Jane Goodall and Other Environmental Leaders Respond to Notre Dame Fire
A fire broke out in Paris' iconic Notre Dame cathedral Monday evening. It burned for almost five hours, destroying two-thirds of the roof and causing its spire to collapse.
The church, which has stood in Paris since the 1200s, has come to embody "the permanence of a nation," Henri Astier wrote for BBC News. It was last seriously damaged during the French Revolution and survived both World Wars.
Around 500 firefighters worked to control the blaze. In the end, the church's structure, including its two towers, was "saved and preserved as a whole," Fire Chief Jean-Claude Gallet said. No one was killed, though one firefighter was seriously injured. The fire also had a profound emotional impact on those who watched it burn.
"It is like losing a member of one's own family," 45-year-old marketing director Pierre Guillaume Bonnet told The New York Times. "For me there are so many memories tied up in it."
As expressions of grief and solidarity poured out from around the world, environmental leaders were among those who responded to the tragedy.
Primatologist and conservationist Dr. Jane Goodall wrote on her website about how much the cathedral had meant to her. She shared an excerpt from her book Reason for Hope in which she described how visiting the church had helped her through a difficult time in her life.
"[T]he experience I had there, when I visited in 1977, marked an epiphany in my thinking about my place on Planet Earth and the meaning of my life," Goodall wrote.
In the excerpt, Goodall describes hearing Bach's Toccata and Fugue in D Minor play on the cathedral organ while the Rose window glowed with morning light. She said she could not believe that the moment was the work of chance alone, and so came to believe in God.
"My thoughts and prayers are with the firefighters tackling the frightful flames, and all those in France for whom Notre Dame is a integral part of the French nation and especially for all who worship there," Goodall wrote Monday. The fire comes as Catholics celebrate Holy Week, which leads up to Easter next Sunday.
Other activists drew a connection between the loss of Notre Dame and the loss of the natural world due to climate change and other human actions.
"Beauty and meaning can be so vulnerable — not to be taken for granted, ever," he wrote.
This was my first thought today too. It's not at all the same thing — most importantly, it seems like the fire at… https://t.co/uXuyndcBC9— Eric Holthaus (@Eric Holthaus)1555355295.0
Grist writer Eric Holthaus agreed.
"The profound sense of permanent loss is heartbreaking," he tweeted.
French President Emmanuel Macron has pledged to see the church rebuilt.
"Notre Dame is our history, our literature, part of our psyche, the place of all our great events, our epidemics, our wars, our liberations, the epicentre of our lives ... So I solemnly say tonight: we will rebuild it together," he said, as The Guardian reported.
French billionaire and Kering CEO and Chairman François-Henri Pinault has promised 100 million euros to the cause.
These Jane Goodall Quotes Will Inspire You to Save the World https://t.co/qSNKD11FqW @JaneGoodallInst @NRDC @SierraClub @CenterForBioDiv— EcoWatch (@EcoWatch)1492376922.0
The ghoulishly named ogre-faced spider can "hear" with its legs and use that ability to catch insects flying behind it, the study published in Current Biology Thursday concluded.
"Spiders are sensitive to airborne sound," Cornell professor emeritus Dr. Charles Walcott, who was not involved with the study, told the Cornell Chronicle. "That's the big message really."
The net-casting, ogre-faced spider (Deinopis spinosa) has a unique hunting strategy, as study coauthor Cornell University postdoctoral researcher Jay Stafstrom explained in a video.
They hunt only at night using a special kind of web: an A-shaped frame made from non-sticky silk that supports a fuzzy rectangle that they hold with their front forelegs and use to trap prey.
They do this in two ways. In a maneuver called a "forward strike," they pounce down on prey moving beneath them on the ground. This is enabled by their large eyes — the biggest of any spider. These eyes give them 2,000 times the night vision that we have, Science explained.
But the spiders can also perform a move called the "backward strike," Stafstrom explained, in which they reach their legs behind them and catch insects flying through the air.
"So here comes a flying bug and somehow the spider gets information on the sound direction and its distance. The spiders time the 200-millisecond leap if the fly is within its capture zone – much like an over-the-shoulder catch. The spider gets its prey. They're accurate," coauthor Ronald Hoy, the D & D Joslovitz Merksamer Professor in the Department of Neurobiology and Behavior in the College of Arts and Sciences, told the Cornell Chronicle.
What the researchers wanted to understand was how the spiders could tell what was moving behind them when they have no ears.
It isn't a question of peripheral vision. In a 2016 study, the same team blindfolded the spiders and sent them out to hunt, Science explained. This prevented the spiders from making their forward strikes, but they were still able to catch prey using the backwards strike. The researchers thought the spiders were "hearing" their prey with the sensors on the tips of their legs. All spiders have these sensors, but scientists had previously thought they were only able to detect vibrations through surfaces, not sounds in the air.
To test how well the ogre-faced spiders could actually hear, the researchers conducted a two-part experiment.
First, they inserted electrodes into removed spider legs and into the brains of intact spiders. They put the spiders and the legs into a vibration-proof booth and played sounds from two meters (approximately 6.5 feet) away. The spiders and the legs responded to sounds from 100 hertz to 10,000 hertz.
Next, they played the five sounds that had triggered the biggest response to 25 spiders in the wild and 51 spiders in the lab. More than half the spiders did the "backward strike" move when they heard sounds that have a lower frequency similar to insect wing beats. When the higher frequency sounds were played, the spiders did not move. This suggests the higher frequencies may mimic the sounds of predators like birds.
University of Cincinnati spider behavioral ecologist George Uetz told Science that the results were a "surprise" that indicated science has much to learn about spiders as a whole. Because all spiders have these receptors on their legs, it is possible that all spiders can hear. This theory was first put forward by Walcott 60 years ago, but was dismissed at the time, according to the Cornell Chronicle. But studies of other spiders have turned up further evidence since. A 2016 study found that a kind of jumping spider can pick up sonic vibrations in the air.
"We don't know diddly about spiders," Uetz told Science. "They are much more complex than people ever thought they were."
Learning more provides scientists with an opportunity to study their sensory abilities in order to improve technology like bio-sensors, directional microphones and visual processing algorithms, Stafstrom told CNN.
"The point is any understudied, underappreciated group has fascinating lives, even a yucky spider, and we can learn something from it," he told CNN.
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