Earth Hour 2008: Turn off the lights for one hour on 29 March

Earth Hour 2008

On 31 March last year, the city of Sydney, Australia, turned off its lights for one hour. Coordinated by the World Wildlife Fund for Nature (WWF) Australia, “Earth Hour” drew participation from individuals, businesses, and major landmarks such as the Sydney Opera House. The goal of the event was to raise awareness of climate change and demonstrate simple ways to reduce energy usage.

This year, WWF is making it a planet-wide campaign. Major cities such as San Fransisco, Atlanta, Chicago, Phoenix, Toronto, Tel Aviv, Copenhagen, Melbourne, Canberra, Brisbane, and Christchurch are joining Sydney this year in darkening non-essential lights. And you can join in, too!

Earth Hour’s web site has suggestions on how to get involved. First, turn off your lights from 8 p.m. to 9 p.m. (local time) on 29 March. Also, spread the word! Involve your friends and family. Bloggers, do what you do best. You can also encourage local businesses to take part, and even work to involve your town or city.

If you are interested, please sign up and pledge your support!

ACTION NEEDED: Senate Rejects Civil Liberties Checks, Grants Telecoms Immunity

It’s shocking that it’s come to this, but the United States Senate has just passed S. 2248, giving telecommunications companies immunity from lawsuits despite their illegal provision of call information and content (that is, cooperating with warrantless eavesdropping). The only barrier now is the House of Representatives, and President Bush is placing considerable pressure on them to accede, stating he will not agree to extending the current surveillance law (which expires Saturday). Please read the New York Times piece by Eric Lichtblau for more information:

President Bush strongly urged the House of Representatives on Wednesday to quickly approve a surveillance bill passed by the Senate Tuesday evening, saying he would not agree to a further extension of the current eavesdropping law. The president effectively gave the House a deadline to act, since the current authority to intercept telephone conversations or electronic communications expires at midnight on Saturday.…

The president’s remarks came the morning after the Senate handed the White House a major victory by voting to broaden the government’s spy powers and to give legal protection to phone companies that cooperated in President Bush’s program of eavesdropping without warrants. The immunity for the phone companies is the key difference between the Senate bill and the one passed by the House last year. The president said that without that protection, American telecommunications companies would face lawsuits that could cost them billions of dollars. Without the protection, he said, “they won’t participate, they won’t help us.”…

(read full article)

This is a bad thing, and continues along a very dangerous path where our civil liberties are increasingly restricted. Why is this bad? The Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution protects us against unreasonable search and seizure and provides that warrants should be issued based on probable cause. The rule of law is supremely important; granting retroactive immunity to people who have willfully broken the law undermines the rule of law. And placing the President or governmental organizations above the rule of law allows for unchecked power.

Please contact your representative and urge him or her not to approve retroactive immunity for telecommunications companies. It’s easy to do. You can contact your respresentative through the House of Representatives web site. If you are unsure who represents you, it’s still easy: Look up your ZIP+4 code at the United States Postal Service web site. Then, enter it at the House of Representatives web site and you will be taken to the web site of your representative. For an even easier approach, you may send a message through the ACLU’s web site (if you use this option, please modify the text as the Senate has now passed the bill in question.)

For more information about why this is bad and for arguments you can use, please see the some points from the ACLU and The Daily Awesome. Also, if you would like to see if your two senators voted for or against this disturbingly broad bill, please see the roll call at the Senate’s web site.

When are we going to draw the line? At what point do we replace fear of foreign enemies with fear of our own government?

More on the Environmental Costs of Eating Meat

Livestock’s high energy costs
See full-sized image or accompanying article. Credit: Bill Marsh/New York Times.

An article in the New York Times last week further explores the costs that consuming animals has on the environment. (Please see also my previous post, “Vegetarianism vs. Meat-Eating and Global Warming”.)

Here’s a short excerpt:

…But consider: an estimated 30 percent of the earth’s ice-free land is directly or indirectly involved in livestock production, according to the United Nation’s Food and Agriculture Organization, which also estimates that livestock production generates nearly a fifth of the world’s greenhouse gases — more than transportation. To put the energy-using demand of meat production into easy-to-understand terms, Gidon Eshel, a geophysicist at the Bard Center, and Pamela A. Martin, an assistant professor of geophysics at the University of Chicago, calculated that if Americans were to reduce meat consumption by just 20 percent it would be as if we all switched from a standard sedan — a Camry, say — to the ultra-efficient Prius. …

The only way we can make environmentally friendly changes is to be informed of the impacts those choices will have. This thought-provoking article helps to show just how our food choices can drain resources and contribute to pollution in varying amounts.

So if you’re thinking about purchasing a more fuel-efficient car or trying to think of what else you could do to help the planet, cutting back on meat is another option. In addition to the obvious health benefits and improvements in animal welfare, you can now add conservation of water, ameliorating climate change, and numerous other factors to reasons to reduce your consumption of meat.

(Thanks to my sister for sharing this article with me.)

Google to Invest Hundreds of Millions of Dollars in Alternative Energy

From Reuters:

Google Inc is prepared to invest hundreds of millions of dollars in big commercial alternative-energy projects that traditionally have had trouble getting financing, the executive in charge of its green-energy push said on Wednesday.

The Internet search giant, which has said it will invest in researching green technologies and renewable-energy companies, is eager to help promising technologies amass scale to help drive the cost of alternative energy below the cost of coal.

(continued)

It’s nice to see private groups getting involved like this.