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How Earth Day & the Hapless Farmer from Green Acres Are Related

Most of us probably hear the name "Eddie Albert" and immediately think of the hapless gentleman farmer he portrayed on TV's Green Acres. Despite having appeared in over 100 motion pictures and a dozen Broadway shows, he'll always be remembered as Oliver Wendell Douglas, a role he played for only six of his 99 years. But it was the role he played offstage for most of his life that led to April 22 (his birthday) being designated Earth Day.

During the early 1970s, Albert had a regular workout routine that consisted of jogging to the beach near his Southern California home and then taking a swim. An avid birdwatcher (he'd bought his first Audubon pin at the age of six), he was very familiar with the various species native to his area and their habits. When he noticed an absence of baby pelicans one season, he investigated and found out that thousands of pounds of DDT (a pesticide) had been pumped into Los Angeles-area sewers by a single chemical company. DDT is fat soluble and has a half-life of eight years, so as it was absorbed by anchovies and other fishy favorites of the pelican diet, it eventually affected their reproductive systems. Mama pelicans laid eggs with such thin shells that they crushed and broke when she tried to incubate them. Albert asked NBC for a few moments of air time to address the harmful effects of DDT, and shortly after the broadcast he was invited to speak at three universities on the subject. Three years later, the U.S. government banned the use of DDT.

ear.jpgTV Guide once described Albert as an "ecological Paul Revere," to which the actor responded, "Ecologist, hell! Too mild a word. Check the Department of Agriculture; 60% of the world is hungry already. With our soil impoverished, our air poisoned, our wildlife crippled by DDT, our rivers and lakes turning into giant cesspools, and mass starvation an apparent inevitability by 1976, I call myself a human survivalist!" (You can almost hear the fife playing in the background.) He'd been traveling the world since the 1950s and meeting with experts in various fields (including a trip to the Congo with Albert Schweitzer to study malnutrition) and he passed his findings on to the public via interviews (in such high-profile venues as The Tonight Show) and university lectures. Washington finally decided to designate one day per year as an "environmental teach-in" (hey, it was the late 1960s, everything was an " "“in"). When Earth Day was inaugurated in 1970, Albert was one of many celebrity guest speakers on hand to help launch the festivities.

His Green Thumb

Even though Mr. Douglas' crops were always pretty sickly on Green Acres, Eddie Albert had a green thumb. He remembered the victory garden his parents had planted during World War I and at a young age fell in love with the idea of growing things. He studied organic farming methods before it was fashionable, and the front yard of his Pacific Palisades home stood out from its neighbors "“ instead of a manicured lawn, there were cornstalks, tomato vines and other vegetables flourishing. He learned and warned about the danger of topsoil depletion (which became his next crusade after the successful DDT ban) and also established City Children's Farms, a program for creating gardens in inner-city areas.

eva-acres.jpgHungarian-born Eva Gabor, Albert's Green Acres co-star, never quite understood his activism. "Every time a fish gets sick, you're off making a speech," she once remarked to him. He eyed the $5,000 feather-trimmed negligee she was wearing and replied, "I'd appreciate it if you wouldn't wear things like that on camera." "But it's so chic," she protested. Albert told her that because it was so chic, women in the audience would want to emulate her style, causing the death of X amount of birds just for their fashionable feathers. "Eddie, feathers don't come from birds," Eva reassured him. "They come from pillows, dahling!" Despite not seeing eye-to-eye on environmental issues, Eddie and Eva remained close friends long after Green Acres ended. The pair are even buried very near one another in Westwood Village Memorial Park Cemetery.

His Legacy

During a 1996 interview, Albert was asked which of his accomplishments he was most proud of. He pondered a moment and then admitted that he never thought he'd been as good as he could have in any of his acting roles. When all was said and done, he chose his World War II service as his proudest moment. As a Navy lieutenant, he fought at the three-day battle of Tarawa in the Pacific Theater in November 1943. Piloting a Higgins boat under heavy fire, he helped to rescue over 70 wounded Marines off the island and out of the lagoon who had been left behind. He was awarded a Bronze Star for his heroism.

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10 Things We Know About The Handmaid’s Tale Season 2
Hulu
Hulu

Though Hulu has been producing original content for more than five years now, 2017 turned out to be a banner year for the streaming network with the debut of The Handmaid’s Tale on April 26, 2017. The dystopian drama, based on Margaret Atwood’s 1985 book, imagines a future in which a theocratic regime known as Gilead has taken over the United States and enslaved fertile women so that the group’s most powerful couples can procreate.

If it all sounds rather bleak, that’s because it is—but it’s also one of the most impressive new series to arrive in years (as evidenced by the slew of awards it has won, including eight Emmy and two Golden Globe Awards). Fortunately, fans left wanting more don’t have that much longer to wait, as season two will premiere on Hulu in April. In the meantime, here’s everything we know about The Handmaid’s Tale’s second season.

1. IT WILL PREMIERE WITH TWO EPISODES.

When The Handmaid’s Tale returns on April 25, 2018, Hulu will release the first two of its 13 new episodes on premiere night, then drop another new episode every Wednesday.

2. MARGARET ATWOOD WILL CONTINUE TO HELP SHAPE THE NARRATIVE.

Fans of Atwood’s novel who didn’t like that season one went beyond the original source material are in for some more disappointment in season two, as the narrative will again go beyond the scope of what Atwood covered. But creator/showrunner Bruce Miller doesn’t necessarily agree with the criticism they received in season one.

“People talk about how we're beyond the book, but we're not really," Miller told Newsweek. "The book starts, then jumps 200 years with an academic discussion at the end of it, about what's happened in those intervening 200 years. We're not going beyond the novel. We're just covering territory [Atwood] covered quickly, a bit more slowly.”

Even more importantly, Miller's got Atwood on his side. The author serves as a consulting producer on the show, and the title isn’t an honorary one. For Miller, Atwood’s input is essential to shaping the show, particularly as it veers off into new territories. And they were already thinking about season two while shooting season one. “Margaret and I had started to talk about the shape of season two halfway through the first [season],” he told Entertainment Weekly.

In fact, Miller said that when he first began working on the show, he sketched out a full 10 seasons worth of storylines. “That’s what you have to do when you’re taking on a project like this,” he said.

3. MOTHERHOOD WILL BE A CENTRAL THEME.

As with season one, motherhood is a key theme in the series. And June/Offred’s pregnancy will be one of the main plotlines. “So much of [Season 2] is about motherhood,” Elisabeth Moss said during the Television Critics Association press tour. “Bruce and I always talked about the impending birth of this child that’s growing inside her as a bit of a ticking time bomb, and the complications of that are really wonderful to explore. It’s a wonderful thing to have a baby, but she’s having it potentially in this world that she may not want to bring it into. And then, you know, if she does have the baby, the baby gets taken away from her and she can’t be its mother. So, obviously, it’s very complicated and makes for good drama. But, it’s a very big part of this season, and it gets bigger and bigger as the show goes on.”

4. THE RESISTANCE IS COMING.

Just because June is pregnant, don’t expect her to sit on the sidelines as the resistance to Gilead continues. “There is more than one way to resist," Moss said. “There is resistance within [June], and that is a big part of this season.”

5. WE’LL GET TO SEE THE COLONIES.

A scene from 'The Handmaid's Tale'
Hulu

Miller, understandably, isn’t eager to share too many details about the new season. “I’m not being cagey!” he swore to Entertainment Weekly. “I just want the viewers to experience it for themselves!” What he did confirm is that the new season will bring us to the colonies—reportedly in episode two—and show what life is like for those who have been sent there.

It will also delve further into what life is like for the refugees who managed to escape Gilead, like Luke and Moira.

6. MARISA TOMEI WILL APPEAR IN AN EPISODE.

Though she won’t be a regular cast member, Miller recently announced that Oscar winner Marisa Tomei will make a guest appearance in the new season’s second episode. Yes, the one that will show us the Colonies. In fact, that’s where we’ll meet her; Tomei is playing the wife of a Commander.

7. WE’LL LEARN MORE ABOUT THE ORIGINS OF GILEAD.

As a group shrouded in secrecy, we still don’t know much about how and where Gilead began. That will change a bit in season two. When discussing some of the questions viewers will have answered, executive producer Warren Littlefield promised that, "How did Gilead come about? How did this happen?” would be two of them. “We get to follow the historical creation of this world,” he said.

8. THERE WILL BE AT LEAST ONE HANDMAID FUNERAL.

A scene from 'The Handmaid's Tale'
Hulu

While Miller wouldn’t talk about who the handmaids are mourning in a teaser shot from season two that shows a handmaid’s funeral, he was excited to talk about creating the look for the scene. “Everything from the design of their costumes to the way they look is so chilling,” Miller told Entertainment Weekly. “These scenes that are so beautiful, while set in such a terrible place, provide the kind of contrast that makes me happy.”

9. ELISABETH MOSS SAYS THE TONE WILL BE DARKER.

Like season one, Miller says that The Handmaid’s Tale's second season will again balance its darker, dystopian themes with glimpses of hopefulness. “I think the first season had very difficult things, and very hopeful things, and I think this season is exactly the same way,” he told the Los Angeles Times. “There come some surprising moments of real hope and victory, and strength, that come from surprising places.”

Moss, however, has a different opinion. “It's a dark season,” she told reporters at TCA. “I would say arguably it's darker than Season 1—if that's possible.”

10. IT WILL ALSO BE BLOODIER.

A scene from 'The Handmaid's Tale'
Hulu

When pressed about how the teaser images for the new season seemed to feature a lot of blood, Miller conceded: “Oh gosh, yeah. There may be a little more blood this season.”

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NUS Environmental Research Institute, Subnero
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Researchers in Singapore Deploy Robot Swans to Test Water Quality
NUS Environmental Research Institute, Subnero
NUS Environmental Research Institute, Subnero

There's something peculiar about the new swans floating around reservoirs in Singapore. They drift across the water like normal birds, but upon closer inspection, onlookers will find they're not birds at all: They're cleverly disguised robots designed to test the quality of the city's water.

As Dezeen reports, the high-tech waterfowl, dubbed NUSwan (New Smart Water Assessment Network), are the work of researchers at the National University of Singapore [PDF]. The team invented the devices as a way to tackle the challenges of maintaining an urban water source. "Water bodies are exposed to varying sources of pollutants from urban run-offs and industries," they write in a statement. "Several methods and protocols in monitoring pollutants are already in place. However, the boundaries of extensive assessment for the water bodies are limited by labor intensive and resource exhaustive methods."

By building water assessment technology into a plastic swan, they're able to analyze the quality of the reservoirs cheaply and discreetly. Sensors on the robots' undersides measure factors like dissolved oxygen and chlorophyll levels. The swans wirelessly transmit whatever data they collect to the command center on land, and based on what they send, human pilots can remotely tweak the robots' performance in real time. The hope is that the simple, adaptable technology will allow researchers to take smarter samples and better understand the impact of the reservoir's micro-ecosystem on water quality.

Man placing robotic swan in water.
NUS Environmental Research Institute, Subnero

This isn't the first time humans have used robots disguised as animals as tools for studying nature. Check out this clip from the BBC series Spy in the Wild for an idea of just how realistic these robots can get.

[h/t Dezeen]

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