Wrapping up the week with some bite sized chunks of good news to put a spring in your step.
This photo of an Arctic fox is so beautiful, it barely looks real. No wonder it's one of the finalists for this year's Wildlife Photographer of the Year People's Choice competition. The photographer, Marco Gaiotti, captured this image on the remote Norwegian archipelago of Svalbard - one of the northernmost inhabited places on Earth. Gaiotti said every time the little creature called to nearby foxes, its breath would freeze, creating diaphanous tendrils in the air. We will be feature lots more magical photos from the finalists in the OGN Sunday Magazine.
Hats off to Hollywood star Michael Sheen who says he is now a “not-for-profit actor” after selling his houses and giving the proceeds to charity. The Welsh actor and activist, 52, said organising the 2019 Homeless World Cup in Cardiff was a turning point for him. When funding for the £2m project fell through at the last moment, Sheen sold his own houses to bankroll it. “I had a house in America and a house here and I put those up and just did whatever it took,” he told the Big Issue. Sheen said that when he “came out the other side”, he realised he could do these kinds of things and, if he could keep earning money, “it’s not going to ruin me”. He’s pledged to carry on using the money he earns from acting to fund more projects.
Whilst Boris Johnson continues to claim that there was no Christmas party at 10 Downing Street last year which would, of course, have been in flagrant breach of social distancing and lockdown rules, new video evidence has emerged to make his claims look rather wide of the truth.
Obviously the video is fake!
Ever wondered what the moon smells like? NASA Astronaut Col. Chris Hadfield says: “The only time you can smell space is when you come back in from a space walk. As you open the hatch, there is a distinctive smell.” Some describe it as rum, fruit, seared steak, or a BBQ. Gene Cernan, the Apollo 17 Astronaut remarked about another scent he experienced: “The moon smells like spent gunpowder.” But you don't have to imagine it any more. You can wear it as a fragrance! Choose from Eau de Space or Eau de Luna and you can smell out of this world.
The Good Food Project, orginally just in Pittsburgh, prevents waste by transforming food that might go to the landfill into healthy, heat-and-eat meals and shelf-stable items packaged in compostable containers. These meals are then distributed to nonprofit partners serving the needy. The app FoodRescueHero is now used by a growing team of 13,000+ volunteer drivers in 15 cities.
Ever the one to go big or go home, Chinese officials have briefed reporters on a new massive greening campaign that will create Belgium-sized forests every year for each of the next five years. That's an area of 30,689 km2 (11,849 square miles) each year. Additionally, the country’s national park and forest system will be expanded, new green corridors will be created to reconnect fragmented populations of wildlife, and greater crackdowns on the illegal trafficking of wildlife and wildlife products will be enforced.
Avril and Christopher Rowlands planted a little Christmas tree in their garden in 1979 in Worcestershire, England. It's now 60ft (18m) - so tall they have to use a cherry picker to decorate it each year. Now, 43 years on, its 3,000 lights can be seen for miles around. Last weekend, most of the 2,000 inhabitants of the village – said to be the inspiration for Ambridge in The Archers on BBC Radio 4 – turned out to see the switching on of the lights to raise money for Cancer Research. 'We had no idea just how big it would grow. It's absolutely huge now and towers over our house,' said Mrs Rowlands, 75, adding: 'Inkberrow is one of the only villages in the UK which has no street lights so when the tree is lit up it really is quite a spectacle. Switching on of the lights has become quite a village tradition. A lot of people say that it's the start of their Christmas.'
Why do Americans still construct traffic intersections that make cars sit idle for minutes at a time, while spewing emissions, at red lights? Well, the good news is that not all U.S. states are stuck in the past. In the state of Indiana, 256 roundabouts (also called traffic circles) have been constructed since 2016, and the data is showing what Europeans have known for decades: they definitely reduce collisions, fatalities, traffic congestion, and fuel consumption. Not only that, roundabouts cut pollution, while reducing construction and maintenance costs. Indiana has seen reductions of 90 percent in intersection fatalities when they are replaced with traffic circles, and a 76 percent reduction in crashes resulting in injuries. Let's hope this catches on across all states!
Batteries made with zero-emission lithium from geothermal plants in Germany could power one million vehicles per year by the mid-2020s, according to Vulcan Energy, a company setting out to produce climate neutral lithium in Europe. The use of geothermal energy – the ambient heat below the ground – dates back to Roman times. But thanks to modern technology, geothermal power plants can now also extract lithium from beneath the ground. In Europe, a local supply of lithium is considered essential to sustain the EU’s fast-growing battery industry, which currently relies on imports from China, Australia and the Republic of Congo. “You can say we also have a negative CO2 footprint because we only use about 50 percent of the produced energy for the lithium extraction – the other 50 percent we feed into the grid and it will be provided as renewable heat or cold to customers in the area,” said Horst Kreuter, the managing director of Vulcan Energy.
On this day: 10 December 1768: The first part of the first edition of the Encyclopædia Britannica, the oldest continuously published and revised work in the English language, was published and advertised for sale in Edinburgh. 1901: The first Nobel Prizes were distributed, marking the fifth anniversary of the death of Swedish industrialist Alfred Nobel, the inventor of dynamite, who founded and endowed the awards through his will. 1948: The General Assembly of the United Nations adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
Christmas Cracker: What do the Trumps do for Christmas dinner? They put on a super spread.
Dive in Deeper
Up Up and Away
Fabulous 4 minute film from BBC Earth about albatrosses, including news that they use their nostrils to fly.