I 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.