Ancora Imparo

12 October 2007

CNN Unveils New Documentary Planet in Peril, Featuring New R.E.M. Song “Until the Day Is Done”

Filed under: environment,music — Darmok @ 05:39 UTC
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CNN has been featuring environmental news under a “Planet in Peril” section on its web site for a while. Now they’ve announced a four-hour documentary by the same name (wp) to premiere on 23 October, 2007. Featuring Anderson Cooper, Jeff Corwin, and Dr. Sanjay Gupta, the documentary features global warming, species loss, deforestation/habitat loss, and overpopulation. While I don’t think the planet is literally in peril, the pattern of life on it, including human civilization, certainly is—so sure, Earth does face peril.

They released the following trailer, which looks interesting. I do like that they are focusing on broad environmental problems, not just on global warming.

As an added bonus, the trailer features the debut of a new R.E.M. song, “Until the Day Is Done”! Planet in Peril will feature this song similar to the way An Inconvenient Truth featured Melissa Etheridge’s “I Need to Wake Up” (see my prior post on this). I really like this song already, and it seems to fit the feature so well.

11 October 2007

Reminder: Write About the Environment on 15 October

Filed under: environment — Darmok @ 06:43 UTC
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Blog Action Day

I just wanted to remind everyone about the “Blog Action Day” initiative:

On October 15th, bloggers around the web will unite to put a single important issue on everyone’s mind – the environment. Every blogger will post about the environment in their own way and relating to their own topic. Our aim is to get everyone talking towards a better future.

Several of my friends and readers are already planning to join in. Close to 10,000 blogs have already signed up. Join us!

You don’t need to have a blog, either. Murad Hassan posted a list of suggestions for Facebook users (Facebook account required) that work for other situations, too. I’d like to reprint them below, slightly edited:

  1. If you are a group administrator, greet all the members of the group with a note relating to tone of the day (environment). On Flickr, run a thread on the environment.
  2. Do a self–wall post on the environment [on Facebook]. Post environment-related pictures with a message on it to Flickr
  3. Change your profile picture to a tree or the Blog Action Day logo.
  4. Have your status changed on Facebook to “Blog Action Day 2007 – save the world, save the environment” or your own pledge to save our planet. You status message can be of an emotional tone, fun tone, or threat tone!
  5. Write on friends’ walls [on Facebook] with little friendly tones on the environment.
  6. Write on the forums and groups you belong to.
  7. Have your entire written electronic communications signature carry a message on then environment.
  8. Post photos, videos, and quotes relating to the environment.
  9. Join us on the the Facebook group on Blog Action Day.

Of course, as you cross from modifying your own profile to actively communicating with others, take care not to be preachy or give unwanted advice. Unless you already discuss environmental issues with them, many people may not appreciate “little friendly” environmental messages.

9 October 2007

Americans Agree Global Warming Is a Major Problem; Major Action Needed Now

Filed under: environment,global warming,science — Darmok @ 04:49 UTC
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The BBC released a major poll of 22,000 people in 21 countries (both developed and developing) showing attitudes towards global warming. The United States is often considered to be lagging behind other nations, but this poll suggests that most Americans agree that we need to take major steps urgently; perhaps the nation’s failure to act is more of a reflection of its leadership and not the will of its people.

Below is an excerpt from the poll regarding the attitudes of those in the United States:

Americans agree with most other world publics that human activity contributes significantly to climate change and that major steps should be taken immediately to address the problem. A majority also supports a deal that would provide financial assistance and technology to developing countries that limit their greenhouse gas emissions. Seven in 10 Americans (71%) say that human activity is “a significant cause of climate change.” By a margin of 59 percent to 33 percent, Americans say it is necessary to take “major steps starting very soon” rather than “modest steps over the coming years.” Only 6 percent say “it is not necessary to take any steps.” Three-quarters (75%) agree that “because total emissions from less wealthy countries are substantial and growing, these countries should limit their emissions of climate-changing gases along with wealthy countries.” Similar numbers (70%) support a deal that would provide developing countries with financial assistance and technology in return for an agreement to limit their emissions. Nearly nine in 10 (89%) Americans say they have heard a great deal (59%) or some (30%) about climate change. (source, PDF)

Also, a recent LiveScience article summarized the results of several new polls in the United States:

Nearly three-quarters of Americans are willing to pay more taxes to support local government efforts aimed at mitigating global warming…Americans were willing to pay more money in property taxes, home costs and utility fees to support initiatives that would encourage people to use less energy and get that energy from alternative sources…concern for the environment is growing among Americans and bolder action is desired…Americans are pessimistic about the current state of the environment and disapprove of how the government has been handling environmental issues…a majority of Americans believe that society must take action to reduce the effects of global warming, partly by enacting a new national treaty that would require much more drastic reductions in carbon dioxide than those required by the Kyoto Protocol (which the United States never ratified)…

“Nearly half of Americans now believe that global warming is either already having dangerous impacts on people around the world or will in the next 10 years—a 20 percentage-point increase since 2004. These results indicate a sea change in public opinion,” said Anthony Leiserowitz, director of Yale Project on Climate Change, in response to the findings of the earlier poll.

I find this level of awareness, concern, and motivation promising, at least.

The full text of the BBC poll is available as a PDF file. Or you may read Inel’s post for an HTML (web) version.

(via Inel)

8 October 2007

Try This at Home: Variations on Rihanna’s “Umbrella”

Filed under: music,off-topic — Darmok @ 07:22 UTC
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I love live music, and I also like listening to or watching recordings of people performing. It’s nice to hear them play either original compositions or popular music, and sometimes the alternate, simplified versions can be quite good! In fact there are times I prefer listening to a simple piano rendition of a song over the full recording. I’m also impressed by the skill and creativity amateur musicians may possess, and now, with the Internet, they can make their performances available for all. It’s interesting to see in how many different styles a song can be played.

To demonstrate this, I’d like to showcase a song and then show a number of performances of a “cover” of the song. The song I’ve selected is “Umbrella” by the artist Rihanna. There are actually a number of major artists covering the song; I’ve omitted any well-known performers.

To begin with, here is the original song:

This young woman, Marie Digby, plays in a sweeter, less intense style.

Next is a young man named Ben Deignan who has performed at a coffee shop my friend frequents. It’s jazzier version, not so much like the other renditions. (thanks Jux2p0ze!)

These two harmonize quite well. An electric keyboard provides the percussion.

The next artist doesn’t allow her videos to be embedded in other sites, so I can’t show it here. She uses a ukelele instead of a guitar—it’s a refreshing bit of variation—so you can see the video at YouTube.

And finally, probably my favorite: though having hair that long would certainly annoy me, it’s a good cover and I was especially amused by the cardboard box percussion.

Please feel free to share any finds of your own!

This post is dedicated to Skim.

5 October 2007

$50 Billion Science Thing

Filed under: humor,science — Darmok @ 04:32 UTC
Tags: ,

The Onion, a satire newspaper, has a surprisingly good grasp on both science and public thought. A recent gem is “Scientists Ask Congress To Fund $50 Billion Science Thing”.

A couple highlights:

Another diagram presented to lawmakers contained several important squiggly lines, numbers, and letters. Despite not being numbers, the letters were reportedly meant to represent mathematics too. The scientists seemed to believe that correct math was what would help make the science thing go.

“Now, I’m no science major, but if I’m being told by a group of people that the protons, neutrons, and electrons need unifying, then I think we owe it to the American people to go in and unify them,” Rep. Mark Udall (D-CO) said. “After all, isn’t a message of unity what we want to send to our children?”

But the accompanying illustration sums it up the best:

Diagram of science thing
Diagram of science thing. Credit: The Onion.

I worry, though, that many Americans perceive science in this way. Not only is science getting more specialized, but science education in the United States is slipping. We could become a society of science haves and have-nots, which is something I absolutely do not want to see and is one of the reasons I write this blog. Science should be free and accessible to all, and I hope the Internet will continue to help us find new ways to ensure it.

4 October 2007

Disturbing Amount of Arctic Ice Melted This Year

The Arctic ice cap melted by an unprecedented amount this year. Especially prominent in media stories was the opening up of the fabled “Northwest Passage”. While there have been many articles covering this (the attention is good!), La Marguerite drew my attention to a very nice piece in the New York Times, entitled “Arctic Melt Unnerves the Experts”. I especially liked their interactive graphic illustrating the extent of sea-ice loss.

This does not bode well for the upcoming years.

3 October 2007

Earth to Humanity: Blue Man Group Highlights Global Warming

The creative and popular Blue Man Group (wp) has been entertaining audiences with their quirky, lighthearted performances. But Inel drew my attention to a great video they released some time ago highlighting global warming and the environment:

This version is a video of them performing live; Inel featured a slightly different version intended for TV:

What a great video, and a nice strong stand to take. See “Earth to America — Blue Man Group” at their official web site for a downloadable version.

2 October 2007

Minnesota Is Now Smoke-Free

Filed under: medicine,politics,public health — Darmok @ 05:21 UTC
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Today, 1 October 2007, a state-wide smoking ban took effect in my state. A major success for public health and especially employees’ health, this law puts major restrictions on indoor smoking in public places with relatively few loopholes. Bars, restaurants, and almost all other indoor locations are included. Private residences, hotel and motel rooms, cigar shops, and casinos and other establishments on Native American lands are exempt. As is well-known, there is an enormous body of scientific data indicating the harm smoking causes to bystanders. Those who work in establishments where smoking is permitted are especially at risk. As attention to public health mounts, smoking bans cover more and more of the United States—at the city, county, and state levels. According to Wikipedia, over half of Americans are covered by some sort of smoking ban.

Wikipedia also featured this interesting map of the United States, showing active and scheduled smoking bans. It uses an innovative “additive color key” to designate the type of ban.

Map of American smoking bans
State-wide smoking bans. Credit: Mike Schiraldi.

The gray states have no state-wide smoking bans. The red states, Idaho and Georgia, ban smoking in restaurants; the green ones (North and South Dakota) ban smoking in non-hospitality workplaces (that is, not restaurants or bars); and the yellow states (Nevada, Arkansas, Louisiana, Tennessee, and Florida) ban smoking in both. The lavender state (New Hampshire) bans smoking in bars and restaurants. The white states ban smoking in all three: bars, restaurants, and non-hospitality workplaces.

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