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YouTube / National Wildlife Federation

The Muppets Celebrate Earth Day (in 1990)

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YouTube / National Wildlife Federation

On April 22, 1990, the Muppets marked Earth Day with a two-hour special jam-packed with guest stars. The list is absurdly long, but I'll give you a taste -- the cast included Neil Patrick Harris, Carl Sagan, Dustin Hoffman, Tone-Loc, Will Smith, Dan Akroyd, Chevy Chase, Downtown Julie Brown, Candice Bergen, Danny DeVito, Rhea Perlman, Morgan Freeman, Queen Latifah, Jack Lemmon, Edward James Olmos, Christopher Lloyd, Rick Moranis, Martin Short, Meryl Streep, Alex Trebek, Robin Williams, and...wait for it...the casts of The Cosby Show, Cheers, Married With Children, and Golden Girls. Plus a bunch more. You get the point, though, right? Basically everybody was in this thing. Because the guest list was so long, there's relatively little Muppet material (though that material was directed by Jim Henson), but I'll take any Muppet-related Earth Day video I can get. And, shocker, the whole thing is on YouTube.

So, twenty-three years later, settle in and grab some popcorn, and enjoy this nugget from the past. Keep in mind that Jim Henson died on May 16, 1990, so this was among the last major works he lived to see on the air. Henson was a devoted environmentalist, so I can only assume that 23 years ago today, he was proud.

Part 1

Robin Williams testifies.

Part 2

Doogie Howser, M.D. tries to save Mother Earth while Murphy Brown reports, then we get into the Jeopardy! material.

Part 3

Carl Sagan drops knowledge until Danny DeVito changes the channel in favor of Dennis Miller's Weekend Update segment on SNL. Around 3:50 into this segment is a sketch written by Henson featuring Kermit and fellow swamp animals. And then Dustin Hoffman argues with Robin Williams. Oh yeah...and then E.T. shows up. What?!

Part 4

Let the 1990 TV-friendly rap number begin!

Part 5

Michael Keaton apologizes for his polluting ways, then we eventually get into some Married With Children tomfoolery.

Part 6

Meryl Streep! Kevin Costner with a ponytail! The cast of Cheers!

Part 7

Murphy Brown wraps up her reporting as everybody realizes there's something they can do to help...and then Barbra Streisand performs, before a rapid-fire set of tips from celebrities including Morgan Freeman.

The PSAs

As a final treat, here are a series of 1991 spots promoting Earth Day (for the National Wildlife Federation) featuring Kermit and various other muppets working for Frog Frog & Frog Advertising, trying to develop a catchy slogan for Earth Day.

And these are a bit earlier (late 1980s):

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Great Britain's Last Snow Patch Is About to Disappear Completely for the First Time in a Decade

Until recently, it was easy to find snow in Great Britain at any time of the year—you just had to know where to look. In previous Septembers, the island has been home to as many as 678 snow patches, residual pockets of snow and ice whose climates and topographies keep them frozen through the summer. This year, though, only two of Britain's snow patches have survived the summer. And the island is now on track to be completely snowless by the end of the season, Atlas Obscura reports.

Snow patches vary in size and durability, with some melting completely by late summer and others remaining a permanent fixture of the landscape. Garbh Choire Mor—a steep glacial depression on top of Scotland's third-highest mountain, Braeriach—contains two of the oldest snow patches in Britain, known as the Pinnacles and the Sphinx. The Pinnacles snow patch dissolved into a puddle earlier this month, and the Sphinx snow patch, the last surviving snow patch in Great Britain, is expected to do the same in the next few days.

Scotland experienced uncharacteristically hot weather this summer, with temperatures creeping into the low 90s as early as May. But more significant than the sweltering summer was the dry winter that preceded it. Below-average snowfall last year meant this year's snow patches were already smaller than usual when temperatures started heating up. If the Sphinx snow patch does vanish before winter arrives, it will mark the first time in over a decade and just the sixth time in the last 300 years that England, Scotland, and Wales are without a single patch of snow.

The Sphinx snow patch, though currently a measly version of its previous self, is still visible for now. But Iain Cameron, a veteran "snow patcher" who writes an annual report on snow for the UK's Royal Meteorological Society, says it could be gone as soon as Wednesday, September 20.

He's currently camped out on Garbh Choire Mor, waiting to document the patch's final moments. You can follow his updates on Twitter.

[h/t Atlas Obscura]

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This Just In
Criminal Gangs Are Smuggling Illegal Rhino Horns as Jewelry
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iStock

Valuable jewelry isn't always made from precious metals or gems. Wildlife smugglers in Africa are increasingly evading the law by disguising illegally harvested rhinoceros horns as wearable baubles and trinkets, according to a new study conducted by wildlife trade monitoring network TRAFFIC.

As BBC News reports, TRAFFIC analyzed 456 wildlife seizure records—recorded between 2010 and June 2017—to trace illegal rhino horn trade routes and identify smuggling methods. In a report, the organization noted that criminals have disguised rhino horns in the past using all kinds of creative methods, including covering the parts with aluminum foil, coating them in wax, or smearing them with toothpaste or shampoo to mask the scent of decay. But as recent seizures in South Africa suggest, Chinese trafficking networks within the nation are now concealing the coveted product by shaping horns into beads, disks, bangles, necklaces, and other objects, like bowls and cups. The protrusions are also ground into powder and stored in bags along with horn bits and shavings.

"It's very worrying," Julian Rademeyer, a project leader with TRAFFIC, told BBC News. "Because if someone's walking through the airport wearing a necklace made of rhino horn, who is going to stop them? Police are looking for a piece of horn and whole horns."

Rhino horn is a hot commodity in Asia. The keratin parts have traditionally been ground up and used to make medicines for illnesses like rheumatism or cancer, although there's no scientific evidence that these treatments work. And in recent years, horn objects have become status symbols among wealthy men in countries like Vietnam.

"A large number of people prefer the powder, but there are those who use it for lucky charms,” Melville Saayman, a professor at South Africa's North-West University who studies the rhino horn trade, told ABC News. “So they would like a piece of the horn."

According to TRAFFIC, at least 1249 rhino horns—together weighing more than five tons—were seized globally between 2010 and June 2017. The majority of these rhino horn shipments originated in southern Africa, with the greatest demand coming from Vietnam and China. The product is mostly smuggled by air, but routes change and shift depending on border controls and law enforcement resources.

Conservationists warn that this booming illegal trade has led to a precipitous decline in Africa's rhinoceros population: At least 7100 of the nation's rhinos have been killed over the past decade, according to one estimate, and only around 25,000 remain today. Meanwhile, Save the Rhino International, a UK-based conservation charity, told BBC News that if current poaching trends continue, rhinos could go extinct in the wild within the next 10 years.

[h/t BBC News]

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