What’s wrong with turning our lights off for an hour? Especially if a billion or more of our species do it worldwide today? And not just turn out the lights, but as many other power-consuming devices as possible? And then hang out with friends / family for some conversations in the dark / by candlelight / firelight? Moreover, what’s wrong with getting some of our institutions to turn off the lights, for instance at normally brightly lit monuments or buildings? So why are some of my friends and colleagues, conservationists otherwise, turning cynical about this movement which seems to have caught much of the world’s imagination?
Of course, I’m talking about Earth Hour, the annual global cascading power down which started just two years ago in Sydney, Australia, to get people thinking about global warming, and has now spread so much that even the Chinese govt. agencies turned the lights out in some famous places today (pictures here). Here’s a video promoting the event, in case you haven’t seen it yet:
With the celebrity endorsements, TV ads, and news coverage even from Fox (yeah!), today’s Earth Hour is turning out to be bigger even than last year’s. I don’t know if it’ll reach the goal of 1 billion people “voting earth” as the campaign puts it, but that doesn’t really matter, does it? The main goal, surely, is to get everyone talking about it, and about global warming, and what we, even as individuals, can do about it. And that part has been really successful, with the message ubiquitous, including (or course) on Facebook, Twitter, etc. Of course, many global warming “skeptics” and others on the right scoff at such “empty gestures” and “feel goodism” (to steal a phrase from someone responding to the Fresno Bee last year). But why is this reaction shared by some on our side of the global warming fight? On Facebook, one friend remarks:
The amount of electricity used to inform everyone (via email, TV, etc.) about “Earth Hour” on March 28, 2009 was nearly twelve times as much as the expected savings.
… and several others jump in nodding vigorously in agreement, even claiming that this whole campaign is just more FUD! As if those communication channels (email, TV, etc.) were switched on explicitly for the purpose of promoting Earth Hour, and would have otherwise been off saving electricity! Really? On another thread, a friend’s joining the cause brings more abuse, with an offer to throw a “fuck the earth” party instead!! And others argue this is all just fantasyland, and has nothing to do with the real world! Even biting sarcasm doesn’t go unpunished!
Is turning the lights off and hanging out in the darkness for an hour really all that bad? Perhaps you should also switch off your cynicism for that hour? Go ahead, try it – join others in the dark for an hour, and embrace some optimism that it is possible to get a bunch of people to come together to talk about the environment, even if fleetingly, for an hour. Not too much, just an hour of this fellowship. It won’t hurt you! Even if, in the long run, we human beings are fucked anyway, being but Earth’s way to make itself some plastic! An hour’s rest ought to, at least, renew your spirit of cynicism as you get back to dealing with the real world. Even your cynicism needs some rest now and then, surely?
Meanwhile, enjoy these pictures:
Now I better go look for some candles and matches… for I’ve got a pile of exams to grade, and such a perfect opportunity to recreate that famous opening scene from Satyajit Ray’s movie “Jana Aranya” (The Middleman) – the one where the examiner fails our “hero” because he cannot read his writing by candlelight during Kolkata’s famous load-shedding!