Saturday, March 27, 2010

Earth Hour sucks

Yes, I agree the title of this entry is a little inflammatory. It's a deliberate ploy to raise your antenna and get you thinking. A couple of baseline facts:
  • I'm a big fan of Earth Hour. Same thing applies to Earth Day, and any other event designed to raise awareness, generate discussion and motivate proper behaviors.
  • I have no interest in debating whether global warming is or is not a myth. It's patently obvious that human behavior is wrecking the planet. We need to fix it. Arguing over labels is pointless.
  • I'm on the fence as to whether headline-generating events do more harm than good in the long-term drive to repair our planet.
So in a little while, my family will dutifully turn the lights off, pull out the books and candles, and gather around in the living room to share stories and spend some time together as, you know, a family. I know the mere act of consciously turning it all off is already planting seeds in our kids. It's helping make eco-friendly thinking a normal thing for them. I get that, and will do everything I can as a parent to perpetuate this learning. It's a responsibility I happily take on.

My issue isn't with the event itself, but in the way some folks choose to use their involvement to balance off eco-piggish behavior the other 364 days of the year. They'll turn their lights off tonight and broadcast it, often loudly and obnoxiously, to the world, and then tomorrow morning they'll be hopping into their Hummers to pick up cigarettes and subs from the convenience store four blocks away. Their hypocrisy galls me more than a little, because they'll be the first ones to justify their wasteful ways by saying they can afford it. They bought the Hummer. They fill it with gas. They drive it without guilt.

That it-revolves-around-me attitude persists despite events like Earth Hour. And despite the fact that awareness-raising is helping the adults of tomorrow build the right attitudes early on, there are still too many overweight, middle-aged, Hummer-driving, self-back-patting folks out there, and they, unfortunately, outweigh anything my 9-year-old son can do at this stage of his life.

Years ago, I remember when Earth Day was a global phenomenon. But like all elements of pop culture, its star soon faded and we all went back to ignoring it when it rolled around every year (quick, without looking it up online, when is it scheduled for 2010?) What we need is sustained growth in awareness and action. What we get is a short-term, feel-goodness that may or may not go far enough in kicking all of us into gear.

I suppose none of this is too surprising. Nothing can stay at the top of the charts forever. Less than three months after an earthquake leveled its capital city and killed almost a quarter of a million people, Haiti may as well not be on the world's radar. The news crews have returned home, leaving survivors to rebuild their lives out of the global spotlight. I humbly suggest that Earth Hour, like Earth Day before it, will enjoy a similarly brief period as a media darling before it, too, fades into obscurity.

To which the planet would be perfectly justified in wondering, "What then?"

Your turn: Thoughts?


Breeze said...

I'm almost tempted not to do it for the same reason...but I will...good post as usual Carmi.


Anonymous said...

I always know when it will be Earth Day: April 22nd, my oldest son's birthday.
I had book club tonight, so we didn't turn the lights out, but everyone carpooled to the meeting in economy cars (including one Prius).

Mark said...

Just today I climbed down from my 1999 Honda Odyssey, which we bought in 2003. As with other cars we have owned, we will drive it until it will not go any more, because it's paid for and money doesn't grow on our trees.

I saw a man drive by in a Toyota Prius. I thought to myself what a shame it is that most people in this area (and, apparently, in yours, too) never would buy a Prius because they don't normally own a car long enough for the increased gas mileage of a hybrid to make up for its premium price tag. That's if that person were considering a car, not an SUV, in lieu of a hybrid (a big if around here).

If a purchase doesn't save someone money, then they automatically think it's foolish. What's in it for them, personally, directly, that they can quantify with their tiny little brains? That's all they care about.

I probably should stop now.

Michael Manning said...

I agree with your observations, Carmi and remain hopeful people will read this and think about positive solutions to this crisis.

Cloudia said...

It's a slow, uneven trek up the path, yet we climb...

Aloha from Hawaii my Friend!

Comfort Spiral

Twain12 said...

"I have no interest in debating whether global warming is or is not a myth. It's patently obvious that human behavior is wrecking the planet. We need to fix it. Arguing over labels is pointless."

that is exactly how i feel, but i'm a little tired arguing about it so i do what i can do in my own little world. Sometimes i think we are going backward when i watch my government and corporations do as little as they can get away with for the almighty $$$

Steve Gravano said...

I agree with you and Twain12, It's not the headlines it's the actions. We conserve where we can and recycle everything we can, everyone should do their part.

Star said...

Lovely post Carmi. We all have to change our habits, and more so in many little ways than one big grandstand play, to make a difference. I think Earth Hour was a great way to show that the problem is a global one.

fredamans said...

I appreciate Earth Hour and what they try to signify with it, but in all actuality. I don't partake.
I'm a true Canadian, and what do I do with my Saturday evening? Hockey Night In Canada. Why would I choose to sit in the dark?
Yes, I was the one house with my lights on at 8pm est. Sue me.
But my Leafs won!


Lee Ann said...

Hey Carmi!
Happy Spring :)!
Lee Ann

Catherine said...

Quotes like "we drove around the city to see who else had their lights out" put me off! I don't do Earth Hour, I think it does far more good to put effort into walking to work more often than to increase carbon emissions by burning candles for one hour a year (since most of our electricity comes from hydro stations and doesn't in itself increase emissions)

Aunt Snow said...

I forgot, but we were probably not burning much anyway. I love the idea of huddling around candles or lanterns.

We don't have much in the way of outdoor lights so when we spend the evening outside we use kerosene lanterns. I love the color of the light.