9-Year-Old Starts Initiative to Help Protect America’s National Monuments

Derek Kendzor, Wikimedia Commons // CC BY-SA 3.0

In 1906, the Antiquities Act was established to preserve “historic landmarks, historic and prehistoric structures, and other objects of historic or scientific interest.” Nearly 130 such national monuments are recognized today, but their status isn’t as safe as nature lovers might hope. In an effort to ensure protected sites stay protected, 9-year-old Robbie Bond launched a nonprofit called Kids Speak for Parks.

As the Huffington Post reports, Robbie formed the group after learning that 27 national monuments are under threat from the U.S. government. The president issued two executive orders in April, calling for a review of a list of monuments to see if they should be stripped of their titles. The Vermillion Cliffs, the Sonoran Desert, and Papahānaumokuākea in Robbie’s home state of Hawaii could all be made vulnerable under the initiative.

Robbie believes these monuments shouldn’t be messed with, and he’s spreading his message of conservation by visiting all 27 of them. He and his parents have made stops at Carrizo Plain and Giant Sequoia in California and Bears Ears national monument in Utah so far and they plan to visit sites in Nevada and New Mexico next. Along the way, Robbie will be sharing photos and updates from his journey with hopes of inspiring an "army of fourth graders" to join his crusade.

"You can’t get the parks back once they’ve been taken away, and I want our national parks and monuments to be available for my kids and for future generations," Robbie said in a video announcing the project.

You can follow Robbie’s U.S. tour on the Kids Speak for Parks Facebook page and on his website.

[h/t Huffington Post]

The World's First Human Composting Facility Is Coming to Seattle

Simotion/iStock via Getty Images
Simotion/iStock via Getty Images

The state of Washington will soon be home to the world’s first human composting facility, reports IFL Science.

The facility is a project of Recompose, a Seattle-based company founded by architect Katrina Spade. When it opens in 2021, Recompose will offer $5500 services that turn a human body into one cubic yard of soil over the course of 30 days. Families of the deceased can take as much soil as they like—any remainder goes to sustaining conservation land in the Puget Sound region.

Recompose is one of several organizations working to provide more eco-friendly after-death options. Critics charge that more conventional choices, like embalming and cremation, have their share of issues. The formaldehyde used in embalming is carcinogenic, and Spade estimates that the combined formaldehyde found in all U.S. cemeteries could fill eight Olympic-size swimming pools. Plus, traditional burials take up land that’s quickly becoming scarce in urban areas. Cremation isn’t much better, environmentally speaking—a single cremation requires about the same amount of energy that an individual would use over a month, and it produces harmful greenhouse gas emissions.

“For every person that chooses to be recomposed instead of cremated or buried, it will save just over a metric ton of carbon, which is pretty significant,” Spade told CityLab in January.

Recompose was made possible by a first-in-the-nation Washington state bill, signed in May, legalizing the practice of the “natural organic reduction” of human remains. Now all that’s left is for Recompose to become a legally licensed funeral home (required before it can start taking people’s payments).

“I think in general, death is a really personal thing,” Spade told CityLab. “And people experience death of a loved one in so many ways. So our goal with recomposition is just to add more choice when it comes to death of a loved one, so that it’s still really personal.”

[h/t IFL Science]

Why Thousands of 'Penis Fish' Washed Up on a California Beach

Kate Montana, iNaturalist // CC BY-NC 4.0
Kate Montana, iNaturalist // CC BY-NC 4.0

Nature works in mysterious ways. The latest example materialized at Drakes Beach near San Francisco, California, in early December, when visitors strolling along the shore stumbled upon what looked to be the discarded inventory of an adult novelty shop. In fact, it was thousands of Urechis caupo, a marine worm that bears more than a passing resemblance to a human penis.

The engorged pink invertebrate, which is typically 10 inches in length, is native to the Pacific coast and frequently goes by the less salacious name of “fat innkeeper worm.” Burrowing in sand, the worm produces mucus from its front end to ensnare plankton and other snacks, then pumps water to create a vacuum where the food is directed into their tunnel. Since it builds up a small nest of discarded food, other creatures like crabs will stop by to feed, hence the “innkeeper” label.

You can see the worm in "action" here:

Because the worms enjoy a reclusive life in their burrows, it’s unusual to see thousands stranded on the beach. It’s likely that a strong storm broke up the intertidal sand, decimating their homes and leaving them exposed. The event is likely to thrill otters, as they enjoy dining on the worm. So do humans: Penis fish are served both raw and cooked in Korea and China.

[h/t Live Science]

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