In today's round-up, we learn than half a million strawberry hermit crabs have died from plastic pollution; find out what the Pope has to say about climate change; and discover why NASA have been 'bombing' the sun.
Plastic litter proves lethal for hermit crabs
Strawberry hermit crabs are the latest species to fall prey to plastic waste. An international study has estimated that 570,000 of the animals have died after being caught in debris found on the beaches of the remote Cocos and Henderson islands.
The crabs crawl into open bottles and containers but struggle to make their way out and are killed. Their smell then attracts other crabs who also end up trapped.
‘These results are shocking but perhaps not surprising,’ says Dr Jennifer Lavers of the University of Tasmania, who is the research’s lead author. ‘High concentrations of debris are now being encountered on beaches around the world, many of which are also home to hermit crabs that can be expected to interact with plastic pollution in the same way as those we studied. It is likely that the mortality of hermit crabs across the world’s beaches is substantial, and further investigation is required.’
Save Earth from a climate catastrophe, urges the Pope
The Pope has waded into the politics of the climate crisis, calling for governments to rise to the ‘challenge of civilization’ posed by global warming.
Expressing dismay for the inadequate initiatives undertaken thus far to meet the targets of the 2015 Paris Agreement—which he says ‘demonstrate how far words are from concrete actions’—he says ‘we must seriously ask ourselves if there is the political will to allocate with honesty, responsibility and courage, more human, financial and technological resources to mitigate the negative effects of climate change, as well as to help the poorest and most vulnerable populations who suffer from them the most.’
Mentioning the ‘numerous studies’ that tell us it’s still possible to limit global warming, he adds that ‘there remains a window of opportunity, but we must not allow it to close….May we offer the next generation concrete reasons to hope and work for a good and dignified future.’
NASA probe captures ‘the best-ever glimpse of the birthplace of the solar wind’
We distinctly remember once asking at school why dangerous nuclear waste couldn’t just be popped on a spaceship and sent to blow up in the sun. The teacher poo-pooed the suggestion on the basis that doing so would be spectacularly dangerous, but now, some decades later, it turns out that NASA have been ‘bombing’ the sun in order to find out about solar wind.
There is a serious reason why: the results ‘could help researchers to better prepare for periods when the solar wind is particularly turbulent and knocks out radio and other communications as it washes over Earth,’ according to Nature’s report.
On This Day… in 1973
…Gerald Ford becomes Vice-President of the United States, following the resignation of Spiro Agnew two months previously amid allegations of corruption.
Little did anyone know at the time that it would put Ford on course to become president, an event which took place the following summer when Richard Nixon, too, resigned his office in the wake of the Watergate scandal.
That tumultuous sequence of events would earn a (so-far) unique spot in history for Ford: he is the only man in history to become President of the United States without first being voted in either as president or vice-president. But given the events in the States right now, who would bet against Ford having company at some point in the future?
The Trafalgar Square Christmas tree looks like the last one left at the garage at 4pm on Christmas Eve
Is it a deliberate statement about austerity? An unfortunate by-product of our changing climate? Or a post-Brexit snub by Norway?
Whatever the reason, this year’s Trafalgar Square Christmas tree is a spindly, bedraggled specimen that has sparked much hilarity. Perhaps that was the reason — to give us all something to laugh about.
And finally… squirrel sandwich, anyone…?
Championed by HRH The Prince of Wales himself, the red squirrel revival is gathering pace all over the UK. But