See this turtle's miraculous recovery after getting caught in a piece of litter.

When it comes to prioritizing environmental concerns, curbing litter isn't exactly at the top of the list.

After all, when there are much bigger dangers like harmful emissions, overfishing, and climate change to worry about, how much harm are a few pieces of plastic on the ground really going to do?


Just splitting a sixer of Strawberry Crush with my bros. What's the worst that could happen? Photo by iStock.

But there's one turtle that would staunchly disagree with that mindset (or, at least he would if he could talk).

Meet Peanut. He's a turtle. And he's lucky to be alive.

The red-eared slider was found wandering the St. Louis area in 1993 with a six-pack ring trapped around his mid-section.

Peanut re-creating the fateful incident. All Peanut photos by Missouri Department of Conservation, used with permission.

Even after his rescuers snipped the plastic rings off, Peanut's shell was forever deformed into a figure-8, peanut-y shape (hence his name). Due to the constriction of his shell, some of Peanut's internal organs (his lungs, in particular) failed to grow properly.

These impairments made Peanut an easy target for predators, which meant he was unable to be released back into the wild.

Today, Peanut has a home and a job with the State of Missouri.

The 31-year old turtle resides at Powder Valley Conservation Nature Center, where he is treated by the state herpetologist. He's also the official mascot for Missouri's Department of Transportation and Department of Conservation's anti-littering effort, a program called No MOre Trash.

Peanut is ready for his close-up.

In his heyday, Peanut made as many as two or three appearances a month at schools and events across Missouri.

He and his handlers would encourage people young and old to dispose of their trash the right way to prevent other animals from ending up like Peanut.

Peanut rockin' out.

Now that Peanut's a little older, he's taking it easy.

"We put Peanut in semi-retirement," Catherine McGrane, assistant nature center manager for Powder Valley, told Upworthy. Traveling back and forth to lots of events can be stressful for a turtle because of all the handling and being transferred to water of varying pH levels.

These days, Peanut still travels to large events like the Missouri State Fair, where he's a popular attraction and educator. Every year, 90,000 to 110,000 visitors travel to Powder Valley to see Peanut and the site's two other resident turtles in the visitor's center lobby.

Peanut hanging out in his tank at Powder Valley Conservation Nature Center.

Peanut is a living, breathing example of the impact our garbage can have on the environment.

Whether it's turtles in six-pack rings or squirrels in yogurt containers, what happens to our trash and how we dispose of it matters.

McGrane shared a few other common household items to watch out for: "Any fishing line, or plastic lines, because animals can get tangled, not just in the water, but by a bird or squirrel, " she said. "And be mindful of balloons when they pop outside. Birds and other animals may ingest them."

"Please think more about your trash," is what Peanut would say if his lungs weren't deformed and if he could talk.


The best way to dispose of six-pack rings, fishing line, and yogurt containers is to cut them into smaller pieces before dropping them in the recycling. This simple step can protect fish and wildlife from getting stuck or swallowing large pieces. Balloons and plastic shopping bags also pose a serious threat to animals who eat them or get entangled. Consider balloon-free celebrations and use cloth bags at the store to keep these items out of landfills.

When you're out and about, make sure your trash and recyclables wind up in the right place, in the proper condition.

Because we can all do our part to protect our natural resources and wildlife.

Peanut loves when you recycle. Keep it up. Photo by iStock.

Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
True

Since March of 2020, over 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the CDC. Over 540,000 have died in the United States as this unprecedented pandemic has swept the globe. And yet, by the end of 2020, it looked like science was winning: vaccines had been developed.

In celebration of the power of science we spoke to three people: an individual, a medical provider, and a vaccine scientist about how vaccines have impacted them throughout their lives. Here are their answers:

John Scully, 79, resident of Florida

Photo courtesy of John Scully

When John Scully was born, America was in the midst of an epidemic: tens of thousands of children in the United States were falling ill with paralytic poliomyelitis — otherwise known as polio, a disease that attacks the central nervous system and often leaves its victims partially or fully paralyzed.

"As kids, we were all afraid of getting polio," he says, "because if you got polio, you could end up in the dreaded iron lung and we were all terrified of those." Iron lungs were respirators that enclosed most of a person's body; people with severe cases often would end up in these respirators as they fought for their lives.

John remembers going to see matinee showings of cowboy movies on Saturdays and, before the movie, shorts would run. "Usually they showed the news," he says, "but I just remember seeing this one clip warning us about polio and it just showed all these kids in iron lungs." If kids survived the iron lung, they'd often come back to school on crutches, in leg braces, or in wheelchairs.

"We all tried to be really careful in the summer — or, as we called it back then, 'polio season,''" John says. This was because every year around Memorial Day, major outbreaks would begin to emerge and they'd spike sometime around August. People weren't really sure how the disease spread at the time, but many believed it traveled through the water. There was no cure — and every child was susceptible to getting sick with it.

"We couldn't swim in hot weather," he remembers, "and the municipal outdoor pool would close down in August."

Then, in 1954 clinical trials began for Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine against polio and within a year, his vaccine was announced safe. "I got that vaccine at school," John says. Within two years, U.S. polio cases had dropped 85-95 percent — even before a second vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin in the 1960s. "I remember how much better things got after the vaccines came out. They changed everything," John says.

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Simon & Garfunkel's song "Bridge Over Troubled Water" has been covered by more than 50 different musical artists, from Aretha Franklin to Elvis Presley to Willie Nelson. It's a timeless classic that taps into the universal struggle of feeling down and the comfort of having someone to lift us up. It's beloved for its soothing melody and cathartic lyrics, and after a year of pandemic challenges, it's perhaps more poignant now than ever.

A few years a go, American singer-songwriter Yebba Smith shared a solo a capella version of a part of "Bridge Over Troubled Water," in which she just casually sits and sings it on a bed. It's an impressive rendition on its own, highlighting Yebba's soulful, effortless voice.

But British singer Jacob Collier recently added his own layered harmony tracks to it, taking the performance to a whole other level.

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Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
True

Since March of 2020, over 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the CDC. Over 540,000 have died in the United States as this unprecedented pandemic has swept the globe. And yet, by the end of 2020, it looked like science was winning: vaccines had been developed.

In celebration of the power of science we spoke to three people: an individual, a medical provider, and a vaccine scientist about how vaccines have impacted them throughout their lives. Here are their answers:

John Scully, 79, resident of Florida

Photo courtesy of John Scully

When John Scully was born, America was in the midst of an epidemic: tens of thousands of children in the United States were falling ill with paralytic poliomyelitis — otherwise known as polio, a disease that attacks the central nervous system and often leaves its victims partially or fully paralyzed.

"As kids, we were all afraid of getting polio," he says, "because if you got polio, you could end up in the dreaded iron lung and we were all terrified of those." Iron lungs were respirators that enclosed most of a person's body; people with severe cases often would end up in these respirators as they fought for their lives.

John remembers going to see matinee showings of cowboy movies on Saturdays and, before the movie, shorts would run. "Usually they showed the news," he says, "but I just remember seeing this one clip warning us about polio and it just showed all these kids in iron lungs." If kids survived the iron lung, they'd often come back to school on crutches, in leg braces, or in wheelchairs.

"We all tried to be really careful in the summer — or, as we called it back then, 'polio season,''" John says. This was because every year around Memorial Day, major outbreaks would begin to emerge and they'd spike sometime around August. People weren't really sure how the disease spread at the time, but many believed it traveled through the water. There was no cure — and every child was susceptible to getting sick with it.

"We couldn't swim in hot weather," he remembers, "and the municipal outdoor pool would close down in August."

Then, in 1954 clinical trials began for Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine against polio and within a year, his vaccine was announced safe. "I got that vaccine at school," John says. Within two years, U.S. polio cases had dropped 85-95 percent — even before a second vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin in the 1960s. "I remember how much better things got after the vaccines came out. They changed everything," John says.

Keep Reading Show less