Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Much Ado about Earth Hour

Crunchy Chicken posted about Earth Hour last Thursday. The Earth Hour campaign, as I am sure you know, is a global event in which people turn off their lights for an hour on March 28, 8:30 to 9:30 PM. Participation is seen as an indicator that Global Warning is of concern.

Her post focuses on alternative light for those who are participating, and mainly just pointed out that burning paraffin candles for an event to bring attention to reducing ones carbon footprint was counter-productive, and reminded those who were participating to use beeswax candles instead. At the end, she asks
    "Are you going to do Earth Hour this year and what kind of alternative lighting will be used, if any?"
I read the comments after the post, and ended up feeling depressed.

Most people reading Crunchy's blog say they will already have their lights turned off at that time for a variety of reasons ranging from previous commitments for reducing their footprint to never being home on Saturday night.

Others say that Earth Hour can be a springboard to activism, like scifichick:
    We will be participating in the Earth Hour. To me it's not about the actual savings or not, but about bringing awareness. Sure, there is a lot of commercialism around it, but the message needs to be spread somehow.
It was the other group of respondents that depressed me. This group is opposed to Earth Hour.**They say things like Bucky here:
    As a means to stop carbon emissions, this is completely ridiculous. Earth Hour! might work as a marketing / awareness ploy, but will do nothing in terms of of greenhouse gas production (unless someone is actually producing their own electricity and can go into the backyard shed and shut down the generator).
    Just because you turn your lights off for an hour doesn't mean that the big bad electric utility isn't still burning coal and gas to use the electricity you aren't using. The system just doesn't work that way.
    The utility's goal is to produce just enough electricity at any given moment so that everyone has what they want but not more than that because that wastes fuel and money. In reality, the utility companies always produce excess energy. They have gotten very good at predicting grid loads to meet expected and usual demand.
    Turning off your lights for an hour will do nothing in terms of electricity produced. Even if the utility company realized that there would be less demand during this ONE hour, it still wouldn't matter as it takes time to shut down and then ramp back up the massive generators that produce our electricity.
    Turning on or off your light might happen at the flick of a switch, but generating the electricity to power that light doesn't happen that fast or easily.
    The only way to reduce carbon emissions is to consistently reduce demand over a period of time.
    So ... count me in the Earth Hour! is a big steaming load of horse shit and we should be spending our time doing most anything else.
Megan says
    I agree that I think it's often a marketing awareness-raising ploy. The problem is that you need a lot of focus on what to do AFTER earth hour. People I think would find it too easy to think that they've "done their bit" in that hour, and don't feel that they need to do much else. I think changing light bulbs and not using plastic bags can lull people into that same sense of security.

    Have you considered doing a no-flights-for-a-year pledge? That's bound to save WAY more emissions than the cloth wipe challenge, although it might be less fun. Or no car for a month? Or a look-into-jobs-that-don't-have-a-commute day?
And Laura, who responded to a comment I made in which I wondered how observing Earth Hour! could hurt, by saying
    I disagree. It can hurt because we just don't have time to waste on empty, feel good action. If this were the 70's and people were doing Earth Hour, I'd say more power(hee!) to ya. But it's years later and we have yet to truly change our ways. It can hurt because the people/organizations/companies who are promoting events like this should know better.
I'm sorry, despite all the schooling, I still don't get it. I guess I am too old to understand this- I came of age in the '70's, when the adage "The personal is the political" was the watchword. I understand that to mean that our lives, and how we live them, are what make the changes in our world.* That our personal choices are our witness to the world. (Even if we have just recently begun to make those choices).

Let's say Neophyte Activist recently realized that she can change her lightbulbs from incandescent to CFL's, and can avoid using plastic bags, and that will be helpful. Does that mean Neo should be made to feel bad that she is not doing more? Or should someone further along the path than Neo is say something like "That's great- I've changed over to CFL's too. You know what else you could do that will help? You might try...." or "Have you read..." "Do you know..."

So what if Earth Hour! is surrounded by commercialism and vague in its outcome. How does it help to decry anything that might open eyes that have previously been closed? As with every change, education changes attitudes. We can't educate if we are denigrating what people can do.

*Yah, yah, I get it- it's year's later and we still need to drastically change. It seems, at first glance that the Personal is Political adage failed. I don't see it that way- I see it more as a failure to walk the walk as well as talk the talk. Had enough hippies been more committed, we would be further along than we are now. My views on why are for another post, another day.

**These are not the people who are promoting anti-earth hours, or "truth" hours. These folks don't believe in global warming, and plan to spend an hour running every electric appliance they own. I am not sure which group makes me more sad, but I DO know who makes me more angry.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Thanks for promoting Earth Hour! Another way you can recruit people to the cause is by creating a Earth Hour group on Commit21.com. Simply create a group about one action that you will commit to do for Earth Hour and recruit your friends, family, and co-workers to get involved in that action as well. When it comes to climate change, simple actions can make huge differences and Commit21 leverages social media to influence networks of friends, family, and co-workers. Check it out at www.commit21.com