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It would not be Earth Day weekend without the requisite guilt: Pesky environmentalists proselytizing their cause ad nauseum, hoping to influence at least one group of complacent bystanders to evaluate their carbon footprint. Though annoying, their cause has ample merit: A recent study by the National Climate Data Center reveals that the period between January and March 2009 was the eighth hottest on record. The next three months, for that reason, are certain to pan out no differently.
So on the heels of an excessively warm Earth Day, from the couch in my excessively warm apartment in Washington D.C., I decide to question my own impact on the environment. To do so, I locate an informal quiz at EarthDay.net, one of the "holiday's" leading advocacy groups. The verdict: I am a greedy, hoarding, inefficient waste of Earth space, living a lifestyle that, if emulated by billions, would destroy the Earth more than four times over:
I'm shocked; until now, I have no idea I'm truly wrecking the Earth, and I thus feel guilty. I subsequently consult the Web site's quiz-specific conservation guide, hoping to gain some insight into which specific behaviors contribute to my planet's downfall. What I find, however, verges on asinine.
The top tip EarthDay.net offers me is predictable: I should replace my most common household appliances with machines or devices that are more energy efficient. Although I have not the resources to make any such purchases right now, I estimate their cost using BestBuy.com anyway. My findings are hardly surprising. To replace the old refrigerator, washer, dryer, air conditioner and television in my apartment with the cheapest (and smallest) ENERGY STAR-compliant appliances on the market, it would cost me approximately $1,900, sans delivery and tax. This hefty sum excludes a host of other inefficient appliances that I normally use -- including my laptop and stove, for instance -- which would presumably cost me even more to replace.
(Click to read more about the quiz and what it means.)
The popular search engine has updated its Google Earth software to include large parts of the ocean, so users can "dive" under the water and explore what lies beneath the surface.
According to a BBC article, Google hopes this new feature is just the first step towards mapping the entire ocean. The majority of the planet Earth is covered by water -- about 70 percent -- but only about five percent of it has been explored, so this will be no small feat.
The company's new application is pretty cool. Al Gore, the former vice president, Nobel Prize winner and all around go-to guy for things involving the environment, spoke at the launch event in San Francisco. He said the ocean exploring capability makes Google Earth a "magical experience."
Al Gore did the impossible by making PowerPoint presentations cool, so I figured he knows a good thing when he sees it.
And Google Earth's new ocean search feature is pretty magical. But it looks like Google needs to get some more oceanographers on staff, because the land exploration feature is still far, far advanced.
I did get to dive under water, however, without even leaving my dorm room.
The coolest feature I tried out was swimming through the Pacific Ocean off the coast of San Francisco with a female white shark. Cousteau would have loved it.
Snow and ice hit the region this week, causing schools in the District and surrounding areas in Maryland and Virginia to close.
Sidwell Friends, the private Washington school Obama's daughters Sash and Malia attend, was one of several that closed Wednesday.
Obama grew up in Hawaii but he's been living in Chicago, a city where snow doesn't mean a snow day, for many years. Speaking before a meeting in the White House, he seemed shocked that "some ice" had closed down his daughters' schools.
"We're going to have to apply some flinty Chicago toughness to this town," Obama said, according to an article in The Washington Post.
According to Politico, a reporter asked the president if he was saying Washingtonians were wimps.
Now that Barack Obama is set to take over the presidency, he may soon find himself in another role: White House Interior Decorator.
After the Obamas tour of the White House on November 11, people are speculating about what changes they will make to the building. Last week Slate published an article on the changing decor of the White House over the years. Apparently there is a Congressional budget set aside every four years for the first family to redecorate their new digs. (Or not so. George and Laura Bush were given $100,000 to revamp the rooms for his second term.)
The presidential family has significant control over their private apartments, which comprise the top two floors of the White House. Everything from paint color to wallpaper and furnishings is subject to change.
- Outside a live MSNBC broadcast at Washington University middle-aged volunteers from the McCain campaign edged out students showing support for Obama. Members of the group said they were volunteers from Illinois, but would not give details about how they gained access to campus. Earlier in the week, the McCain campaign had solicited local fraternities with offers of cash for support.
- A man wearing a green shirt and green pants quoted Mark Twain, giving a speech from a tree branch near the MSNBC booth against imperialism and war-mongering. The student did not come from an organization, nor did he seek to advance any specific cause, or provoke a reaction.
- Major national and international media outlets have claimed that their reporters, who were assured credentials weeks ago, are not being let into the media filing room. The Commission on Presidential Debates has said that those reporters who have shown up today may not get credentialed.
For photos from the day, check below the fold.
The BBC reports that Dr George Wilson, of the Australian Wildlife Services, has begun to advocate for raising the Australian mammal as a substitute for more traditional meat sources.
Raising livestock like cows and sheep produces significant quantities of methane gas, a greenhouse gas contributing to the global climate emergency. Because kangaroos have a different set of microorganisms in their gut they produce nearly no methane, thereby putting less strain on the environment.
President Bush's proposal would rescind an executive order passed by his father and would open the continental shelf up for potential oil exploration as well as removing restrictions on the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (pictured above), oil shale leasing in the Green River Basin of Colorado, Utah and Wyoming and the regulatory processes that oversee oil refining capacity.
More than 25 years after President Jimmy Carter asked Americans to make hard sacrifices to end our dependence on foreign energy the United States is equally - if not more - dependent on oil than ever and the only solutions in sight are those that will increase our reliance on traditional energy supplies.
CHINA'S STATE-RUN MEDIA says 32 radiation sources buried by the earthquake have been discovered and most have been safely defused. The article quotes "[a]n official at a French nuclear watchdog who has seen reports from the Chinese nuclear safety agency," and the Xinhua news agency, but China hardly has the moral high ground on environmental issues. One wonders how many other "hidden treasures" are poisoning the victims and rescue workers.
HOUSE REPUBLICANS are re-working their message, supposedly. Meanwhile, Politico reports top House Republican Rep. John Boehner is attracting criticism within his own party for not being aggressive enough after three major special election losses. More on this in the following days.
AN OVER-PROTECTIVE PARENT wants to cover up the "bikini baristas" at a Washington (state) coffee shop, calling the situation "terrifying." The situation is so alarming that the parent has started a petition against the private business, instead of just avoiding it entirely. No word yet whether she has ever been to a beach in Europe.
THE TENNESSEE GOP has launched a pitiful attack ad against Michelle Obama, bragging about how patriotic Republicans are and suggesting how anti-American Michelle is by contrast. Thankfully, two Republican Senators have stepped up to denounce the ad, which apparently featured a former strip club owner to represent the party of moral authority.