A Little Earth Hour Rant

Earth HourI understand the power of a symbolic gesture, but tonight’s Earth Hour encapsulates how humanity can always get things wrong. I’m sure tonight lots and lots of people will turn off their lights and feel like they have done their part, and tomorrow it will be business as usual. What will change? Nothing really.

What really bugs me, though, is the idea of the concerts and big events that are taking place to celebrate earth hour. Now, I understand that people are seeking alternative sources of energy to power these events, but it still seems idiotic to go out of your way to hold an event that uses power during the one time a year you are asked to use no power. In Tel Aviv they had volunteers ride stationary bikes to generate power for the concert. Total power generated in this way? 2.5 Kilowatts. The remaining 50 Kilowatts needed was generated by burning used falafel oil. I am sure that falafel oil is cleaner burning than regular fuels, but still, why not just DON’T BURN THE OIL! Don’t hold the event. It reminds me of when I was a teenager, reading about the tons of litter and refuse left after an Earth Day March. No march, no little. Simple, really.

And candles. Lots and lots of people are going to be burning candles tonight. Remember that paraffin (most cheap candles are made of this) is a by-product of petroleum. In other words, candles ain’t clean either. And flashlights? Well, are you just going to toss those batteries when you are done?

I don’t want to sound like some cold hearted cynic. I am not a global warming doubter. I know our planet is in trouble. I just think that events like Earth Hour are a panacea. People feel good, but in the end, it doesn’t help. But people THINK it helps, and thus don’t seek out any meaningful way to make lasting changes in their energy consumption and lifestyle. And this is a problem.

I was delighted to read a contrary opinion the The Toronto Star today. The Star has been one of the most vocal supporters of Earth Hour, and I was happy to see that they gave Mendelson Joe a forum to call bull on this event. As he is an infinitely more talented writer than I, I will give him the final words:

“I don’t think Earth Hour will make a difference whatsoever in the scheme of things. It’s delusional. It will not make people more aware of the problem. It’s a feeble recognition of our decline, and it won’t amount to a row of beans unless we plant beans every day”

Couldn’t have said it better myself.

  • I’m hoping that when the data is released about how much energy was saved during Earth Hour it will make people think. Even if only a fraction of the people (young people in particular) realize that simply flicking off the lights can have an impact and will then think to shut off the lights when they leave a room it was worth the effort.

    I do agree that having special events that consume energy as part of Earth Hour is ridiculous and against the point of the exercise.

  • Wow, I didn’t even KNOW about Earth Hour. I saw you’re twit and thought I’d read your link later – and then I went to check my email at Google and the freaking lights were out!

    Anyway, I totally agree with you. But in the end, I think the point is to change people’s behavior to become more aware to their effect on the planet. I don’t envisage however a point where we’ll consume less then we do now, or as we did 20 years ago. With technology and globalization, the rise of India and China, etc., its nearly impossible.

    I’m not sure where I stand with the whole issue anyway. This climate change could be completely normal. Its difficult these days to form an opinion on all the news and research etc when in the end, being green is just another way for corporations to make extra bucks off you.

  • Thanks for dropping by, Merlene and confusedtwenty. I agree with you, Merlene, that it will have some effect in making people think. That is the message I tried to get across to my students yesterday.

    confused – I agree, it is hard to form an opinion – I just try to do my best and cut back where I can – it doesn’t hurt anything, and it just might help.

    PS – Merlene, congrats on the Toronto Star interview!

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    have a little faith. At the very least, it’s a step in the door. It might not change most but for a few, they might continue to turn lights on a little less, make a little more effort recycle more. We’re not asking everyone to give up their cars and AC’s, but to contribute what they can and hopefully what they can will grow over time.

  • i always participate whenver there is an Earth Hour event. it is a good thing that the World Wildlife Fund organized an event like this.

  • Earth Hour is really a good concept on how we could spend at least a few minutes of our time in remembering mother Eearth. people should be more aware and more caring of our environment now that we have Global Warming and Climate Change