Friday, March 27, 2009

Here's to 8759 unearthed hours

Celebrations can be so unkind. I try not to partake (parades excepted), so I have a tendency to miss them.

Except, you know, when they're shoved down your throat from all angles. Which is always.

There was Kindness Week a few weeks ago... I was unfortunately kind to people on each of the three days after it ended. Had I been more up-to-date with my newspapers, I would have realized my awkward timing and kept my kindness to myself. Apparently Ottawa-Centre MPP Yasir Naqvi wants to take Kindness Week provincewide, which is the kind of thing a back bench parliamentarian does to try to feel like he's doing something. At least a provincewide Kindness Week is fairly benign, unlike Naqvi's proposed SCAN legislation.

But the occasion for today's rant is of course Earth Hour, that one hour of the year where you pretend to care about the earth by turning off your lights. My blog entry on Earth Hour last year, titled For Every Light You Turn Off gets a lot of hits, thanks mostly to Italians and Germans searching Google Images for the associated graphic that I myself had located the same way in preparation of the post.

It's somewhat ironic that I post more about Earth Hour than I do about National Grouch Day, but I guess that just proves I'm not biased when it comes to non-celebration.

For a good rant against Earth Hour, I suggest reading this entry on the blog of Citizen editor Ken Gray. For assorted ramblings about Earth Hour, continue reading here.

Earth Day, in its simplest form, is--

Sorry, Earth Hour. My brain has a hard time acknowledging that people can hold an annual celebration in the span of an hour. I can barely get a blog entry written in that much time. Even though most people only celebrate it at 11am, November 11th is still called Remembrance (or Armistice, or Veteran's) Day. Now the 2003 blackout, that's the kind of thing we should be doing every year. That brought people away from their TVs and cell phones and into the streets communing with neighbours. (For reference, Earth Day is April 22nd.)

Anyway, Earth hour is an insane concept because it asks us to turn off our lights for one hour on a Saturday night once a year--something that nearly everyone does for many hours every other night of the year anyway. Then again, the idea started in Sydney, Australia, so maybe the lights there are normally on during the night because of the time difference...

This year, Ottawa City Hall made a big motherfucking poster for Earth Hour. Literally three stories tall:

And I'd be really surprised if the amount of energy saved by Ottawans' horoterrestrial delumination will balance out the amount of energy that went into making that damn thing.

But people say that Earth Hour, even though it's symbolic, inspires people to make real changes in their lives. Yeah, like changing their vote to the politician who promises the most smiles and rainbows.

It's a way to get people to feel smug about caring for the environment, and for those who don't care about the environment to get their annual lip service out of the way and feel equally smug. You can even drive to the coffeeshop and tell your friends about how great you are for having turned off your lights off at home while you're not there.

Another aside: you'll release a lot more CO2 emissions by burning candles than you ever will with lightbulbs, and those emissions are released right in your house, not at a power plant hundreds of kilometres away.

Considering how little of the household energy bill goes to lighting, does anyone really think that Earth Hour is responsible for recent reports that Ottawa's average electricity demand is going down? I'd also be interested to know the response when people are asked to cut energy use in order to feel good as compared to, say, being threatened with rolling brownouts.

There's a general shift in the public consciousness toward environmentalism and conservation, and it doesn't need a celebration to happen. It makes sense to reduce your energy consumption, and can save money, too, since energy use often has a direct cost factor somewhere up the line, and people are. People are making changes in their lives; Earth Hour is just a contrivance to let them talk about it. And talk is cheap.

Be it kindness, grouchiness, or energy consumption, if you want to change your habits, don't wait for a bloody holiday to do it.

- RG>


Anonymous said...

It's a good excuse for a party. People will be driving all over town in their SUVs to attend fabulous earth hour parties -- rolling out the booze, candles and plastic cups, forks, knives and paper plates (because we can't turn on the dishwasher during earth hour). And speaking of dishwashers, I love it when people say they are conserving energy by turning down the heat on their dishwasher. Ha ha ha. Ever heard of the kitchen sink and a dishcloth??? I think I'm going to turn on every light in the house at whatever time earth hour is in protest. So if you look out the window, you'll know where I live

jason said...

Fast Company argues that Earth Hour is actually counterproductive: it makes people think that to help the environment, we have to deprive ourselves (eg. turning off the lights).

Sheri said...

I hide cardboard in my garbage can, pushing it down while looking over my shoulder hoping not to be discovered by my eco-friendly husband. So, I doubt I will be turning off my lights for one hour.