+
tiger king, big cat safety, carole baskin

A tiger at the Endangered Animal Rescue Sanctuary and a mugshot of Joe Exotic from Santa Rosa County Jail.

Netflix’s “Tiger King” will go down in history as the collective distraction that helped America get through the dark, depressing days of early COVID-19 lockdowns. The show followed the true story of the feud between private zoo owner Joe Exotic, the self-described “gay, gun-carrying, redneck with a mullet,” and Carole Baskin, founder of Big Cat Rescue.

Exotic is currently serving out a 21-year prison sentence for animal rights abuses and hiring someone to kill Baskin.

The show was a raucous look inside the world of big cat owners and brought a lot of attention to the animal abuse that runs rampant in the industry. The light it shed on the industry was so bright it led Congress to take action. The Senate unanimously passed the Big Cat Public Safety Act on December 6. The House had already passed the bill in July.

The White House has signaled that President Biden will sign the bill into law.


The legislation prohibits keeping tigers, lions and other big cat species as pets and bans public contact with these animals, including paid interactive experiences like cub petting. Those who currently own big cats will be able to keep their animals so long as they register them with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and do not allow them to have direct contact with the public.

There are an estimated 7,000 captive tigers in America living either in zoos or with private owners.

The bill was originally crafted by Baskin and her husband Howard in 2011 and was introduced to Congress every year since, but never got any traction until “Tiger King” was released in 2020.

“I am harder to intimidate and kill than some thought!” Carole Baskin joked in a video celebrating her legislative victory. “The passage of the bill is the successful culmination of many years of battling against narcissistic, abusive, dangerous men who dominated the cruel trade and did everything they could to stop its passage, including wanting to intimidate, discredit and even kill me,” Baskin added.

“Within a decade, most of the thousands of big cats living this way will have passed away, and in 20 years, no big cats will be living in this kind of misery,” she continued.

The passage of the legislation was also applauded by The Humane Society.

“An extraordinarily cruel era for big cats in the U.S. finally comes to an end with the passage of the Big Cat Public Safety Act. We’ve been fighting for this moment for years because so many so-called ‘Tiger Kings’ have been breeding tigers and other big cats to use them for profit,” Kitty Block, president and CEO of the Humane Society of the United States, said in a statement.

The legislation is a big win for the animals and people as well. The Humane Society reports that since 1990, there have been more than 400 incidents involving captive big cats, and five children and 19 adults have been killed and hundreds of others injured.

Many objected to how Joe Exotic was celebrated for the few weeks that “Tiger King” ruled popular culture because he was, in the end, a man who profited from animals’ misery. Now, we can look back at the show’s popularity and see that it’s played a positive role in protecting these majestic animals from abuse for the foreseeable future.

Joy

The best and brightest come together to tackle society’s toughest challenges

The Chan Zuckerberg Initiative is working to eradicate disease, improve education, and address the needs of their local community.

True

Have you ever wished you could solve some of society’s toughest challenges? That’s exactly why the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative (CZI) was founded.

Established in 2015 by Dr. Priscilla Chan and Mark Zuckerberg, the organization’s mission is to build a better future for everyone. CZI is working to eradicate disease, improve education, and address the needs of their local community.

Since its launch, CZI has awarded around $4.8 billion in grants to organizations whose work aligns with these values.

Keep ReadingShow less
Science

A juice company dumped orange peels in a national park. Here's what it looks like now.

12,000 tons of food waste and 21 years later, this forest looks totally different.

This article originally appeared on 08.23.17


In 1997, ecologists Daniel Janzen and Winnie Hallwachs approached an orange juice company in Costa Rica with an off-the-wall idea.

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.

Keep ReadingShow less
Identity

13 side-by-side portraits of people over 100 with their younger selves

These powerful before-and-after photos reveal just how beautiful aging can be.

This article originally appeared on 12.08.17.


Centenarians — people 100 years or older — are a rarity. Their lives are often scrutinized as holding the key to aging.

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.

Keep ReadingShow less

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.

Keep ReadingShow less
Identity

An open letter to men who will have sex with me but won't date me.

"It's one thing if you're not into fat women — everyone has their preferences — but if you want to have sex with us without being seen in public with us, that's emotionally abusive."

This article originally appeared on 06.29.18


Many years before I got together with my boyfriend, I had a sex thing with this guy that I thought was relationship material.

He not only had an amazing body but a great personality as well. I was honest when I met him that I was looking for something more than just sex, and he led me to believe that was what he wanted, too.

Between mind-blowing sex sessions, we ordered in, played video games, and watched movies — couple things but without the label. But when I tried to get him to go to a show or out to dinner with me, he refused. My frustration grew as the months went on, and one day I confronted him.

Keep ReadingShow less

This article originally appeared on 01.20.16


Privilege can be a hard thing to talk about.

Oftentimes, when it's implied or stated that someone is "privileged," they can feel defensive or upset. They may have worked very hard for what they have accomplished and they may have overcome many obstacles to accomplish it. And the word "privilege" can make a person feel as though that work is being diminished.

The key point about privilege, though, is that it doesn't mean that a person was raised by wealthy parents, had everything handed to them, and didn't have to do much other than show up.

Keep ReadingShow less
Science

Four years ago an accident resulted in a plastic-eating mutant that just might save us all

Researchers knew it would take a while for the bacteria to evolve into the environmental savior we need.

man swimming underwater

Plastic has been taking over our world for a while now.

You may not think too much about it, but plastic is a global crisis. A recent rundown in The National Review reveals that more than 8 million tons of plastic is regularly deposited in the ocean. It's killing sea life, endangering coral reefs, and affecting the fish we eat because of the toxins they ingest.

So much for a happy, carefree day, right?

But there's some good news on the horizon: Scientists have found a mutant bacteria that eats plastic.

Of course, this mutant bacteria isn't exactly like the kind of mutants you see in movies and comic books. Although, I'll admit I initially thought, "Good! Someone's finally getting Storm to handle this whole climate change business." How cool would that be?

So maybe Professor X isn't coming out of hiding to help us with our global problems, but the reality of this news is just as exciting. According to The Guardian, an international team of scientists have mutated a bacteria's enzyme to fully break down plastic bottles.

The plastic-eating bacteria was first discovered in 2016 in Japan. Researchers studying plastic pollution — specifically polyethylene terephthalate or PET — discovered a colony of bacteria that fed on the plastic, breaking down strong chemical bonds as a means of survival. The bacteria back then, though, was eating through highly crystallized PET — the material plastic bottles are made of — at a slow rate. Researchers knew it would take a while for the bacteria to evolve into the environmental savior we need.

Scientists started studying the bacteria's evolution and discovered they'd unintentionally made it stronger.

"It's alive! It's alive!" they screamed. That's how I imagine the discovery of this mutated bacteria enzyme went, with all the blinking lights and klaxons of a superhero movie. That's what happens in labs, right?

Well, that's how it should have gone. Because this is exciting! After viewing a 3D model of the bacteria, scientists discovered that small modifications could make its enzymes much more effective. The BBC reports that PET takes "hundreds of years" to break down on its own, but with the modified enzyme, called PETase, the same process begins within a matter of days. The enzyme breaks down PET to its original building blocks, meaning that the plastic can be reused again without losing quality.

recycling, reusable, plastic bottles, PET, enzymes

A large blocked cube made up of plastic bottles.

Image via Pixabay.

Here's why this is important: You may think plastic bottles are recycled into new plastic bottles and that every bottle you drink from had a rich and beautiful life before it came to you, but that's not true. In 2017, BuzzFeed reported that Coca-Cola sourced only 7% of its plastic from recycled material and only 6% of Nestle's bottles were made from recycled plastic. The rest of all that single-use plastic being dumped is turned into other fibers like carpet and clothing.

This is because plastics degrade as they're recycled. "Bottles become fleeces, then carpets, after which they often end up in landfill," the BBC notes.

But PETase makes it possible to use PET in its original form over and over again.

We're only at the beginning of this development.

On one hand, PETase could bring us closer to true recycling (producing much less plastic and using much less fossil fuel) than ever before. But the research has only started. The breaking down process still needs to be made faster, so it could be years before PETase or anything like it is used on an industrial scale.

While scientists keep working to make PETase a worldwide plastic problem-solver, we can all do our part by reducing our reliance on plastic. Little things — like a reusable bottle for the gym, keeping metal utensils at work, and reusable bags and totes for trips to the store — can help keep the Earth clean, save animals, and make us a little less reliant on mutants (er, mutant enzymes) to save the day.