Sunday, March 30, 2008

Earth Hour 2008 aftermath

March 29, 2008: The cities went into darkness. That was part of the Earth Hour project, in which people in major cities around the world (including Sydney, Toronto, San Francisco, Tel Aviv and Manila) turned off their lights for one hour: office buildings, homes, shops, bridges and other facilities went dark.

The idea behind this project, promoted by the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), was to raise awareness about the need of action to counter the climate changes worldwide. And yes, a very good step into that is to slow down global warming by reducing the greenhouse gas emissions worldwide, some of which are a result of the production and consumption of electricity everywhere.

The Earth Hour project was indeed a remarkable success, and I want to believe it did raise awareness about this climate change problem that we are facing. However, it should be considered only as a first step. I believe that there is much more to do, a change of our attitude towards nature and a change of our habits (e. g. excessive use of cars, not recycling reusable materials, waste of natural resources, etc) is very necessary to consider that we are making a difference. But again, this is a nice first step, and as Confucius said, "a thousand mile trip begins with a single step". So thumbs up to the WWF and people around the world who contributed to the success of Earth Hour!

More about Earth Hour in its official website and WWF's website.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Beijing 2008, on its way (?)

Easter weekend is over, but it left us after an interesting event took place on it: The Olympic torch was lit in Greece, and it officially started its world tour that will continue until August 8, when the Beijing Olympics will begin. But, unlike previous occasions, this time the ceremony to light the torch was full of political activism and protests.

Some of the protesters were specifically targeted to the unrest in Tibet in the past week, whilst another bunch of people were focusing on China's poor human rights records. A few more where concerned about the violations to freedom of speech in the Asian nation. As a response, the Chinese organizers blamed the Dalai Lama of the unrest in Tibet, and of trying to boycott the upcoming Olympics. So on, it looks that the first 'tangible' event related to this year's Olympics was full of details that really makes me wonder whether the Beijing Olympics will be an international sports event, or rather a platform for protesters to raise their voice against China's most notorious social issues.

It looks that the fireworks are just about to begin. The rest of the trip of the Olympic torch will be very interesting. How many protests and blockades will it find on its way to Beijing? Let's wait to find out.

Photo from the China Daily

Monday, March 17, 2008

Cars: Low price, or ultra efficiency?

While the largest Indian car manufacturer, Tata Motors, is setting everything up to launch its Nano model (the cheapest car in the world) to the streets of India later this year, there are other companies which believe that the future success of the car industry does not necessarily reside in making cars as cheap as possible, but making them as efficient as possible.

The latter is the case of a company based in San Diego, California. Accelerated Composites is an organization founded in 2006, and it is still in an entrepreneurial stage of development. However, they came up with a very interesting car prototype: the Aptera (image on the left, click to enlarge), a hybrid model which, according to its developers, will be able to run 330 miles per gallon. That is 126.72 kilometers per liter! That's outstanding compared to any hybrid models available right now, from which I can hardly remember any able to run more than 30 kilometers per liter at best.

I found a very interesting article that talks about the Aptera and its specifications, which is worthwhile reading. It is located in the How stuff works website, and you can access it by clicking here.

If the Aptera is really as good as it promises to be, then that will be a huge leap forward in the history of cars and technology... and environmentalism too.

Image by Accelerated Composites

Friday, March 07, 2008

Amsterdam: A new blow to social values?

Call me narrow minded if you wish, but I am nearly convinced that certain cells of society are progressing by becoming more decadent, and those cells have found their own Mecca in the city of Amsterdam, in the Netherlands. It is right there where these groups are free to please all their lowest instincts within the boundaries of legality, more specifically prostitution and drugs. Yes, no doubt that Amsterdam looks like an exemplary city to the eyes of many who describe themselves as 'liberals'.

The authorities of this Mecca of Decadence have decided to add a new attraction for so-called 'liberals' from around the world. According to a report published in the Dutch newspaper De Telegraaf, effective this summer, it will be legal to have sex in a public park. But not just any park, this will only be acceptable in the Vondelpark, which is a very central green area in Amsterdam.

The Dutch authorities, very conscious about morality and social values, have been very careful in the regulation of this new pastime. Certain restrictions will apply for people who wish to fornicate in the wild: It will only be allowed in the evening hours and nighttime, in areas away from children's playgrounds, and under the condition that condoms must be cleared from the area.

The National Diversity Expertise Centre (LECD), which is responsible for the promotion of this state-of-the-art idea, justifies this move with a very simple question: "Why should we try to maintain something that is actually impossible to maintain, which also causes little bother for others and for a certain group actually signifies much pleasure?". That's a very clever mentality; following that rationale we should also be thinking of other avant-garde steps: Why should we try to maintain drugs (apart from marijuana) out of society if it causes little bother for others and for a certain group actually signifies much pleasure? Or why should we ban people from relieving themselves in the streets when it causes little bother for others and for a certain group actually signifies a very physiological need? The list could go on and on.

Now, the LECD is trying to convince the authorities in other cities, like The Hague and Rotterdam, to also allow public sex. Hopefully the authorities of The Hague and Rotterdam won't be as 'open minded' as their counterparts in Amsterdam to allow some of the most basic social values to erode in their cities too, so they can avoid their cities of becoming new hubs of perdition.

Photo by Tom Haarman

Thursday, March 06, 2008

Animal Rights vs Professional Athletes, part II

First we had the case of Michael Vick, the NFL quarterback who was found guilty of felonies related to animal cruelty by the last quarter of 2007. Now we have another fellow who has gained a lot of criticism from animal rights lobbyists and from other lovers of nature: His name is John Henry Isenhour III, better known as Tripp Isenhour, and he is a professional golf player active in the PGA's Nationwide tour.

Unlike Vick's case, Isenhour is not being investigated for cruel activities against animal rights that took place during several years. In fact, Isenhour's case is related to a single incident, but a very reprehensible one: He's accused of deliberately killing a red shouldered hawk in December 12, 2007. According to the accusations, this fellow decided to do so when he was shooting a TV show at a golf club and the hawk was being a bit too noisy to his likes. Then he thought that an easy remedy would be to shoot golf balls at the hawk to scare it.

In a perfect scenario for Isenhour, the hawk would have flown away after the first ball passed close to it (let's remember that we're talking about a professional golfer who is, with all probability, very accurate in his shots). But this was not a perfect scenario for Isenhour, and despite his many shoots, the bird would not fly away. Then he took some other attempts until... SUCCESS! he hit the hawk right on its head, allegedly killing it instantly. The bird was buried in the golf course, and it is unclear whether the video shooting continued.

If Isenhour had hit a pigeon, it probably wouldn't be such a big concern for lobbyists and government (although it's equally condemnable). But he hit a red-shouldered hawk, a migratory bird. Now he got charged with animal cruelty along with the killing of a migratory bird, which could lead him to serve some months in jail plus a fine.

The interesting part is that Isenhour claims to be an animal lover, and he states that the killing was accidental. If that's so, why would he shoot several times at the animal to scare it? And why would he shoot with such a power to kill it? Didn't he know about the risks of shooting golf balls at living creatures?. It might very well be that this golf player is indeed an animal lover as he claims, but it looks that his impatience went a bit too far that day of December 2007.

Will the cases of animal rights against professional athletes have a part III?

With information from Yahoo! Sports.
Image from Wikipedia.