Thursday, July 31, 2014

Watch: John Oliver begs tourists to please stop trashing Antarctica

Antarctica has enough to worry about, what its ice sheets slowly collapsing and all the emperor penguins dying off. But tourists are now making things worse: one recent study suggested that the 40,000 people who visit Antarctica each year are trampling the continent's fragile ecosystems. Among other things, visitors are bringing invasive pests that could overrun the native plants and animals.

Still, warding off thrill-seekers is no easy task. So, on Last Week Tonight, John Oliver helpfully offered up his services in scaring away Antarctic tourists:

"I know we're not supposed to go to Antarctica, but there are free penguins and snow cones there. So they're going to have to launch a pretty strong anti-tourist campaign," Oliver says. One suggestion: "If you simply have to have ice, go to Alaska and tell your friends you went to Antarctica. They won't know the difference."

Further reading: For a more, uh, scientific approach to this problem, check out this recent paper in PLOS Biology, which notes that most of Antarctica's biodiversity is concentrated in a handful of ice-free areas, many of which lie outside various conservation treaties.

"Many people think that Antarctica's biodiversity is well protected because it's isolated and no one lives there," said author Justine Shaw of the University of Queensland in a press release. "But it is at risk."

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