Thursday, January 20, 2005

Automaker Rankings 2004: The Environmental Performance of Car Companies

Top Gas Mileage Autos

The pollution performance of just a handful of corporations has a dramatic impact on the air we breathe and the climate we will pass on to future generations.

Fact vs. Fiction on Climate Change

What about the 19,000 scientists who claim we should not worry about global warming?

California PUC Requires Utilities to Account for Global Warming Gas Costs

The California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) today continued the trend of California and other states demonstrating leadership on addressing global warming by requiring the state's electric utilities to account for the future cost of reducing carbon emissions in choosing energy sources

UCS Applauds McDonald's for Taking Steps to Protect Public Health, Calls on Burger King and Wendy's to Follow Suit

The New York Times reported today that McDonald's has taken important steps towards implementing its 2003 policy promising to reduce the use of antibiotics among its suppliers.

Saturday, January 08, 2005

Century of The Self - BBC Series

Sigmund and Anna Freud

The BBC broadcast a four part series in the spring of 2002 about how Americans and Britains views of themselves have changed over the past 100 years. This riveting series was produced and directed by Adam Curtis who more recently produced another BBC series entitled The Power Of Nightmares (see review on this weblog.) Curtis chronicles in the impact of psychotherapy techniques developed by Sigmund Freud and utilized by his nephew Edward Bernays in the development of public relations and of product marketing. The series reveals just how influential Bernays was in helping corporations change their selling techiques by understanding the fundemental and irrational needs of their customers. By marketing products to these needs, Bernays was able to coach businesses to greatly increase market sales. This series traces the history of Bernays influence and how it has shaped peoples self image of themselves as a result building a consumer society. The absolutely freightening point of Curtis's program is that catering to individuals selfish needs was applied by business and by government as a way of controlling the masses because it is believed that people could not be trusted to make good decisions. Adams purports that this in fact has become a threat to a truely democratic society, as people have changed over the century from "citizens" engaged in democracy to "consumers" who expect others (manufacturerers, government) to satisfy them. Curtis effectively demonstrates how American governmental leaders have used these ideas, particularly Bill Clinton, to attempt to gain public favor.

I found watching this series had the profound effect of increasing my own already fairly strong sense of disillusionment with our government and our society. I felt like the layers of the onion were slowly stripped away by Adam Curtis, and that he painstakingly revealed a picture of Americans that is contradictory to the self image we hold. The result was that I was left feeling somewhat hopeless about our ability to solve some of our most important problems. I was also left with a much stronger feeling about how our leaders manipulate the citizens for their personal gain. This was a painful process and I am still left wondering if what Curtis maintains is accurate. My naive self is struggling to hold on to the image (illusion?) of America as a beacon of democracy.

This series is entitled: Century of the Self. The four episodes are: Happiness Machines, The Engineering of Consent, There is a Policeman Inside All Our Head, He Must Be Destroyed, and Eight People Sipping Wine in Kettering. Though this series was not rebroadcast in England and not shown in the US, copies are circulating on the internet.


The Hydrogen Economy – Energy and Economic Black Hole

"No matter how you look at it, producing hydrogen from water is an energy sink. If you don't understand this concept, please mail me ten dollars and I'll send you back a dollar."

Oil Crisis Is Looming

"Though most of us would like to believe that "we will come up with something" to supply our massive energy demands, the truth is that nothing in the foreseeable future that we know of can match our energy usage in a way that oil has — not solar, not hydrogen, or other alternatives."

Tuesday, January 04, 2005

Efficient biodiesel production from waste streams

The University of New Hampshire's Biodiesel Group is researching the technology necessary to satisfying the nation's fuel needs through algae-produced biodiesel. Some of their findings indicate that such a technique would be more efficient and sustainable than a hypothetical hydrogen-fuel economy.

The Sinking Ship - parable by Daniel Quinn

The ship was sinking---and sinking fast. The captain told the passengers and crew, "We've got to get the lifeboats in the water right away."
But the crew said, "First we have to end capitalist oppression of the working class. Then we'll take care of the lifeboats."

Then the women said, "First we want equal pay for equal work. The lifeboats can wait."

The racial minorities said, "First we need to end racial discrimination. Then seating in the lifeboats will be allotted fairly."

The captain said, "These are all important issues, but they won't matter a damn if we don't survive. We've got to lower the lifeboats right away!"

But the religionists said, "First we need to bring prayer back into the classroom. This is more important than lifeboats."

Then the pro-life contingent said, "First we must outlaw abortion. Fetuses have just as much right to be in those lifeboats as anyone else."

The right-to-choose contingent said, "First acknowledge our right to abortion, then we'll help with the lifeboats."

The socialists said, "First we must redistribute the wealth. Once that's done everyone will work equally hard at lowering the lifeboats."

The animal-rights activists said, "First we must end the use of animals in medical experiments. We can't let this be subordinated to lowering the lifeboats."

Finally the ship sank, and because none of the lifeboats had been lowered, everyone drowned.

The last thought of more than one of them was, "I never dreamed that solving humanity's problems would take so long---or that the ship would sink so SUDDENLY."

The Ends of the World as We Know Them

In this New Year, we Americans have our own painful reappraisals to face. Historically, we viewed the United States as a land of unlimited plenty, and so we practiced unrestrained consumerism, but that's no longer viable in a world of finite resources. We can't continue to deplete our own resources as well as those of much of the rest of the world.