Earth Hour: illuminating or silly?

Earth Hour begins at 8:30 pm tonight. Photo: Jacinta Lluch Valero, CC some rights reserved

Do causes need symbolic gestures? If yes, which ones really work best?

Later tonight, hundreds of millions will participate in something called “Earth Hour”.

According to the Earth Hour website, back in 2007:

The inaugural Earth Hour is held in Sydney Australia 7.30pm – 8.30pm, 2.2 million Sydneysiders and 2,100 businesses participate. Plans are developed to make Earth Hour a national event in Australia, but international interest is high and cities began signing up to the next Earth Hour campaign.

And off it went, around the world.

It’s probably happening in your town tonight , from 8:30-9:30 pm. Lights out everyone! Right down to “candle safety warnings“.

Meanwhile, here’s an essay that says: pish!

… organizers say that they are providing a way to demonstrate one’s desire to “do something” about global warming. But the reality is that Earth Hour teaches all the wrong lessens, and it actually increases CO2 emissions. Its vain symbolism reveals exactly what is wrong with today’s feel-good environmentalism.

This was picked up by Slatewhich reprinted it from something called Project Syndicate: a world of ideas.

The essay’s author is Bjørn Lomborg, an adjunct professor at the Copenhagen Business School. Going by some of his other commentaries, you might write him off as a contrarian, bent on deflating sacred cows of the environmental movement.

But I like the question of real impact verses empty gestures. Many years ago, I got one of those chain emails urging all consumers to “fight back” and “show those price-gouging oil companies who’s boss!” Everyone was supposed to not buy gasoline on such and such a date. Call me a nitpicker, but that idea made no sense.

OK. Depending on participation, for one day gas sales could plummet – even stop! But so what? The same amount of gas would simply be bought before, or after, the targeted date. It wasn’t like anyone was committing to actually drive less, walk or sell their car. A truly useless gesture – laughable in terms of net effect – or so it seemed to me. Let’s just say oil companies were not trembling at the prospect of that particular people’s day of action.

Is Earth Hour along those lines? Nothing is changed, other than basking in warm and fuzzy feelings?

Earth Hour has attained name-recognition cache, as evidenced by this recent headline: “Vancouver crowned Earth Hour capital by World Wildlife Fund“. But Vancouver is also promoting tangible policies:

The city’s goals in its Greenest City 2020 Action Plan include making all new buildings carbon neutral; increasing the number of green jobs in Vancouver; and seeing residents make over 50 per cent of trips by foot, bicycle or transit.

I expect many participants are using Earth Hour as a symbol that says “people do so care, just look and see”. And, to be fair, the Earth Hour web site does highlight other efforts to actually make tangible changes. Yet my own inner-contrarian doesn’t want to play along with the official blackout, because it feels like a fad (a sham?) that’s taking on compliance pressure.

When it comes to promoting some cause, or making the world a better place, what’s your idea of a gesture that works?

Will your lights be off for an hour tonight? Why or why not?

Speaking of lights and conserving energy, here’s more on an earlier “All In” conversation about lightbulbs. David Pogue writes about personal technology for the New York Times. He says LEDs have arrived, in terms of price point and useful functionality. Pogue says step away from those compact fluorescents and get thee to an LED.

And if you have a better idea than Earth Hour for symbolizing environmental commitment while actually making a difference, please share it!


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4 Comments on “Earth Hour: illuminating or silly?”

  1. Ken Hall says:

    Unfortunately no I do not believe symbolic gestures have much of an impact on the consumer/greed mentality of the US or much of the so called developed countries occupying spaceship Earth. Permanently turning off the outside illumination in every city, town and village on Earth would have an enormous effect upon the wasteful consumption of energy; but, a very few percentage of Earth’s homo sapiens agree with that concept because it might interfere with the race to their destination of choice and force them to drive more sanely and safely at night relying only upon vehicle lights. A return to a national speed limit of 55 MPH on Interstate highways, 50 on state highways and additionally reduced speeds on county roads would likewise save enormous quantities of wasted petroleum energy; but, once again only a small percentage of humans are in favor as most are in too much of a hurry to get where???

    The fallacious thinking patterns exemplified by most developed countries inhabitants induces them to seriously believe that the more energy we extract from the Earth the better off humans will be/are. The ignorance exemplified by an enormous percentage of Americans concerning global warming and the danger to the entire spectrum of Earth’s flora and fauna, which last time I checked includes humans, it presents is stupefying. When high ranking officers in the US military state publicly that global warming is the most deadly and imminent national danger that they know of; one would think that at least more than a smattering of American politicians would be cognizant of same and be willing to consider real significant actions that ALL citizens of the US should be requesting. No way! One might think the current highly ballyhooed US senate budget would have had copious quantities of dollars marked for reducing greenhouse gas production in the US; but, no our obscenely wealthy citizens would be adversely impacted by such activity so we will have none of that.

    The evidence that POTUS Obama is virtually hamstrung by the 1percenters who own nearly every congressman in the US, lock, stock and barrel, continues to mount at an absolutely dizzying rate. The White-house has knuckled under to the hydrocarbon conglomerates and is continuing their corporate welfare, oh I mean absolutely necessary subsidies so that they can continue to eke out a pittance of profit, and appears to be willing to authorize the pipe line that will carry a hot tarry mixture from Alberta, Canada to the Gulf coast. Oh, I forgot they want to spend a staggering $200 million to encourage solar, wind and water power generation which far and away exceeds the compensation of multiple $billions being forced upon the poor hydrocarbon folks.

    Folks are engaging in far more than symbolic efforts to stop the Keystone XL pipeline and are planning to engage in far more. Arrests are likely to escalate as the effort prevent the building of same escalate. Even this real effort on the part of thousands of folks is unlikely to stop this one more example of human stupidity that is likely going to make homo sapiens one of the shortest reigning species the Earth has ever witnessed. Of course the greatest stupidity that humans have engaged in is their exponential population explosion to the detriment of every other form of fauna on Earth.

    I say full speed ahead homo sapiens I am certain the Earth will not miss y’all.

  2. Ken Hall says:

    OOPS: effort prevent, should obviously be, effort to prevent

  3. Michael Greer says:

    In 1792, the French chopped off the heads of the 1% folks…

  4. Ken Hall says:

    I don’t believe the French military was equipped with M1A1 tanks, fighter bombers and soldiers with automatic weapons beholden to their 1% folks; more of a confrontation of equals then, than an attempt to limber up the old guillotine would be today.

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