed with their instructions, making them one of the most talked about brands on the internet. The beautiful packaging is just a bonus.

Why they’re unique:

Welcome to Flavor Town, y’all. Koi’s oils and vape oil come in flavors you won’t find anywhere else and garner impressive feedback from users who are usually picky about taste. 

Koi also deserves massive kudos for the work they’ve done to become a trustworthy source — because selling a product so new to the mainstream market can be risky if you don’t follow the rules. They make it a point to show customers exactly what they’re purchasing by tracing the entire production process and providing third party certificates for every single product. If you have specific questions, there’s a live chat feature.

What products they have:

Oil, vape oil, vape pens and cartridges,

gummies

, topical lotion, and

pet products

. It’s a hefty lineup for sure, but

the standout is their oil

. With flavors like strawberry milkshake, vanilla caramel custard, and pumpkin spice latte, you can

literally

match your CBD with the season. But if flavored stuff makes you gag, they have a decent selection of naturals, too.

While most sites only offer a single pet product (usually oil), Koi branched out to

pet spray and some adorable CBD soft chews for dogs

. The reviews on these are great, and should really be considered for pets with arthritis.

Customer Eddie W. writes

:

“Koi Blue is everything you want from a CBD company. The reason for my purchase was for my wife, who has stage 4 cancer. Like anybody you want to leave no stone unturned. After using it for about two weeks some of her stiffness and a little bit of her pain has been better. The flavor is very good as well. I tell anyone who asked or has come up in conversation how much we like it.”

Bonus: Veterans and active duty members get a lifetime 25% discount on all purchases, and you can sign up for their membership to hear about sales when they happen.


The Good

Vitamin-infused products for day-to-day issues • Modern, trustworthy site design • Great prices

The Bad

No edibles or vaping products • Only three dosages to choose from

The Bottom Line

Sketched out? Medterra offers a small, yet unique selection and great customer service on a modern, user-friendly site.

3. Medterra

Skeptics will appreciate Medterra’s modern, user-friendly site and useful combination products.

  • True price:
    $0.08/mg
  • Product selection:
    Oil, gel capsules, cooling cream
  • Isolates or full spectrum:
    Isolates
  • Dosage range:
    50 mg to 3,600 mg
  • Pet products:
    Coming soon
Who they are:

They haven’t been around for as long as others on this list, but

Medterra

‘s recent redesign and modern aesthetics offer a wave of calm for people who think they’re about to be scammed into buying something illegal — nobody trusts a site that looks like it was designed on Microsoft Paint. (And if you think their site looks nice, you should see their

Instagram

.)

The Kentucky-grown products are 99% pure isolate, non-GMO, and use max extraction methods, making it a go-to place people nervous about accidentally ingesting THC. 

Why they’re unique: Medterra

has a chat feature if you need help, a money-back guarantee, and full transparency about third party tests, making them one of the best in customer service. Unlike most brands, Medterra also offers some really cool combo products designed to tackle day-to-day issues, mixing CBD with vitamins, other medicinal plants, and more. We’ll dive in deeper below.

What products they have:

For CBD-only stuff, Medterra trails a bit behind competitors and only offers an unflavored oil, gel capsules, and cooling cream. But we don’t even care. Where the company really shines is in their

wellness products

. Choose from capsules with extras like melatonin, caffeine, B-vitamins, Valerian Root, Cramp Bark, and other natural ingredients to aid in sleeping, alertness in the morning, or even knock out the discomfort that comes with periods. It’s like combatting multiple ailments in one pill.

Customer Alex wrote:

“My mom has terminal metastatic breast cancer and her bone metastases are incredibly painful. Not only does this product keep her pain tolerable but it has also decreased her depression and anxiety significantly. She no longer has those ups and downs but finally feels GOOD. Thank you for giving my mom her quality of life back so we can truly enjoy our time with her. For reference she takes 1000 mg 2xday.”

Bonus: Get free shipping on all orders over $125 plus points toward discounts when you join the rewards system.


The Good

Widest variety of isolates • One of the largest dosage ranges • Most unique array of edibles and flavors

The Bad

One of the priciest brands • No vaping products • Not the FDA’s favorite brand

The Bottom Line

Looking for something new? Dab crystals and CBD coffee are just a few rare products you’ll find in this magical place.

4. Green Roads

A wide product selection and endless info readily available makes them one of the most well-rounded brands out there.

  • True price:
    $0.27/mg
  • Product selection:
    Oils, syrups, capsules, pain cream, gummies, coffee, tea, dab crystals, terpenes, syringes
  • Isolates or full spectrum:
    Both
  • Dosage range:
    25 to 1,000 mg
  • Pet products:
    Oil
Who they are:

In the game since 2011, Green Roads is one of the largest producers and most established names in the world of CBD. These Florida natives are led by a licensed pharmacist and aren’t shy about giving out as much information as they can. Their site is loaded with definitions, explanations, links to third party tests as well as the lab that does them, state laws, an FAQ, and more — many of which aren’t accounted for on competing sites. 

They’re hyped up on Reddit, many blogger reviews, and were even mentioned in

Cosmopolitan

.

Why they’re unique:

With so much time and experience, the company has been able to create one of the most robust, trustworthy varieties available, some of which are nearly impossible to find elsewhere. That, in tandem with being one of the most transparent sites we’ve seen, has given them a massive following of people loyal to the brand.

Green Roads (among other online retailers) did receive a

warning from the FDA

about medical claims, which is clearly a no-no. The company has since removed any mention of cancer from its site and remain extremely transparent by showing third-party lab results, putting QR codes on bottles, and offering a disclaimer that none of its products are approved by the FDA or intended to treat or cure any diseases. Positivity and enthusiasm in customer reviews hasn’t dwindled a bit.

What products they have

: Oils, syrups, capsules, pain cream, gummies, coffee, tea, dab crystals, terpenes, and syringes. (The syringes are pre-portioned daily doses for busy bodies who may not have time to measure with a dropper — not the type of syringe you were thinking of.) That list is a mouthful, isn’t it?

Because Green Roads offers so many damn products, it’d take forever to highlight each one specifically. Some of the cooler ones include an assortment of edibles like gummy bears, toads, and fruit roll-up-like chews in numerous fruity and sour flavors,

CBD-infused coffee and tea

, and dab wax crystals. To try some samples before you make the plunge, Green Roads also offers

bundles of a few different products

.

Customer Glenn S. writes: 

“Very quick shipment and I shared the gummies with my daughter-in-law and my 96 year old mother. Both loved the flavors and both got excellent results with pain management and sleeping. I will purchase more in the future.”

Bonus: Get 15% off your first order with code NOW15. Veterans also get 50% off products year round.


The Good

Superb variety of isolates and dosages • Affordable mini sizes to test

The Bad

No flavor options in regular oil • Site’s layout could use an update

The Bottom Line

Anti-THC customers get robust selection of products and flavors, just on a site that lacks oomph.

5. Nature’s Script

A site that lacks personality but makes up for it in giving customers a robust selection of products and flavors, minus any THC.

  • True price:
    $0.17/mg
  • Product selection:
    Oil, E-liquid/vape juice, syrup, gummies, pain gel, capsules
  • Isolates or full spectrum:
    Isolates
  • Dosage range:
    300 mg to 4,000 mg
  • Pet products:
    Oil
Who they are:

Notorious for only selling products without THC,

Nature’s Script

is impressive in all areas related to quality control, shipping, and packaging. The overall brand is pretty unfriendly compared to competitors wanting to make CBD shopping a comfortable experience, but you may not mind that if you’re an experienced user who can skip the small talk.

This isn’t to say they’re not trustworthy though, as you can find all of their third-party tests posted and easy to find. Everything is non-GMO and responsibly sourced — just sold on a really boring site.

Why they’re unique:

This is essentially heaven for people who don’t want to risk THC content at all. Most retailers that offer both isolate and full spectrum products throw strictly non-THC folk to the wolves by offering one or two boring options. Nature’s Script is

changing the script

when it comes to isolates, offering an impressive variety of products including unique edibles that we haven’t really seen before.

Another nice touch are the mini packages. Newbies who aren’t sure what CBD is all about aren’t forced to pay $40 right off the bat for something they’re not even sure if they like. Instead, you can test out capsules, gummies, and more with

sample sizes for $15.
What products they have

: Oil, e-liquid/vape juice, drinkable syrup (in fact, one of the only places on the market that offers it), gummies, anti-inflammatory pain gel, and capsules.

The oil is mostly unflavored, but the vape juice and gummies are where things start to get tasty. Enjoy fruity flavors like watermelon, blueberry, and mango, plus five different color gummy bears that taste like straight-up candy (it’s all blatantly artificial, but the CBD aftertaste is so well hidden that you probably won’t care). There gummy bears don’t offer much leeway in dosage options, which is a bummer for people who really like edibles. 

Customer Monica R. writes

:

“Perfect for helping me fall asleep at night due to my insomnia. Really surprised at how the gummies tasted as well. I was expecting a strong, bitter taste but instead they were delicious and could pass for regular gummy bears.”

Bonus: Nature’s Script does sitewide sales all the time, and all orders over $75 get free shipping.


The Good

Huge variety of full spectrum and isolates • Rare option for raw, heated cannabinoids • One of the most cost efficient brands out there

The Bad

Levels of oil extracts can get confusing • Product selection is limiting past oil

The Bottom Line

This OG brand offers extreme transparency for newbies, unique blends for experienced users, and great prices all around.

6. Bluebird Botanicals

They’ve been around forever, take pride in premium quality, and have super fair prices. What’s not to love?

  • True price:
    $0.09/mg
  • Product selection:
    Oil, isolate powders, capsules, vape juice
  • Isolates or full spectrum:
    Both
  • Dosage range:
    250 mg to 1,500 mg
  • Pet products:
    Oil, chewy capsules
Who they are: BlueBird Botanicals

is an OG CBD retailer that offers high concentration products for one of the lowest dollar-per-milligram prices out there — the definition of the best of both worlds in the CBD universe. Their longevity and transparency makes them a well-vetted place where worried newbies can feel good, and their selection of ultra-specific upscale extract blends makes them a favorite of experienced users looking to try something new. Unsurprisingly, it’s nearly impossible to find a bad review about these guys.

Why they’re unique:

Low price, high CBD concentration.

Consumer Labs

reviewed nine brands, did the math, and reported that Bluebird Botanicals came out on top with 4.8% concentrated CBD — other brands usually max out under 2%. You’d expect that such a high CBD concentration would spike prices, but Bluebird is one of the most affordable sites out there.

Transparency is also huge here: Bluebird has numerous third-party reports available to the public in their

Batch Database

, which can give peace of mind if you’re worried about contaminants like heavy metal or pesticides. Each product even has its own certificate of analysis showcasing those rigorous tests. With a lengthy FAQ section, third party tests, contact numbers, links to their blog, and heavily detailed product descriptions, confusion should be minimal.

What products they have:

Extracts,

isolates

, capsules,

vape oil

, and pet products. 

Their best-selling hemp extracts are full spectrum, offering a range of terpene and cannabinoids for max potency. For an extra boost, the “Complete” collection offers 250mg of raw, heated cannabinoids to apparently pull out extra healing properties, and the “Signature” collection offers added flavor for general wellness. Everything is non-GMO, vegan, and put through a CO2 extraction process to get it under .3% THC. Products come in a variety of strengths with intake instructions and a recommended dosage.

Customer RMORD writes

:

“The BEST product for me!! I believe Bluebird’s products are as good as they get, and the discounts for Vets, Disabled and Low-Income households is very helpful for those who need CBD the most. A great company with caring and responsive customer service reps too!! I’m not going anywhere! After going thru my first 2 oz, what I feel the most is: GRATEFUL! Order with confidence!!”

Extra bonus: Get 20% off of your first order with code FIRSTTIME and look out for regular sitewide sales up to 35% off.


The Good

30-day free trial • Oil’s fresh orange taste is excellent • Option to turn it into a subscription • All natural ingredients

The Bad

Small product range • Third party tests are in each purchase rather than posted online • Pricey

The Bottom Line

Populum’s comforting aesthetic, great taste, and 30-day trial offer a safe space for those on the fence about CBD.

7. Populum

Especially inviting to newcomers, Populum’s focus on hip aesthetics and honesty makes the CBD process simple.

  • True price:
    $0.28/mg
  • Product selection:
    Oil and cold therapy hemp rub
  • Isolates or full spectrum:
    Full spectrum
  • Dosage range:
    250 mg to 1,000 mg
  • Pet products:
    Oil
Who they are: Populum

is Latin for “for the people,” which is exactly what this CBD retailer is trying to do. Colorado-based Populum is newer to the game, devoted to honesty, and looks good while doing it. We give kudos to the branding team, who nailed aesthetics with modern infographics and adorable packaging that reminds us more of hipster juice bar than it does for CBD. Think of it as the CBD version of Urban Outfitters.

For extra skeptics, the

“Why Populum”

section is lengthy and feels like you’re talking to a trusted friend rather than to a company. They emphasize that their goal is to de-stigmatize hemp by making it available to customers risk-free, and even give a mini lesson on what hemp oil is. They send third party tests and certificates of analysis in each box instead of posting it online.

Why they’re unique:

If you’re interested in the benefits of CBD but are worried about feeling like a stoner, this will be your happy place. The site design focuses on the customer experience, adding cutesy details, customer photos, PR shoutouts, and a quiz to help you identify which product would best treat your issues. 

Populum

is also the only retailer we’ve seen to offer a 30-day free trial for customers who are feeling shaky. You can only test one product per person, but it’s better than losing money on something that doesn’t even work for you. They claim that over 96% of customers keep their trial product, and if you’re really into it, you can turn your order into a reoccurring subscription and get 5% off every month.

What products they have:

Oil and a topical rub. Options are severely limited, but the stuff they

do

have is high quality and all natural with ingredients like grapeseed oil, hempseed oil, virgin coconut oil, orange oil, and stevia extract. They use a distillate extraction process rather than CO2, which just means they heat the material rather than using ethanol.

You’ll see a big emphasis on oranges — it’s what they use to flavor their products. While some flavored oils are overwhelming, thick, and, to be blunt, nauseating, reviewers claim that Populum’s fresh orange taste is light, refreshing, and genuinely feels like a wellness product. The hemp rub cold therapy is great to throw in your bag for non-greasy relief on the go, and we’ve heard the

pet oil

works like a charm.

Populum customer Robert P. writes

:

Bought Populum Oil for pain and nerve damage in my feet caused by a beta blocker I was given. Pain is virtually gone now and more feeling is returning to the feet. As a bonus, I feel calmer and I am blown away at the memory improvements I’m seeing.

Bonus: Veterans receive 25% off all purchases.

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NASA models suggest the Moon was born from Earth materials

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The most commonly accepted theory for the Moon’s creation involves a collision between Earth and a Mars-sized body (Theia) that split off a chunk of the larger body and created an orbiting neighbor. You might have to reconsider that explanation, however. NASA researchers have developed a new model that suggests the Moon is made of the same materials as Earth, not its cosmic nemesis. The approach simulates the processes of the Moon’s formation using 14 volatile, metal-loving elements found in samples from the Apollo missions, providing a complex understanding that hasn’t been attempted before. The concentrations of those elements could speak volumes about what happened, according to the scientists.

The simulation found that there was a "strong" correlation in elements between the Earth and a Moon made out of its material, but that the same wasn’t true for a Moon made out of the Mars-scale body. There’s an explanation for those remaining five elements, too. They have substantially lower concentrations in the simulation, leading researchers to theorize that the elements didn’t re-condense after the impact and separated from the material that would become the Moon.

You won’t want to toss out your existing knowledge just yet. There’s more research necessary to understand the environment of the post-collision disk. This early work fills holes in scientific data that have existed since the 1970s, though, and it could serve as a launchpad for more research. If that work validates the early hypothesis, you might end up looking at the Moon in a very different light.

Source: NASA

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Don’t forget about the colossal Himalayan glaciers. They’re rapidly vanishing, too.

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The Himalayas pierce the sky. But they’ve been overshadowed. 

The accelerated melting in the Arctic — the fastest warming region on Earth — and the Antarctic — home to the largest ice sheets on the planet — certainly demand widespread scientific and media attention. Yet beyond the continually grim news from the north and south poles is the melting of the “third pole,” known as the Hindu Kush Himalaya region. Spreading over 2,000 miles across eight nations (from Afghanistan to Myanmar), these mountainous lands are home to the third-largest stores of ice on the planet and provide water to hundreds of millions of people. 

A new report written by 210 scientists emphasizes the dramatic melting there this century. The International Center for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD) — a Nepal-based intergovernmental research organization — released the 638-page report on Monday, concluding that the glaciers here are expected to lose immense amounts of ice as the mountains warm.

Under the most optimistic conditions, the report found that over a third of the ice will vanish by the century’s end. But under more extreme climate scenarios — wherein global climate efforts fail — two-thirds of these mighty glaciers could disappear, with overall ice losses of a whopping 90 percent.   

“Glacier-wise, it’s not a great story,” Joseph Shea, one of the report’s lead authors and an assistant professor of environmental geomatics at the University of Northern British Columbia, said in an interview.  

“You go up [to the glaciers] and see that the signs of recent loss are pretty substantial,” said Shea, who spent four years living in Nepal, watching firsthand as the ice thinned and, in some cases, vanished.

Mountains in the Hindu Kush Himalaya region.

Mountains in the Hindu Kush Himalaya region.

Image: Alex Treadway/ICIMOD

“The punchline is the glaciers are receding in response to changes in temperature and precipitation — they’re wasting away,” Alex Gardner, a NASA glaciologist who had no role in the report, said in an interview.

Shea emphasized the importance of reining in heat-trapping carbon emissions (“Every kilogram we don’t emit helps”), but noted that the melting will still be considerable this century. The atmosphere is already loaded with carbon dioxide, a potent greenhouse gas that is at its highest levels in some 15 million years

Under the most ambitious scenario of limiting global warming to just 1.5 degrees Celsius (or 2.7 Fahrenheit) above pre-industrial revolution levels in this century, the report finds that the Hindu Kush Himalaya region will lose one in three of its glaciers.

“It’s not a great story”

But this scenario is no longer realistic.  

“We’re not gonna hit 1.5 C,” acknowledged Shea. “We’re gonna blow by that.”

The reasons are simple. The four biggest carbon emitters — China, the U.S., India, and EU — haven’t yet decreased their emissions in a sustained, impactful way. Last year, carbon emissions in the U.S. popped up.

And even with 2 degrees Celsius of warming — which is also a hugely ambitious climate target — around half of the Hindu Kush Himalaya region’s glaciers are expected to vanish by century’s end, the report concluded.

While these are enormous numbers, they’re not too shocking. In fact, they’re consistent with mainstream climate science.  

“There are no surprises,” Ted Scambos, a senior research scientist at the National Snow and Ice Data Center who had no involvement in the report, said in an interview. “It’s happening everywhere.”

“I don’t know of any glaciated range that isn’t showing a loss of ice,” Scambos added.

“What the global signal tells us is everything is in a state of rapid retreat,” added Gardner.

Wheat harvesting in Shahr-e-Zarok, Afghanistan.

Wheat harvesting in Shahr-e-Zarok, Afghanistan.

Image:  Alex Treadway/ ICIMOD

The crux of the problem is local warming on the mountains. The line that separates where it’s cold enough to make snow, called the “equilibrium line,” keeps rising higher, which means less snow and more melting.

“That line pushes up and you expose a bunch of ice to melting,” said Shea. 

Thinning glaciers pose momentous problems for the millions of people living below. 

“It’s not just a symbol of climate change,” said Gardner. “These glaciers will have meaningful consequences for the population.” 

Glaciers act like batteries, he said. “They don’t make water, they store it and release it.” During warmer and dryer times, people and farmers depend on these natural batteries to release water, especially when water becomes a scarce, critical resource. 

“They are incredibly valuable downstream resources,” said Gardner.

A NASA-led study found that glaciers in Asia are slowing down.

A NASA-led study found that glaciers in Asia are slowing down.

But, sometimes, there’s too much water. Less snow means more rain and a quicker run-off into some of the planet’s largest rivers, like the Ganges and Yellow. This translates into surges of water, extreme flooding, and crop devastation, the report stated. 

In the Himalayas and around the globe, the glacier narrative is clear. But just how much they’ll ultimately thin and recede above the clouds is contingent upon human-generated carbon emissions. Already, the planet is the warmest it’s been in 120,000 years, and ancient glaciers are a visible victim. 

“When you get up there [to the glaciers] and visually see it, it’s stunning,” said Shea.

“How long have they existed there, and how quickly have we got rid of them?” mused Gardner.

 

 

 

 

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