I just noticed that it’s Earth Hour at the moment. It’s one of those things I’ve come to dislike more and more. From being a symbol of collective action, it now represents, to me, irrational and useless tokenism.
Let’s start with the basics. It saves almost nothing in terms of carbon dioxide emissions. Even if everyone did it, it’d save 0.01% of our yearly lighting electricity consumption. But due to the way our power supply system works, the grid still needs to be powered to a surplus level at all times, so the amount of fossil fuels burned over that hour wouldn’t drop as much as one may think.
Ideologically, it’s stupid as well. Who wants to live in the dark? What kind of a symbol is this to people about what action on climate change requires? I don’t want to look at climate action and think of policies that involve me relying on natural light for the next 50 years of my life. Light can be generated efficiently and drawing on renewable sources; yes, we are wasteful with it much of the time, but turning off lights when they would be useful creates a negative connotation with action on climate change, not a positive one. I want ideas that do their best to save the best of our lifestyles: heat, light, food, community, travel, technology – and culls the unnecessary, wasteful and poorly planned elements of these.
But worst, for me, is that it gives people the impression that something useful is being done about climate change. At the moment, it’s not. There are no policies and only a few movements advocating (what I consider to be) effective and justifiable action to prevent dangerous climate change. That means sweeping changes to building codes, transport methods, distribution and supply chains, and energy generation, driven by policy and social support.
Earth Hour does only one thing for me: it gives me a slap in the face when I realise how wasteful we are for the other 99.99% of the year. The iconic buildings we delight in seeing darkened do not need to be lit every night, and the middle classes of wealthy nations do not need to sit in the dark for an hour as penance for the other wasteful actions they take.
This sounds bitter and cynical, I know. I could praise it for awareness raising. I think as a one-off it may have been effective. But now I find it distasteful. Everyone knows climate change is a problem, or at least a thing. It’s been in the scientific consciousness for 40 years, international political consciousness for 20 years, and hit the big-time with pretty much everyone at least 7 years ago. Yet our policies are weak and even the most ambitious in the Western world, if achieved, will fail to protect the world’s ecosystems and my, and future, generations. That’s not good enough. Maybe I just blame Earth Hour for reminding me of it.