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Another meaningless symbolic Earth Hour passes

Posted April 1st, 2012 in pop culture and tagged , , , , , by Adrian MacNair


My house during Earth Hour.

Earth Hour happened last night for the fifth year in a row, allowing people who don’t otherwise think much about energy consumption to make a symbolic gesture of penance. I choose the word penance deliberately, since the act is arguably as meaningless, and done primarily to ease one’s own conscience.

It isn’t that I oppose conservation, energy efficiency and awareness about finite resources. But Earth Hour is none of those things. Like most movements generated by “slacktivists”, nothing about Earth Hour does something beneficial for either the environment or the realities of finite energy.

Nor does my extra consumption of energy during that hour make any real difference on anybody or anything. My gesture of defiance was equally meaningless, since an extra hour of high energy usage won’t make any long-term difference in terms of consumption or affordability. In essence, my meaningless act was simply the symbolic flipping off of the other side for offering up such a trite activity as somehow being relevant or important in any way.

Every year we go through this charade and every year it’s just as stupid. We all turn off our lights and huddle in the dark and I suppose the point is to think about how collectively we could reduce our environmental impact if we did this on a semi-regular basis. But we never will.

See, I can get behind an idea that actually has a plan. For instance, I wouldn’t support the symbolic deployment of Canadian soldiers in Afghanistan for one hour because it’s not relevant to the struggle. Nothing can be accomplished in an hour, whether it’s supposed to inspire people or not.

What’s more, I get the sense people partake in Earth Hour not because they wish to engage in a meaningful self-analysis of man’s impact on the environment and their own personal effect on the world. Instead they’re merely following, lemming-like, with whatever happens to be the pop culture flavour of the week. In the 90′s it was AIDS, today it’s the Earth, next decade it’ll probably be something else.

Look, if people were really interested in saving the environment, they’d close the borders, enact a one-child policy, and argue against economic stimulus so that the economy can contract to a point where “sustainability” actually means something. But they aren’t interested. They just want to make the appearance of caring because not caring means you’re either a climate change denier, pro tar sands developer, or other assorted nonsense.

Sustainability. There’s a word I’ll never quite understand. It appears the environmentalists are quite confused when it comes to what that means, since they want people to work for a goal that has never really been defined. Even if you conserve energy, or bike to work, or eat within the so called 100-mile diet, it’s all offset by population increase. There’s really no evidence that anything we do now or in the future can offset the inevitable resource crunch.

At the heart of environmentalist philosophy is the realization that advanced civilizations aren’t compatible since we produce far more than can be regenerated, which is why I think we undergo these little symbolic gestures. It alleviates whatever the environmental equivalent is for white liberal guilt.

5 Responses so far.

  1. Dan MoutalNo Gravatar says:

    Ok, this is just dumb. Yes Earth hour is mostly pointless, I suggest you read this great article by Maggie Koerth-Baker for an insightful critique:
    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/maggie-koerthbaker/earth-hour_b_1390247.html?ref=science&ncid=edlinkusaolp00000008

    But this is just mind mindbogglingly wrong:

    Look, if people were really interested in saving the environment, they’d close the borders, enact a one-child policy, and argue against economic stimulus so that the economy can contract to a point where “sustainability” actually means something.

    I expect better from you, not a regurgitation of an article from The Onion:
    http://www.theonion.com/articles/scientists-look-onethird-of-the-human-race-has-to,27166/

    The simple fact is that is that there are many possible ways to both sustain the environment and ensure human prosperity. But you have to get past a simplistic view of the problem.

    Also it is worth noting that even your simplistic view of the problem is also likely wrong. Take a look at Hans Rosling’s work on global population trends. The point is that the global population is stabilizing, so assuming unending exponential population growth (which is what your ‘solution’ does) just leads you down the wrong path.

    I know I have said this before and you have ignored it before, but you are really out of your element here. If you want to write about these topics I strongly suggest you spend some time learning first.

  2. OxygentaxNo Gravatar says:

    I conserve every day. My two lights that I run at night have energy efficient bulbs. My thermostat sits at 17 in the winter and I have no air conditioning for the summer. Despite having a fiancee that lives 2 1/2 hours away, I drive less than the average Canadian in an average year. I have a smaller carbon footprint than most environmentalists. I use earth hour to celebrate human achievement, not feel ashamed over it.

  3. MikeNo Gravatar says:

    What makes it even more useless is that people turn off their lights, but I bet they don’t turn off their TVs, or even better, watch Earth Hour festivities on TV. A nice, big LCD TV probably consumes more electricity than all lights in the house combined.

  4. peterjNo Gravatar says:

    I expected nothing less from you Adrian. Since you have a aversion to bullshit and have never stated a wish to live like the North Koreans and other dirt poor countries. My house was lit up like a 747 and we waited until 8:30 to do the laundry. Felt Great.

  5. FrancesNo Gravatar says:

    We’ve always been conservative in this household: thermostat set low, lights turned off (almost to the point of danger), a special washer with a ‘suds-saver’, a clothes line in the back, small energy-efficient cars, use of public transit. So I seriously resent having the arrivistes and watermelons lecture me about my habits.

    At least this year we didn’t have the local paper giving the usual lauditory coverage to restaurants who were going to prepare special meals (all pre-cooked) which they could serve by the light of many seriously polluting candles.

    Congratulations to your open dismissal of a hypocritical rite from the new church of environmentalism.