I am very pleased that I managed to avoid Earth Hour: what an absolute crock. In fact, I was at a Chinese restaurant at the relevant time. “I wonder if they’ll turn out the lights?” mused my husband. Not a chance, and thank goodness for that. I didn’t see much evidence of participation on the drive home either, but nor did I see much evidence of excessive lighting use either.
I saw the whole thing as a giant publicity stunt with very little real impact on the environment or carbon emissions. It was just a way for middle class greenies to feel good about themselves without actually having to sacrifice much at all.
I can’t help thinking of a documentary I saw recently about strict Mennonites trying to survive in the modern world. The strictest adherents to this sect do not use electricity and use old fashioned means of transport such as horse and buggy. In modern times, this has meant that the communities cannot compete economically. They are not self-sufficient, and cannot generate enough produce, because they do not use modern farming methods and implements. Some communities have decided to use electricity in an effort to survive. Others continue to refuse to use electricity, and keep to the old ways, but it is extremely hard.
Proponents of Earth Hour should try living like strict Mennonites for a month. Turning the lights off for an hour? Pshaw. What a weak gesture. To make a real difference, turn out the electricity for a month, and in a world that has electricity all around you.
From what I could see, life without electricity was very, very hard. Some of the people were the same age as I, but looked years older, presumably because they had been working in the fields since they were young and because they had many children to care for. One of the most poignant moments for me was when a woman from a community without electricity was discussing dentistry with a man from a community with electricity. I couldn’t help being appalled at the idea of dentistry without electricity. Yowch. I also wonder what kind of training these people had in dentistry; schooling is very limited, and teaching outside the Bible is not allowed.
Interestingly, all the strict Mennonites had an ambivalent attitude to electricity. Those whose communities had introduced it said that in some ways, it made work a lot easier, and it certainly helped their communities be productive enough to survive. On the other hand, they also said it meant that the young men of the village were able to escape and get drunk, and that young people were exposed to television and the outside world a lot more. The innocence of the young had not been able to be preserved in the same way. Nonetheless, I can’t help thinking that keeping young people from knowledge and learning is wrong: innocence really comes about through ignorance. Obviously, I don’t want my daughter to be exposed to certain kinds of knowledge until I consider that she is old enough to understand it, but I don’t want her to be ignorant either. Another sad vignette concerned a young man who had decided to leave his community, but he did not have enough education to do much outside his community. His ignorance prevented him from having choice.
No, one shouldn’t waste electricity, and we certainly try not to do so in my household. Quite apart from the environmental issues, we can’t afford a big electricity bill. But I do wonder about these people who call for us to “drastically cut our carbon emissions”. How do they propose that we achieve that, precisely? If turning the lights off for an hour has very little or no impact, clearly they would call for more “drastic” measures. Well, I’ll let them try living like Mennonites first. I wonder how long they’d last?
Forgive me, I’m a cynic. But apparently it’s all about branding, darlings. Earth Hour was the brain child of advertising agency Leo Burnett. Now why doesn’t that surprise me? As Peter Foster, the author of the Canadian article linked above, says:
The presence of Leo Burnet [sic] indicates that this is very much about business and branding (a bit ironic for the No Logo crowd, surely). Guidelines about how the Earth Hour brand must be used are available on the WWF Canada Web site, along with the information that: “The Earth Hour tone of voice is human, optimistic, inclusive, passionate and caring. The Brand should never appear to be aggressive or use scare tactics to incite participation.”
How this squares with all the greatest-threat-the-world-has-ever-seen stuff escapes me, but what the hell, this is about business and power, not truth.
I’m sure the WWF is loving all the extra publicity. Not to mention the SMH.