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NASA // Public Domain
NASA // Public Domain

The Ozone Layer Hole Over Antarctica Is Healing

NASA // Public Domain
NASA // Public Domain

In the last 200 years, we human beings have inflicted staggering amounts of violence and destruction on our home planet. The prognosis seems grim. But every so often, we see a glimmer of hope. The latest? Researchers in the Antarctic report that a tear in the ozone layer above the continent is showing signs of healing. They published their findings in the journal Science. 

For those of us who haven’t seen the inside of an Earth science classroom in years, here’s a quick refresher. The ozone layer is a blanket of ozone gas that wraps around our planet, shielding us from nearly all of the Sun’s radiation. Without this blanket, we’d be toast. But pollution has rent holes in this protective layer, leaving the planet and its inhabitants vulnerable to, you know, being burnt to a crisp. So yeah, it’s pretty serious.

Some of the best-known culprits in ozone weakening are chemical compounds called chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), which were, for a time, widely used in popular products and appliances like aerosol sprays and air conditioners. By 1987, CFC-linked damage to the ozone layer was so severe that nations around the world signed a pact, agreeing to ban the chemicals. 

Apparently, the ban is working. Studies over the last 10 years have suggested that the ozone layer has begun to patch itself up in certain places, and the latest research in Antarctica bears that out. 

Lead author Susan Solomon is an atmospheric scientist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. She and her colleagues have been monitoring the Antarctic ozone hole for years, looking at its area, height, and chemical profile. They now report that, from 2000 to 2015, the size of hole has shrunk by millions of square miles. 

“We as a planet have avoided what would have been an environmental catastrophe,” Solomon told Alexandra Witze in Nature. “Yay us!” 

Climate scientists estimate that even if the Antarctic hole continues closing at this rate, it won’t completely heal over until at least the year 2100, and the Arctic ozone hole shows no signs yet of mending. We still have a lot of work to do before we can declare victory, but this is still a very good start. 

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Animals
Watch the First-Ever Footage of a Baby Dumbo Octopus
NOAA, Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain
NOAA, Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

Dumbo octopuses are named for the elephant-ear-like fins they use to navigate the deep sea, but until recently, when and how they developed those floppy appendages were a mystery. Now, for the first time, researchers have caught a newborn Dumbo octopus on tape. As reported in the journal Current Biology, they discovered that the creatures are equipped with the fins from the moment they hatch.

Study co-author Tim Shank, a researcher at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in Massachusetts, spotted the octopus in 2005. During a research expedition in the North Atlantic, one of the remotely operated vehicles he was working with collected several coral branches with something strange attached to them. It looked like a bunch of sandy-colored golf balls at first, but then he realized it was an egg sac.

He and his fellow researchers eventually classified the hatchling that emerged as a member of the genus Grimpoteuthis. In other words, it was a Dumbo octopus, though they couldn't determine the exact species. But you wouldn't need a biology degree to spot its resemblance to Disney's famous elephant, as you can see in the video below.

The octopus hatched with a set of functional fins that allowed it to swim around and hunt right away, and an MRI scan revealed fully-developed internal organs and a complex nervous system. As the researchers wrote in their study, Dumbo octopuses enter the world as "competent juveniles" ready to jump straight into adult life.

Grimpoteuthis spends its life in the deep ocean, which makes it difficult to study. Scientists hope the newly-reported findings will make it easier to identify Grimpoteuthis eggs and hatchlings for future research.

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environment
London Grocery Chain Encourages Shoppers to Bring Their Own Tupperware
iStock
iStock

Why stop at bringing your own grocery bags to the store? One London grocery wants you to BYO-Tupperware. The London Evening Standard reports that a UK chain called Planet Organic has partnered with Unpackaged—a company dedicated to sustainable packaging—to install self-serve bulk-food dispensers where customers can fill their own reusable containers with dry goods, cutting down on plastic packaging waste.

To use the system, customers walk up and weigh their empty container at a self-serve station, printing and attaching a label with its tare weight. Then, they can fill it with flour, nuts, or other kinds of dry goods, weigh it again, and print the price tag before taking it up to the check out. (Regular customers only have to weigh their containers once, since they can save the peel-off label to use again next time.)

Planet Organic is offering cereals, legumes, grains, nuts, chocolate, dried fruit, and even some cleaning products in bulk as part of this program, significantly reducing the amount of waste shoppers would otherwise be taking home on each grocery trip.

Zero-waste grocery stores have been popping up in Europe for several years. These shops, like Berlin's Original Unverpackt, don't offer any bags or containers, asking customers bring their own instead. This strategy also encourages people to buy only what they need, which eliminates food waste—there's no need to buy a full 5-pound bag of flour if you only want to make one cake.

The concept is also gaining traction in North America. The no-packaging grocery store in.gredients opened in Austin, Texas in 2011. The Brooklyn store Package Free, opened in 2017, takes the idea even further, marketing itself as a one-stop shop for "everything that you'd need to transition to a low waste lifestyle." It sells everything from tote bags to laundry detergent to dental floss.

[h/t London Evening Standard]

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