Earth Hour.

Of all the magnificently crackpot ideas masquerading as a sensible solution, this has to be one of the best.

Oh I get the point beyond it - let's show those who make our policies that we don't like the way they're shrugging off the rapid way we're erasing the options our future holds, and let's do it when energy consumption is at its highest, and let's do it in a totally dramatic way, and heyyyy! what better way than by showing those who are not convinced what it would be like if we had no energy. Right? Alright!

What shite.

Look, I like to think I'm green(ish). Public transport has always been my first and most common choice, I cycle when the cities I'm living in allow me to do so with some hope of surviving the first 30 metres, I have energy-saving bulbs all over my house, I recycle - heck, I even compost. Sure, I buy the occasional non-local food item, but that's just me cashing in my carbon credits.

But this - this is just such a pointless demonstration. On so many counts.

First, why just the one hour on one day every year? If you're really serious about getting people to reduce energy usage (and hence carbon emissions), why not make it a more regular affair, like once every month? Surely that will have more of an actual impact on saving energy.

What, you think people will refuse to make do without electricity for one hour every single month? Well, then the whole idea of this campaign is flawed, isn't it? Because if you can't convince people that if we keep going the way we do, somewhere down the line we will have to do without energy for large chunks of the day (oh wait, that already happens in India - good old load-shedding), and so they better do without their AC for 60 frikkin' minutes once every 30 days, then you've already lost.

Also, the timing. Oh sure, the photo-op is hard to pass up on. But if there's one thing that has always prevented me from being a green activist, and the one thing that has always pissed me off about green activists, is that with them it's either all or nothing. Moderation, you see, is a bad word. It's got to have Drama!

Of course, playing on humankind's oldest possible fear - darkness - is just as likely to piss off those who are on the fence, and just make those who don't believe more entrenched in their behaviour. Because why wouldn't everybody like to grope about in the dark, making do with candles (which, by the way, weren't just picked in the fields but were manufactured, and packaged, and transported to the shops - hello energy usage!), wondering if that sound they just heard is a burglar chuckling at the way some people just lay down the red carpet? And why wouldn't ambulances, and firefighters, and the police like the challenge of doing their jobs with their vision impeded?

Besides, I'm not even sure that energy usage is higher at night. Yes, the streets are lit while they're not in the day, lights come on at home which they don't in the day. But (most) offices and shopping outlets don't use ACs and heaters and computers and faxes and coffee machines during the night do they? I'd be happy to see statistics that prove me wrong, but I'm willing to guess that they balance out, and daytime energy usage is as much as that at night.

So then, I would have thought it would be better to do something like this during the day. At least that way, people can decide to go out for a walk instead of sitting in a dark office, or sweltering in the heat of their homes. Children can be entertained in parks, elderly folk can have get-togethers, neighbours can catch up on their gossip or even just get to know each other. People might realise that they actually like just sitting around and reading a book. Or just strolling round and noticing their neighbourhood properly. Who knows, even museums might see an attendance boost.

Isn't all of that preferable to people muttering away to themselves in the dark, running the risk of setting something on fire or hurting themselves? Isn't the chance of generating a more social environment preferable to effectively having people lock themselves in? And most importantly, doesn't this make it more practical, and hence, more likely to be adopted by more people, and hence, result in less energy usage, and hence, give us a few more weeks before the flood swamps us all?

Which, surely, is the point. Unless it's all just for a dramatic photo-op.

In which case, as I said earlier - what shite.


Shyam said...

You said it, this is EXACTLY what gets me too! It's not good enough for them that normal, busy, reasonable people try to reduce their carbon footprint by doing what they can every day... no, it's got to be something dramatic and totally useless! Idiots.

Sharanya said...

I completely agree with u. It just make people feel like they did their bit for 'earth', by not using electricity for 1 hour, once a year. And then they can go about keeping their televisions, Ac's and computers on all day, now that their conscience is rested.

km said...

It's a bit like those self-immolating monks during the Vietnam war. That didn't stop the war but it made Life magazine carry pictures and it got people talking.

I see EarthHour also as making a statement, rather than presenting a solution.

It got people talking and that's a good thing.

//for the record, I turned nothing off at home.

The Bride said...

A voice of dissent... This gesture was symbolic. And sometimes symbolism can be powerful too.

For you, it didn't seem important becaus you're already doing your bit already. But for many people, it at least got them thinking and talking.

I saw this in HK where people cannot imagine doing without electricity for even a minute. It's just one hour but people here found it so hard to do. And it was only the huge publicity of the event that got them thinking "they couldn't". V was having a conversation with a girl in his office who was like, lights are ok but the TV has to be on. And he was like why don't you put the TV off too, and she goes: "but then what will I do?" and he was like: "how about talk to your family?" The thought had never occurred to her.

In India, we're used to power cuts but here the idea of no hot water for a shower has not even occurred to them.

And for the HK government it was a huge step too because the light show is a big part of the tourism effort. I happen to know how hard groups tried to lobby the government to turn the lights off on the harbour and finally, miraculously they did it! And hey, it was beautiful too. The Central district in HK has lights throughout the night, and these are not essential lights so noone will be groping in the dark without them.

Sorry for the rant.

Espèra said...

I asked my Mom to switch off the non-essential lights for Earth Hour.

She replied, "If you are really that concerned about the environment, you could go to sleep early and save on the electricity you use for keeping the lights and the computer on at night. Everyday."

What could I say? She's right.

HP said...

absolutely agree with you. its all show off unless its practiced more frequently.
we're planning to make it a monthly affair at home to cut down the huge electricity bills.
oh, and you've got to read this ! http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/articlelist/articleshow/4356489.cms

Cynic in Wonderland said...

..true, and especially because the impact is so short term. All those self proclaimed evangelists of earth hour go right back to guzzling energy the minute it is over. defeats the purpose rather doesnt it?

??! said...

KM/The Bride:
I figure this was the point of it all. But it's been talked about for three years now. Which means they should get on with it.

And yes, it's more dramatic at night, but it's still (to me) more sensible to do it in the day. Like Espera's mom, others would be saying, 'Go to sleep early'. But if it was in the day, there are so many more things we could do with that one hour.

And as Sharanya and Cynic note, symbolism tends to breed symbolism. A lot of people will have just done this, and gone back to their 4x4s.

As the Aussies would say, good on ya' mate!

brinda said...

Agree entirely. Yes, of course symbols help (flags, say) but this is ludicrous. I wouldn't at all be surprised if companies are busily putting up huge signs (neon-lit, of course) saying "eco-friendly place -- we participated in earth hour". Really!

Shefaly said...

As some Indians rightly pointed out on Twitter: "What Earth hour? Here in (fill name of city) we have entire Earth days when there is load shedding!".