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Nature

The Earthshot Prize

Once upon a time, in a land far, far away, the idea of sending a person to the moon was unfathomable. The moon is over 238,000 miles from Earth! How would anyone ever reach it safely, and more importantly, return to solid ground when the mission was complete?


But people are amazing, industrious creatures, and President John F. Kennedy was determined to make that giant leap. He referred to it as a ‘Moonshot;’ a play on words—a variation of "long shot," describing a monumental effort and a lofty goal—uniting millions of people around an organized mission to put man on the moon. Moonshot catalyzed the development of technology as we know it.

Today, our challenge is more urgent. Humanity faces dire environmental problems requiring bold, groundbreaking solutions like, yesterday. In 2020, His Royal Highness Prince William, inspired by John F. Kennedy’s leadership in inspiring new innovation, launched The Earthshot Prize. He aims to find and grow the solutions that will repair our planet this decade; to regenerate the place we all call home. (Thanks, Prince William!)

The Earthshot Prize is the world’s most prestigious environmental award, involving a 10-month selection process, a panel of global experts, and a £1 million award for each winner to expand and launch their ideas.

“The Earth is at a tipping point and we face a stark choice: either we continue as we are and irreparably damage our planet, or we remember our unique power as human beings and our continual ability to lead, innovate and problem-solve. People can achieve great things. The next ten years present us with one of our greatest tests—a decade of action to repair the Earth,” said Prince William.

Fleather, a finalist in Build A Waste-free World

The prize is centered around 5 ‘Earthshots’ which are both simple and ambitious.

Protect and Restore Nature: By 2030, we choose to ensure that, for the first time in human history, the natural world is growing—not shrinking.

Clean Our Air: By 2030, we choose to ensure that everyone in the world breathes clean, healthy air—at World Health Organization standard or better.

Revive Our Oceans: By 2030, we choose to repair and preserve our oceans for future generations.

Build a Waste-free World: By 2030, we choose to build a world where nothing goes to waste, where the leftovers of one process become the raw materials of the next—just like they do in nature.

Fix Our Climate: By 2030, we choose to fix the world’s climate by cutting out carbon. We wish to build a carbon-neutral economy that lets every culture, community, and country thrive.

Out of the more than 1,000 nominations submitted, 3 finalists have been selected from each of the five categories, and the winners of the award (a total of 5, one from each category) is set to be announced at a ceremony in Boston, MA. The solutions and innovations represented by the 15 Finalists for 2022 will help to put the world firmly on a trajectory towards a stable climate.

The Great Bubble Barrier

One finalist in the Revive Our Oceans category is an invention titled “The Great Bubble Barrier,” created by a team of ocean enthusiasts based in The Netherlands. Francis Zoet, Anne Marieke Eveleens, and Philip Ehrhorn have developed an ingenious way to stop harmful plastic from reaching our oceans. Prevention is vital; every year, more than 8 million tons of plastic ends up in the world’s oceans, traveling in from rivers and canals. Once it enters the ocean, it is nearly impossible to capture and remove.

The Great Bubble Barrier has developed an effective solution designed to intercept plastic waste before it reaches the sea: the Bubble Barrier. The technology is simple: air is pumped through a perforated tube placed diagonally on the riverbed to create a “curtain” of bubbles, which directs plastic up to the surface and into a waste collection system, all without obstructing wildlife or boats. The concept has been used in the past by the oil industry to contain spills, and has now been developed to help local authorities remove debris from our rivers.

To date, the Bubble Barrier has been proven to catch on average 86% of plastic waste. Several Bubble Barriers have been installed in The Netherlands, including in the Westerdok, one of Amsterdam’s famous canals. Each month, Bubble Barrier Amsterdam stops an average of 8,000 pieces of plastic waste from leaving the canal and entering the North Sea. Two new Bubble Barriers will soon be implemented in Germany and Portugal. The team now hopes to scale the technology to reach polluted rivers worldwide.

Another compelling finalist is in the Fix Our Climate category, an Oman-based company known as 44.01. The founder and Carbon General, Talal Hasan, discovered a way to eliminate carbon by turning it into rock, removing it from the atmosphere safely, efficiently, and permanently.

Talal Hasan, founder of 44.01.

“The answers to the problems our planet faces can often be found in the natural world,” said Hasan. “At 44.01, we found a natural process that removes carbon and we’ve accelerated it. We believe this process is replicable globally and can play a key role in helping our planet to heal. Thank you to The Earthshot Prize, for recognising our work.”

In addition to their eligibility for the £1 million prize, all finalists will receive tailored support and resources from the Earthshot Prize Global Alliance members, which is an unprecedented network of private sector businesses from around the world who are committed to healing our planet. The list is lengthy and varied, spanning from Greenpeace to Walmart.

“I am so excited to celebrate these 15 Finalists and see the 5 Winners of The Earthshot Prize announced in Boston – the hometown of President John F. Kennedy, who shared The Earthshot Prize’s belief that seemingly impossible goals are within reach if we only harness the limitless power of innovation, human ingenuity, and urgent optimism,” said Prince William.

The Earthshot Prize awards ceremony will take place on Friday, December 2 at the MGM Music Hall in Boston. It will air around the world on BBC in the UK, PBS in the United States and Multichoice across Africa. The show will also be available globally on YouTube. It will premiere on Sunday, December 4.

For more information about The Earthshot Prize 2022 Finalists, please visit www.earthshotprize.org.

Carter Trozzolo is exhausted—aren't we all?

There was a massive snowstorm in Canada on Monday that blanketed southern Ontario. In a report on the storm’s aftermath, CTV News interviewed young Carter Trozzolo to see how it was affecting everyday Canadians. Trozzolo had the day off from school so he was put to work shoveling snow in his neighborhood.

When asked how his monumental task was going he said, "Tiring," with a large sigh. "I really wish I was in school right now," he continued. He added that he wasn’t just shoveling snow for himself but "neighbors, friends, probably people I even don't know," he said in an exasperated tone. “I am tired,” he reiterated.

The clip was of a young man shoveling snow, but his overwhelming sense of exasperation feels like it was about a lot more than just the task at hand. It’s how most of us feel after almost two years of dealing with the pandemic.


In fact, a recent poll by Monmouth University found that six in 10 Americans feel worn out by pandemic-related changes they've had to make. Thirty-six percent feel “worn out a lot” and 24% feel “worn out a little.”

To take things a step further, the next interview in the clip feels like a metaphor for the futility of trying to get through the day with no end to the pandemic on the horizon. Toronto resident Vishnu Jayanthan attempts to dig his car out of the snow with nothing more than garden hand tools.

Vishnu Jayanthan "needs a bigger shovel" the chyron reads.

We could all use a bigger shovel and to be less exhausted.

Zoologist and photographer Conor Ryan spotted 1,000 fin whales in one spot.

Conor Ryan has seen his fair share of whales, and his Twitter handle—@whale_nerd—isn't just a cutesy nickname. Ryan was just 14 years old when he published his first peer-reviewed scientific paper on killer whales with his best friend, Peter Wilson, in 2001. As a wildlife photographer, a zoologist specializing in marine biology and an expert in baleen whales and small cetaceans, he knows when he's looking at something special in the sea.

In other words, when Conor Ryan says his mind is "completely blown" by a whale sighting, you know it's a big deal. Seeing 1,000 fin whales at once? That's a very big deal.

Fin whales are the second-largest animal in the world, second only to the blue whale. In the 20th century, fin whales were hunted to near extinction before commercial whaling was outlawed. Nearly 725,000 were killed in the Southern Hemisphere alone in the mid- 1900s, and though whaling is no longer a threat, fin whales are still on the endangered species list.


Fin whales get their name from an easy-to-spot fin on their backs. Imagine seeing 1,000 of any endangered species in one location, much less 1,000 of these 85-foot, 80-ton whales all feeding in a single location.

Ryan captured the scene on film and shared it on Twitter, writing, "We found about 1000 fin whales over a 5x5 mile area off South Orkney. Blue and humpback also mixed in. Mind completely blown." The video shows a cluster of whales spouting as far as the eye can see.

According to The Guardian, Ryan spotted the whales from the National Geographic Endurance polar cruiser, in an area between the South Orkney Islands and the Antarctic peninsula. Their ship was in an area with four large krill fishing vessels, which explains the feeding frenzy.

Ryan said it might be "one of the largest aggregations of fin whales ever documented” and that his estimate of 1,000 whales was a conservative one.

“Words fail me,” Ryan told The Guardian. “I have seen maybe 100 fins here before in previous years. Thousands of chinstrap penguins, petrels, and albatrosses, too … It was unusually calm weather and unusually good visibility.”

Though commercial whaling laws have greatly reduced the decimation of whale populations we saw in the 1900s, whales still face threats from human activity. According to NOAA, the main threat to fin whales today is vessel strikes. Cargo and cruise boat ships have increased in number in the past few decades, which increases the risk of running into whales, but they aren't the only ships that pose a threat. Last year, two dead fin whales had to be dislodged from the hull of an Australian Navy ship after it pulled into the naval pier in San Diego. The fact that they are still considered endangered means we have to stay vigilant about their protection.

But as author Philip Hoare wrote in The Guardian, "In a world constrained by woe and threats to democracy…1,000 fin whales can’t help but lift our hearts." Such a number is decidedly good news, which is always worth celebrating and which provides a beacon of hope that we can make impactful changes that help our planet when we choose to.

Images used from Tahoe PAWS & TLC 4 Furry Friends' Facebook, with permission

Pitbull found four months after being given up for lost.

For nonprofit animal rescue organization Tahoe PAWS and TLC 4 Furry Friends, reuniting lost pets with their owners is all in a day’s work. However, one recent rescue has gone viral, after the team successfully found a pitbull who had been missing for nearly four months.

Poor little Russ, a 3-year-old pitbull pup, had gotten spooked one night during a camping trip with his owner, Ricardo Rodriguez, in late August.

Rodriguez had done his best to find Russ: getting the help of friends, calling local shelters, posting fliers. To no avail.

And then, the Caldor Fire hit. As it destroyed several homes and businesses along a stretch of 200,000 acres, the flames forced an emergency evacuation for Rodriguez. From there, things began to turn bleak.

"After months of not hearing back from anyone, I assumed he was in good hands with a different owner," Rodriguez told CNN.

Luckily, Rodriguez and Russ’ story was far from over.


Russ curled up and cold next to a tree.

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On December 16 (four months later), a skier noticed a dog, curled up in the snow next to a tree. That’s when Tahoe PAWS was notified.

Two volunteers, Leona Allen and Elsa Guale, gladly took on the mission, which would not be easy in the frigid temperatures.

Allen, who had volunteered with PAWS for three years, told CNN "We didn't even hesitate.This was a one-shot deal, we either got him or he didn't survive the night."

Trekking up a steep incline, Guale and Allen waded through the snow, guided only by Russ’ tracks. When they reached the tree, all Allen could see was a “dark mass.” No movement was detected, no signs of life.

And then … Russ opened his eyes. They had found him. And he was alive.

But the venture had only just begun. Gaule and Allen would need to safely get a very scared Russ down the hill. Despite his fearful growls, Graule won his trust with treats and patience. Without it, rescue would have been impossible, Allen told the San Francisco Chronicle, according to the Stamford Advocate.

When Russ finally allowed his head to rest on Gaule’s hand, the women wrapped him up in a blanket, placed him on a sled (given by El Dorado County Animal Services Officer Kyle Shumaker) and slowly brought him to the bottom of the hill. The whole endeavor took several hours.

Russ in his rescue sled.

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Russ might have been lost in the most extreme of elements for four months, but the vet deemed the pup completely healthy. Wendy Jones, founder and executive director for Tahoe PAWS, attributes this to his “survival mode” kicking in.

This is more than a turn of phrase. Survival mode, or feral mode, is a very real phenomena that happens when a dog is separated from its owner. As stress starts to deplete serotonin levels, a panicked pup will undergo a drastic (although usually temporary) personality change as primal instincts take over. When this happens, even the most well-trained dog can not recognize their own name.

That is why Tahoe PAWS strongly advises that if your own furry friend goes missing, the first thing you should do (yes, even before searching yourself) is to contact local Animal Services.

When Rodriguez received the good news, the dog owner was “ecstatic,” according to CNN. And only one day after Christmas, the two were reunited. This was thanks not only to the wonderful collective efforts of multiple organizations, but also due to the fact that Russ had been microchipped. Though Russ’ chip had either “not been registered or possibly not updated,” according to Jones, it was no match for the team’s investigative work.

“This is a great reminder that microchipping your pet and maintaining the registration in your name is important,” Tahoe PAWS & TLC 4 Furry Friends wrote in its Facebook post.

dogs, pit bulls

A very happy, healthy and thawed-out Russ.

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Russ is now back where he belongs, thanks to the diligence and commitment of the amazing team at Tahoe PAWS and El Dorado County Animal Services.

Allen shared with the Chronicle (as reported by SFist.com) how grateful she was to help.

"As a rescue organization . . . this is what we're supposed to do…I've worked some pretty gnarly rescues, this probably being the top. I keep reliving the moment when he opened his eyes and lifted his head, and just the joy and elation inside of me was overwhelming. It's one more life that gets to live happy and warm and safe."

As a nonprofit, Tahoe PAWS relies on volunteer services and outside contributions to help supply necessary equipment for these amazing rescues. If you’d like to donate to its cause, you can do so here.