BBC 2024-03-05 10:32:02

US Supreme Court rules Colorado cannot ban Trump from presidential ballot

The US Supreme Court has struck down efforts by individual states to disqualify Donald Trump from running for president using an anti-insurrection constitutional clause.

The unanimous ruling is specific to Colorado, but it also overrides challenges brought in other states.

Colorado had barred Mr Trump from its Republican primary, arguing he incited the 2021 Capitol riot.

The court ruled that only Congress, rather than the states, has that power.

The top court’s decision clears the way for Mr Trump to compete in the Colorado primary scheduled for Tuesday.

Mr Trump is the front-runner for the Republican nomination and looks likely to face a rematch with Democratic President Joe Biden in November’s general election.

On Monday, the ex-president immediately claimed victory following the ruling, taking to his Truth Social media platform to claim a “big win for America”. The message was followed by a fundraising email sent to supporters of his campaign.

Speaking from his estate in Mar-a-Lago, Florida, soon afterwards, he said that the decision was “very well crafted” and will “go a long way towards bringing our country together, which it needs”.

“You can’t take someone out of a race because an opponent would like it that way,” Mr Trump added.

Colorado’s Secretary of State, Jena Griswold, said that she was disappointed by the ruling and that “Colorado should be able to bar oath-breaking insurrections from our ballot”.

Additionally, the watchdog group that brought the case in Colorado, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (Crew), said in a statement that while the court “failed to meet the moment”, it is “still a win for democracy: Trump will go down in history as an insurrectionist”.

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Maine and Illinois had followed Colorado in kicking Mr Trump off the ballot on similar grounds.

The efforts in both those states were put on hold while his challenge to the Colorado ruling was escalated to the Supreme Court.

“We conclude that states may disqualify persons holding or attempting to hold state office,” the court’s opinion says. “But states have no power under the Constitution to enforce Sections 3 with respect to federal offices, especially the presidency.”

The nine justices ruled that only Congress can enforce the 14th Amendment’s provisions against federal officials and candidates.

Part of the Civil War-era amendment – Section 3 – bars federal, state and military officials who have “engaged in insurrection or rebellion” against the US from holding office again.

Groups including Free Speech For People had argued that the attempt to delay the peaceful transfer of power on 6 January 2021 matched the definition of insurrection outlined in the amendment.

One of the court’s justices, Amy Coney Barrett, wrote separately that the fact that all nine justices agreed on the outcome of the case is “the message that Americans should take home”.

“The court has settled a politically charged issue in the volatile season of a presidential election,” Justice Barrett wrote. “Particularly in this circumstance, writings on the court should turn the national temperature down, not up.”

But the court’s three liberal justices argued that the ruling seeks to “decide novel constitutional questions to insulate this Court and [Trump] from future controversy” by announcing “that a disqualification for insurrection can occur only when Congress enacts a particular kind of legislation”.

“In doing so, the majority shuts the door on other potential means of enforcement,” they added.

Atiba Ellis, a law professor at Case Western Reserve University in Ohio, told the BBC that while the court’s concerns about Mr Trump’s exclusion from the ballot are “fair”, the ruling “may have far-reaching consequences”.

“It opens the door to constitutional interpretation matters that weren’t at issue in the case. The decision throws the problem to Congress at a time when partisan deadlock will guarantee inaction on this matter,” Mr Ellis added. “The decision effectively ensures that the question of the former president’s constitutional eligibility under Section 3 will not be resolved prior to the 2024 election.”

Another legal scholar, Albany Law School’s Ray Brescia, said the court’s decision prevents a situation in which there is a “patchwork of states with different processes”.

“If the court was to allow Colorado to proceed in this way, what’s to stop some rogue prosecutor in another state from saying that a candidate from a different party is not a viable candidate because they engaged in insurrection?” he said.

Republican voters in Colorado and 14 other states will vote on Tuesday in a marathon contest dubbed Super Tuesday.

The former president is widely expected to sweep the board and defeat his sole remaining opponent, former UN Ambassador Nikki Haley, in every battleground.

France makes abortion a constitutional right

France has become the first country in the world to explicitly include the right to abortion in its constitution.

Parliamentarians voted to revise the country’s 1958 constitution to enshrine women’s “guaranteed freedom” to abort.

The overwhelming 780-72 vote saw a standing ovation in the parliament in Versailles when the result was announced.

President Emmanuel Macron described the move as “French pride” that had sent a “universal message”.

However anti-abortion groups have strongly criticised the change, as has the Vatican.

Abortion has been legal in France since 1975, but polls show around 85% of the public supported amending the constitution to protect the right to end a pregnancy.

And while several other countries include reproductive rights in their constitutions – France is the first to explicitly state that an abortion will be guaranteed.

It becomes the 25th amendment to modern France’s founding document, and the first since 2008.

Following the vote, the Eiffel Tower in Paris was lit up in celebration, with the message: “My Body My Choice”.

Before the vote, Prime Minister Gabriel Attal told parliament that the right to abortion remained “in danger” and “at the mercy of decision makers”.

“We’re sending a message to all women: your body belongs to you and no one can decide for you,” he added.

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While resistance from right-wingers in parliament failed to materialise, President Macron has been accused of using the constitution for electoral ends.

Critics say the revision is not necessarily wrong in itself, but unnecessary, and accused the president of trying to use the cause to boost his left-wing credentials.

Since 1975 the law has been updated nine times – and on each occasion with the aim of extending access.

France’s constitutional council – the body that decides on the constitutionality of laws – has never raised a query.

In a 2001 ruling, the council based its approval of abortion on the notion of liberty enshrined in the 1789 Declaration of the Rights of Man, which is technically part of the constitution.

So many jurists say abortion was already a constitutional right.

The constitutional change was prompted by recent developments in the US, where the right to abortion was removed by the Supreme Court in 2022. Individual states are now able to ban the procedure again, ending the right to an abortion for millions of women.

The move to enshrine abortion in the French constitution has been welcomed by many.

“This right (to abortion) has retreated in the United States. And so nothing authorised us to think that France was exempt from this risk,” said Laura Slimani, from the Fondation des Femmes rights group.

“There’s a lot of emotion, as a feminist activist, also as a woman,” she said.

But not all support it, with the Vatican repeating its opposition to abortion.

“There can be no ‘right’ to take a human life,” the Vatican institution said in a statement, echoing concerns already raised by French Catholic bishops.

It appealed to “all governments and all religious traditions to do their best so that, in this phase of history, the protection of life becomes an absolute priority”.

Children starving to death in northern Gaza – WHO

Children are dying of starvation in northern Gaza, the World Health Organization (WHO) chief says.

Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said the agency’s visits over the weekend to the Al-Awda and Kamal Adwan hospitals were the first since early October.

In a post on social media, he spoke of “grim findings”.

A lack of food resulted in the deaths of 10 children and “severe levels of malnutrition”, while hospital buildings have been destroyed, he wrote.

The Hamas-run health ministry in Gaza reported on Sunday that at least 15 children had died from malnutrition and dehydration at the Kamal Adwan hospital.

A sixteenth child died on Sunday at a hospital in the southern city of Rafah, the Palestinian official news agency Wafa reported on Monday.

Dr Tedros reported “severe levels of malnutrition, children dying of starvation, serious shortages of fuel, food and medical supplies, hospital buildings destroyed” in northern Gaza, where an estimated 300,000 people are living with little food or clean water.

“The lack of food resulted in the deaths of 10 children,” he posted on X, formerly known as Twitter.

The visits were the WHO’s first in months “despite our efforts to gain more regular access to the north of Gaza”, he wrote.

“The situation at Al-Awda Hospital is particularly appalling, as one of the buildings is destroyed,” he added.

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The UN warned last week that famine in Gaza was “almost inevitable”.

A senior UN aid official warned that at least 576,000 people across the Gaza Strip – one quarter of the population – faced catastrophic levels of food insecurity and one in six children under the age of two in the north were suffering from acute malnutrition.

And the regional director of the UN’s children’s agency, Unicef, said “the child deaths we feared are here, as malnutrition ravages the Gaza Strip”.

“These tragic and horrific deaths are man-made, predictable and entirely preventable,” Adele Khodr said in a statement on Sunday.

On Saturday, the US a launched its first airdrop of humanitarian aid into Gaza – including more than 38,000 meals.

However, aid agencies have said these drops – which have also previously been carried out by the UK, France, Egypt and Jordan – are an inefficient way of getting supplies to people.

The deliveries themselves have sometimes turned deadly. Last week, at least 112 Palestinians were reportedly killed when large crowds descended on lorries carrying aid while Israeli tanks were present.

Israel said the tanks fired warning shots but did not strike the lorries and that many of the dead were trampled or run over.

But this has been disputed by Hamas, which said there was “undeniable” evidence of “direct firing at citizens”.

Some aid agencies have been facing difficulties with the authorities. Philippe Lazzarini, the head of the UN’s main human rights agency in the Gaza Strip, UNRWA, on Monday accused the Israeli government of trying to “eliminate” its presence in Gaza.

Israel has long accused different branches of the United Nations, including Unrwa, of bias and even of antisemitism. Several western countries, including the UK, have paused funding to UNRWA after Israel accused some staff of roles in the 7 October attacks.

Mr Lazzarini said that this was not just in response to “neutrality breaches of some of the staff” but had a wider political motive, which included plans to “eliminate the status of refugees and make sure that this is not part of a final political settlement”.

He added that dismantling his organisation would lead to the collapse of the entire humanitarian response on Gaza.

The Israeli military launched a large-scale air and ground campaign to destroy Hamas – which is proscribed as a terrorist organisation by Israel, the UK, US and others – after the group’s gunmen killed about 1,200 people in southern Israel on 7 October and took 253 back to Gaza as hostages.

More than 30,500 people, mostly women and children, have been killed in Gaza since then, according to the territory’s health ministry.

Why Europe is removing its dams

Artificial barriers have long blocked Europe’s waterways. But as many of these structures age, a movement is growing to let rivers flow freely once again.

Three years ago, when construction workers started demolishing a series of dams on the Hiitolanjoki River in Finland, they were greatly surprised to spot a run of salmon. Part of the country’s last wild and landlocked population, the fish were returning to the river after years of absence. For Pauliina Louhi, it was a sign that the ecosystem’s recovery had begun.

“It was not only adults – there were many salmon juveniles,” Louhi, an ecologist at Natural Resources Institute Finland, a Finnish research organisation, recounts enthusiastically. “They had already been spawning on the lowermost part of the river. When I saw how the site looked after the dam removal, I actually had tears in my eyes.”

The river used to be a key migration route for the endangered freshwater salmon from Lake Ladoga, in nearby Russia, to Finland. But between 1911 and 1925 the introduction of three dams supplying hydroelectric energy created barriers between the salmon and their spawning grounds. The salmon and other fish, like brown trout, were trapped on the Finnish side of the river, which remained fragmented for 100 years.

Today, however, with the dams removed, the water runs freely once again through newly built rapids surrounded by tall trees. Every time a dam was removed, salmon “embraced” the new part of the river, says Hanna Ollikainen, executive director of the South Karelian Recreation Area Foundation, a civil society organisation, which acquired the dams and is responsible for the environmental and touristic development of the area. In 2021, after the first removal, five spawning nests were spotted; in autumn 2022, one year on, baby salmon reached a record-breaking number of 200 fish per acre (0.4 hectares). When the removal of the upmost dam, Ritakoski, was completed in December 2023, they found a free passage to the upper parts of the river and its tributaries.    

The removal of the three dams was the result of decades of work, which took into consideration not only the health of the river, but also the economic context, says Ollikainen. Evaluations concluded that their electricity production had become unprofitable for the power plant owners – especially when the costs of maintenance and mandatory environmental protections, such as fish-ladder introductions, were taken into account, Ollikainen says. So the dams were sold and dismantled.

The upmost dam on the Hiitolanjoki River in Finland, the Ritakosi, was removed in 2023, allowing fish to freely access the upper tributaries. (Credit: Mikko Nikkinen / Storymakers)

The decommissioning of the three Finnish dams is not an isolated case, however. Across Europe, many dams are either approaching the end of their operational life, or the costs of their maintenance are outweighing the benefits they provide. Similarly, in the United States, many are due to be re-licensed, sparking discussions about whether they are still fit to yield services. And it is not just big dams: millions of small barriers block European rivers.      

Until recently, a comprehensive assessment of the extent of river fragmentation in Europe was lacking. But now it exists, the case for dam removal has been building.

A dam big problem

Rivers in highly industrialised areas, such as in Europe and the US, have been heavily modified for centuries, from road-crossings and water extraction for agriculture, to the addition of low barriers such as weirs, culverts, water mills and hydroelectricity. Just over a third of the world’s rivers longer than 1,000 km (621 miles) still remain free-flowing over their entire length, according to estimates by researchers.

Such barriers have created a series of problems. They not only cause biodiversity loss, impacting fish and microorganisms, but also prevent nutrients and sediments from flowing downstream, hindering fisheries and the livelihoods that depend on them. As dams block sediments behind them, the water downstream also has a highly erosive power. Plus barriers modify the water levels of the river, impacting the recharge of the aquifer that holds underground water.

The loss of river connectivity which allows water, organisms and sediment to move across a watershed  modifies flow dynamics and temperature regime, explains Melissa Foley, science director of the resilient landscape programme at the San Francisco Estuary Institute. This alters nutrient dynamics.      

Dams also create obstacles for species that migrate to reproduce – with the impact on fish populations particularly concerning. An update on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species at the COP28 UN Climate Conference showed that 25% of the world’s freshwater fish species are at risk of extinction – and that 45% of those threatened were negatively affected by dams and water extraction.

River blockades, such as dams, pose particular problems for migratory fish. (Credit: Kim Birnie-Gauvin)

Nor it is not just migratory fish that are effected: the cumulative impact of barriers, even the smaller ones, limits movements of many other riverine fish along the watercourse, with research showing that fragmentation is one of the five main culprits for biodiversity loss.

But thanks to dam removal advocates, and more data on the detrimental effects and extent of river fragmentation, the tide is turning on support for dams.

Turning the tide on dam removal

Research now shows that at least 1.2 million instream obstacles block river flows in 36 European countries, with about 68% less than 2m (6.6ft) in height. “Even barriers as small as 20cm (8in) may impact or delay the movement of some organisms,” says Carlos Garcia de Leaniz professor in Aquatic Biosciences at Swansea University and coordinator of Amber, a project that created the first atlas of European river barriers.

Since 2016, when the Amber project started, a team coordinated by Garcia de Leaniz have walked 2,000km (1,243 miles) of rivers across Europe to map their state of fragmentation. They have logged not just dams, but also weirs, culverts and other small blockades. 

When it comes to actually removing a dam or barrier, several factors are relevant – from licencing and state laws, to funding for the engineering work and feasibility. Yet about 150,000 of Europe’s interstream obstacles, such as dams, are now considered obsolete, according to Dam Removal Europe. Ageing dams need more maintenance, and are more exposed to the risks of collapse. Plus increasing extreme weather events, such as heavy precipitation, may also put dam safety at further risk of overtopping

There are thus many examples of end-of-lifespan, obsolete dams in Europe, whose maintenance costs now outweigh the benefits of energy production, explains Pao Fernández Garrido, project manager of Dam Removal Europe, founded in 2016 as a coalition of seven partners. The European dam-removal movement has consequently achieved at least 325 removals in 2022, 36% more than the previous year. 

Dam removal is a meticulously planned and lengthy engineering work (Credit Mikko Nikkinen/ Storymakers)

Acknowledging that dams have a detrimental effect on ecosystems doesn’t mean denying hydropower’s benefits in supplying energy, however. “Absolutely nobody is proposing to blow up or remove barriers which are in use,” clarifies Garcia de Leaniz, “We are targeting barriers which are obsolete, which are no longer providing any services to society, that have silted up, and pose a flow hazard.”

Legislation can also help the dam removal process, though it differs from country to country. Spain, where rivers are public, is at the vanguard of dismantling dams in Europe, with 133 removals carried out in 2022, followed by Sweden and France. River connectivity is also a central topic of the European Commission’s Nature Restoration Law: in November 2023, European member states reached a provisional agreement that includes an obligation to remove man-made barriers to reach a goal of 25,000km (15,530 miles) of free-flowing rivers by 2030. The law was then approved on the 27 February by the European Parliament. Dam removal advocates hope it will help make the case for more action.

Nor is Europe alone in this trend. In fact, the Europe efforts were inspired by the dismantling works already happening in the US, says Fernández Garrido. The US is home to nearly 92,000 dams with an average age of 62 years.

The first big dam removal in the US involved the Edwards Dam removal on the Kennebec river in 1999. Built in 1837, when the owner’s licence expired in 1997, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission didn’t renew it, prioritising the ecological benefits of the river for the first time instead. Today, nearly 2,000 dams have been removed from US rivers, with 76% dismantled since the removal of the Edwards Dam.

How to remove a dam?

Dams don’t often come down with an explosion and a sudden burst of water. Instead, removal is a meticulously planned engineering work. On the Hiitolanjoki River, bulldozers progressively excavated the concrete walls, letting the water gush out slowly.

“Understanding what you have behind the dam is part of the process,” says Foley. “Where does the sediment end up? Does that change the flooding regime as well? Do you dig all of that sediment out? What are the mitigation strategies?”

Sometimes, when a dam can’t be removed, it is equipped with a fish ladder. However, while useful to some fish, many species don’t benefit, nor do they help with river dynamics and sediment flow. As dam removals can be expensive, researchers suggest concentrating on small barriers, prioritising the removals that can lead to the best increases in connectivity. 

One of the largest river restoration projects to date has taken place in France on the Sélune River in Normandy. The removal of two large dams between 2019 and 2023, opened up 60km (37 miles) of the river. Operating since the 1920s, the two dams had entirely blocked the migration of Atlantic salmon, lampreys and European eels for a century.

As the reservoirs were slowly drained through heavy engineering work, the sediments accumulated behind the dam were used to rebuild the banks. “The vegetation grew back really quickly, the sediment was actually really rich in nutrients,” says Laura Soissons, coordinator of the Sélune scientific programme at Inrae, which is monitoring of the project. “The vegetation helped stabilise the banks and bring shadow and shelter for a lot of species.”

Dam removal on the Sélune river, in France, revealed a 100-year-old bridge (Credit: Observatoire photographique des paysages de la Sélune, Université Paris Nanterre et SMBS)

Nor is it just the physical elements of dam removal that have to be carefully managed. The Sélune project suggests that communicating the reasons behind the removal is central success, since local populations can have strong attachments to the landscapes the dams create. “Showing people what a free-flowing river looks like can be challenging when these barriers have been in place so long,” says Foley.

Before the removal work on the Sélune River, people living locally used the lakes behind the dams for numerous activities such as boating and fishing. But the reservoirs were blooming with toxic cyanobacteria. “By the end all those activities were all slowly dying because you couldn’t swim anymore. The water was too toxic,” says Jean-Marc Roussel, research director of the Sélune scientific programme at Inrae. 

When fish ecophysiologist Kim Birnie-Gauvin  at the Technical University of Denmark travelled to the Sélune River with other dam removal scientists, they were met by upset local citizens. Yet, on talking with the researchers, one man had an “eureka moment”, Birnie-Gauvin recalls. “He realised his grandfather was probably [also] angry when the dam was built, and his landscape was changed as well,” she says.

When the dams go, nature and people return

When dam removal is achieved, the results can be striking. 

On the Sélune, not only did vegetation come back, but fish returned to parts of the catchment once unavailable to them. Following the removal of the second dam, some salmon arrived in the upstream part of the river and young salmon were spotted above the old dams after the winter 2022-2023 reproduction cycle. Similarly, European eels are now recolonising the entire catchment and sea lampreys are using the new habitats as spawning grounds.

For people too, dam removal is transformative. As well as the removal of toxicity, restored rivers have spearheaded tourism opportunities. At the Hiitolanjoki River, already a tourist spot, the area is poised to see a significant surge in visitors, says Ollikainen. 

Similarly, in the US, removals have often resulted in people returning to rivers. Research shows that five years after the removal of the Penobscot River in the state of Maine, there was an increase in perceptions of water quality as well as in activities such as swimming, paddling and wildlife viewing. Moreover, restoring the river’s free-flowing status had great cultural importance, with the Penobscot Indian Nation one of the main stakeholders in favour of the dam’s removal.

At the beginning, the removal plan drew some scepticism, explains Joshua Royte, landscape ecologist and senior scientist at the Nature Conservancy, an NGO that is partnering on the dam removal project on the Penobscot river. Some people living locally were worried about losing the dam that some children called “grandma’s waterfall”, he notes. But since removal, the rapids have become a playground for boaters, a kayak competition was held and there are educational activities. “[people] love the river now even more,” says Royte.

After the removal of the Veazie Dam on the Penobscot River in Maine, activities like swimming increased (Credit: Joshua Royte/The Nature Conservancy)

Going against the flow

While Europe and the US are showing that barrier removal can be a viable option to restore river connectivity, there is still a long way to go however. Researchers are worried about the prospect of new dams planned along major rivers such as the Amazon, the Congo and the Mekong basin. Similar worries concern also the Balkans, where there are plans to build numerous small hydropower plants that research suggests will generate less power than a larger equivalent.    

Removing barriers in Europe won’t make sense if small, minimally effective hydropower dams are built elsewhere in the world, says Garcia de Leaniz.

“We need to look at the big picture: [small dams] are not going to produce a lot of electricity, and they are still going to cause a lot of damage,” he says. “We should get rid of those barriers that are obsolete: it’s not about removing all barriers, but removing the barriers that cause more damage than good.”   

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The surprise Dune 2 star: Its odd popcorn bucket

Iconic movie merchandise that paved the way for the viral Dune popcorn bucket.

After its opening weekendDune 2 has already grossed £147m ($182.5m) globally. But it wasn’t just Timothee Chalamet and Zendaya drawing fans to the theatre: the film’s limited-edition popcorn bucket, released by AMC in honour of the film, has a fandom all its own. 

The bucket is unique, to say the least. It resembles a sandworm, aka a Shai-Hulud, of the planet Arrakis. When reaching into the bucket, a fan’s hand has to graze the creature’s plastic teeth to get to the popcorn inside. Videos about the bucket have amassed millions of views on TikTok, been the subject of a SNL skit and been laughed about by late night host Jimmy Kimmel. But fans don’t seem put off by the strangeness – or the suggestiveness – of the snack holder. In fact, the popularity of it is indisputable – that is, unless you ask the cast. 

The stars of the film seemed borderline disturbed by the popular piece of merchandise, according to a recent Entertainment Tonight interview. Zendaya commented on how difficult it seems to actually get the popcorn out: “It pulls the popcorn out of your hand,” she told the publication, while a creeped-out Josh Brolin added, “I’m not sticking my hand in there.”

Still, the buckets have proven to be a successful gimmick, and perhaps the fandom should have been expected – there is a long history of memorable merchandise from Dune films. The 1984 version of the film by director David Lynch had unique memorabilia: you could buy sandworm action figures, which you can still find on eBay today. Only now, they’re being sold for hundreds. Likewise, the Dune lunchbox and thermos can still be found on Etsy. Plus, Dune isn’t even the first film in the last year to be marketed with a pricey, fan-baiting popcorn receptacle.

Greta Gerwig’s Barbie had its own popcorn tins, too: Instead of sandworms, they resembled the icon’s pink Corvette. The Barbie brand seemed unavoidable leading up to the film’s release, and it paid off. Not only did the movie have a history-making opening weekend, but sales for Barbie merchandise and Barbies themselves were massive.

Beyond Dune: Iconic movie merchandise that raked in billions

Much of the most memorable movie merchandise is from the ’80s and ’90s. Star Wars holds the Guinness World Record for most successful film merchandising franchise. But clearly, 20th Century Fox didn’t realise just how massive merchandise sales for the films would be, given they sold the merchandise rights to the film’s director, George Lucas. 

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Mark Hopkins, a self-professed Star Wars nerd who has an office littered with memorabilia, such as Jabba the Hutt and an Imperial walker, says that collecting items from the iconic film is, in part, about showing it off. He calls his items “a badge of pride”. He also collects t-shirts and vinyl, but his Star Wars items are special because they remind him of being a kid and have more “sentimental value”. He adds that his collecting has nothing to do with financial worth. “All my stuff is beat up, but it still makes me smile,” he said.

Memorabilia can certainly catapult a film’s earning, though. Jurassic Park, which shattered box office records, sold mega amounts of merchandise, too. In 1994, toys, books, clothes and other dino-inspired gear topped $1bn (£778), MCA/Universal revealed. Back then, that number was unheard of. 

These days, Marvel films regularly reach that mark for merchandise sales. One notable film that far surpassed it was Frozen. In 2013, the popularity of Anna, Elsa and Olaf led to a whopping $5.3bn (£4.3bn) in merchandise sales. Harry Potter, the book-turned-film series, has entire theme parks, stores and concert series for Potterheads, with countless goods to be purchased. The brand is estimated to be worth $15bn (£11.8bn). 

Dune and the art of creating a language

Azhelle Wade runs the site The Toy Coach, which teaches toy professionals how to succeed in the industry, and has worked on toys such as the award-winning Wakanda Forever line of dolls. Wade tells BBC Culture that social media drives movie merchandise sales. 

“Social media today is what movies used to be to toys,” she says. “Toy companies used to plan alongside studios for movie releases”, she said, and while it still happens, “it’s not as big of a push as social media” now is.

Hopkins notes that when it comes to film merchandise, accumulating collectibles has always been part of the draw – now, there are just ample social media platforms to show off your merchandise. But no matter what you do with it, or what it means to you, the sandworm popcorn bucket certainly did what it was meant to: got people talking – and posting – about Dune: Part Two.

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