Google goes black — and so should you

Thanks largely in part to Al Gore, it has become nearly impossible to deny the reality of global warming. However, knowing isn’t enough; action is required in order to begin a reversal of the damage done to our planet. Most people are unaware of just how easy it is to do this.

This is the focus of Earth Hour, a now annual event which encourages businesses and consumers to turn off the power for one hour as a simple way of saving energy. The event began in Australia in 2007 and this years aims to become global. You can participate by turning off your lights, computer, TV, etc., from 8pm-9pm local time TONIGHT, March 29, 2008.

Even Google has joined in to encourage participation by symbolically “turning off the lights” on its homepage. The site also links to a page with more information on Earth Hour.

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So don’t just say you care about the planet tonight. PROVE IT.

New blog post on Pew Internet Project website

I seem to be blogging everywhere but on this site as of late. Well, that’s what happens when you agree to do too much “real” work and don’t have any time left over for “fun” work, like blogging on this site.

Here’s my latest Pew Internet project blog, which came out of a data memo I wrote on the major predictions related to technology in 2008.

New blog post on Pew Internet Project website

Here’s my latest post, which looks at some recent reports linking broadband expansion to decreased greenhouse gas emissions. Save the planet, get broadband! And since it is the Word of the Year, let me also add w00t!

Could broadband help the environment?
Environmentally friendly business practices have become commonplace over the last decade, and the technology sector is no exception. With organizations like Gartner and publications like E-Commerce Times listing Green IT among their top trends for 2008, many people may be wondering what they can do to make their technology usage more environmentally friendly. (Read more)…

Annie Leonard’s “The story of stuff”

My friend Brad just shared with me the link to an amazing 20-minute video by activist Annie Leonard on our country’s obsession with consumerism, offering the entire story of a materials economy rather than just the oh-so-happy image we often get from corporations. Leonard looks at every step in the process of a product, from extraction to production, distribution, consumption and disposal. She squeezes a ton of facts into a short space of time while presenting her information into a visually appealing and often humorous package.

The part of her video I found the most provocative was her discussion of planned and perceived obsolescence. Planned obsolescence is the conscious effort on the part of manufacturers to design products which have as short a life span as possible without removing public trust in the product and/or company. As a personal example, my first iPod died on me after about 20 months of ownership. I have some friends whose iPods died even quicker. However, all of us remained fans of the product and bought new ones when our older ones died. We had surpassed the point in time when we would have lost trust. Unfortunately, I’m not an economist and so most of the complex equations that could explain how companies reach this specific time frame are beyond me, but I’m sure there is a detailed explanation somewhere. It probably is something like the explanation of how car companies determine if a car should be recalled in Fight Club, which goes a little something like this:

Take the number of vehicles in the field, A.

Multiply it by the probable rate of failure, B.

Multiply the result by the average out-of-court settlement, C.

A x B x C equals X.

If X is less than the cost of a recall, we don't do one.

Moving on, we come to the even more despicable (in my opinion at least) perceived obsolescence. Here, we are being told by the media that even if our products have not run their corporation-shortened life spans, we should still dispose of them because they are not “in” anymore. I see this most obviously in the fashion industry, where women are constantly bombarded with the latest looks and trends. And god forbid if women do not adapt to the newest trend, whether it is skinny jeans, choppy bangs, clunky heels or metallic belts. If she falls even one season behind, said woman is doomed to a life of loneliness, for surely no man would marry a fashionably unfit woman. And if that’s the case, I might as well start buying cats, because they’re going to be my only friends for the next 50 years.

I tend to get exceptionally riled up about American consumerism around this time of year, especially with the number of companies trying to sell luxury products to the average American (who can almost never afford these purchases). And unfortunately, many Americans do succumb to these companies because either the advertising makes the (most likely unessential) product seem as necessary as food, water, shelter and air; OR, these poor consumers (typically men) are harassed to the point of insanity by their significant others (typically women) about how the best way to convey love is through diamonds (or Lexuses). The first thought that comes to mind when I think of both these situations is those stupid Jared’s commercials, which contain a number of annoying women bitching to their men, “He went to Jared’s.” Now, I blogged about this last year and received some feedback about how bitter I was. Well, I was bitter then and I’m even more bitter now. American consumerism drives me batty.

To bring this post full circle, the point of Leonard’s video is to educate and inspire you to do something about America’s problems with consumption. Yes, I know you hear it all the time, but get used to it folks, because I am predicting right now that Going Green will be the hottest issue of 2008. She offers to her top ten list of things you can do here. Most important in my opinion is one of her simplest suggestions: educate yourself and educate others.

You can start by watching the video.