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Earth Hour hypocrisy

Author: Alex Bivol Date: Sat, Mar 26 2011 35 Comments, 30809 Views
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Every year, as March brings the first signs of spring, one event inevitably grabs attention on the last Saturday of the month – the Earth Hour. And it's getting worse with every year if one happens to be using any form of social media, as one gets bombarded by invitations to different events on the same topic from all quarters.

One of these had the deliciously ironic, if perhaps unintentionally so, motto: "Stay in the dark!" For as admirable a goal that saving the planet is (selfish, but commendable nevertheless), surely events such as the Earth Hour have no effect in achieving that goal.

Electricity consumption might register a minute dip, but that will not stop the power plants from producing the electricity and pumping it into the grid, so it is clearly not about immediate results.

The World Wildlife Fund (WWF), which has been organising the Earth Hour since 2007, says that the event is about long-term awareness. With all due respect to the WWF and the numerous truly important conservation projects it is involved in, this one is a waste of their and our time.

Saving the planet is not about flicking switches and having candle-lit sing-alongs in the park. It is about efficiency – not just energy, but all natural resources – proper recycling and finding less wasteful ways of doing things. Sound familiar? All things that Bulgaria, as well as many other countries, should strive to do much better.

How many enthusiastic Earth Hour participants gave up using their cars in favour of bikes, or even switch to a more fuel-efficient model? How many, for that matter, use energy-saving light bulbs? How many have planted a tree or recycle daily?

An acquaintance of mine, some time ago, called the Earth Hour the ultimate environmental indulgence, likening it to the medieval Roman Catholic Church practice of forgiving sins for cash donations. In exchange for one hour spent in the dark, one is absolved of all consumerist sins accrued over the rest of the year. A small price to pay for a clean conscience, indeed.

The hypocrisy is at its worst with state institutions. This year, again, a number of city halls across Bulgaria, along with ministries and the presidency, will switch off lights (on a Saturday evening, no less).

What a wonderful photo opportunity, but does it make up for the absent or inadequate recyclable waste collection and processing infrastructure? How about the puny Budget allocations for energy efficiency? Or even the petrol-guzzling expensive sedans and SUV's used by elected officials and appointed civil servants, for that matter?

The answer to all those questions is an emphatic "no". But you know they will use their participation in the Earth Hour as an argument to show how environmentally aware they are.

But beyond the practical reasons why the Earth Hour is a useless endeavour, there is the philosophical challenge. Is there really no way to protect the planet except by rejecting all the advances of human civilisation from the past several centuries?

Tell that to the survivors of the earthquake and tsunami in Japan, I dare you. Especially those who have not had a hot meal in two weeks because they have no way to heat water for their instant noodles.

The medieval era is called the Dark Ages for good reason. Life expectancy was ridiculously low and let's not even mention what everything smelled of.

Thankfully, we no longer live in the Dark Ages – something to ponder for those Earth Hour organisers that advocate staying in the dark. I am sure I am not alone in enjoying the numerous advances of civilisation and would like to continue doing so, in a way that would not prevent our descendants from doing the same.

But the Earth Hour has no answers to that endeavour, only a nebulous promise that things will be better if we flick a switch on a Saturday evening.

This is why, this Saturday I will be celebrating Human Achievement Hour with a warm meal, wearing my comfortable clothes (another fruit of the abundance of energy in all its forms), doing things that would be impossible without electricity. To do otherwise while enjoying all the benefits of civilisation that energy makes possible would be hypocritical.

  • Poll: 80 per cent of Bulgarians disapprove of building new hotels and ski tracks
  • Earth Hour 2011: The world and Central and Eastern Europe: Gallery
    • Anonymous
      Irritated Rating:
      neutral
      #35 04, 22, Wed, Mar 30 2011

      First of all, the Earth Hour organisers themselves argue it saves energy, and even invent figures of how much energy was supposedly saved (based on no evidence and a wrong presumption of how power production works). So I am utterly tired of defenders claiming that the Earth Hour organisers don't claim it actually saves energy. Second, I'm tired of people defending it as a symbolic gesture, but then getting angry when people discuss what they find problematic about the symbolism. If it is truly only 'symbolic' (which is an argument the WWF have only made once the concrete difference they [...]

      Read the full comment claimed it made turned out to be bogus), then that symbolism is open to interpretation. For me, it is a symbol of token gesture, of the dangers of action that is based on belief rather than fact (i.e we presume turning off the lights saves energy but in fact this mass exercise of turning them off and then on again after an hour creates and extra burden and likely wastes energy), of empty contrition, and ultimately, a symbol of empty symbolism.

      I don't understand why more people concerned with environmental issues aren't against Earth Hour. As an analogy, I am vegetarian, but I am adamantly against vegan and vegetarian books that try to 'convert' people using untruths and distorted facts about health, nutrition and the environment. Yet I read glowing reviews from other veg*ns, and any criticism is met angrily. It seems the mistake is made over and over again that if someone or something represents an apparent good, you have to defend them or you are betraying your side. But I don't understand why more people don't get that deception and propaganda hurt the movement, and aren't simply morally repulsed by it on principle.

      One of Earth Hour's creators is a regular on Australian TV, playing a deeply concerned leftist. I say 'playing' because I repeatedly see him talking about issues in a paint-by-numbers, alarmingly shallow fashion. His puppy dog eyes, soft voice and eerily steady manner creep the hell out of me. His approach combines calculated emotional pleas with an egotistic expectation that we simply accept his words, because he is the voice of good. I have never heard him discuss something with any degree of substance or intelligent analysis. One show he appears on, the Gruen Transfer, features ad men analysing TV commercials. He speaks as the self-appointed conscience of the show, but it doesn't take much to see he is no different than the unapologetic capitalist ad men that appear that on the show.

      I have seen him on this show tear apart other awareness groups' ads in an unfair way. But what disturbed me more than his unfairness toward them was that he seemed to lack the intelligence to understand the most basic intention of these ads.

      It actually really disturbs me that the world follows an environmental event invented by this manipulative, under-informed, self-serving egotist. Your point about contrition struck a chord because here is a guy who heads an agency that represents serial environmental and human rights offenders McDonald's and Nike, whose main job is to try to manipulate us into buying consumable goods. This is how he comes across on Gruen: one minute he will be applauding how 'clever' an ad is, genuinely impressed with its manipulative tactics, the next he will, in his best sombre voice, address a serious issue to camera, imploring us to care - with a certainty that he is the best spokesperson for the issue. I find the dichotomy dizzying, and the egotism transparent. He is a slick ad man with enough semblance of a conscience to want ease his guilt by attempting to offset the immorality of the industry he works in, of the wrong deeds and manipulative brainwashing he contributes to daily, by coming up with a gimmicky, substance-free nod to environmentalism, but not enough of a conscience to do this in any substantial manner. Or perhaps admit, his current vocation is incompatible with environmental morality.

      I just find it impossible ideologically to support an event like this, one which its creators and supporters repeatedly drill into us is 'symbolic' when the problem of its symbolism is all that I have outlined above but particularly that it is created by an ad man trying to ease his conscience, but not willing to stop being a huge part of the problem. Having seen this ad man in action, it is very hard for me to see this event as symbolic of anything but ego-fluffing, guilt-easing, empty action distracting from real issues and asking us to make heroes of those who continue to inflict ways of thinking on us that contribute to our consumerism, our collective dulled sense of independent thinking, our real sense of what it means to have a conscience and to do the right thing. I support the Earth, I support real green movements and actions, but I will never support something with such a factually and ideologically flawed basis as Earth Hour, created by people who, however greenwashed their pose, are actually the problem.

    • Anonymous1Mon, Mar 28 2011

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      AnonymousSofia fernandez (12 años) Sun, Mar 27 2011

      This comment has been removed by the moderator because it contained

    • Anonymous
      Ganjo Rating:
      neutral
      #32 22, 06, Fri, Mar 25 2011

      @Kermit What an argument sounds like the holy inquisitions' one...

    • Anonymous
      Kermit Rating:
      neutral
      #31 21, 15, Fri, Mar 25 2011

      So your saying your smarter then over a billion people on the planet that participate...wow you have quite the ego.

    • Anonymous
      Ganjo Rating:
      neutral
      #30 20, 04, Fri, Mar 25 2011

      Even that I smell a "Ponytail" I agree...

      Ponytail...ocricy!!!

    • Anonymous
      DrFruburger Rating:
      neutral
      #29 19, 52, Fri, Mar 25 2011

      It's hilarious since if it wasn't for earth hour, you wouldn't write this "amazing" article bringing even more awareness to the issue as well as outlining other issues that need to be addressed...
      It's not meant to save power, it's meant to raise awareness, which is exactly what it's successful at and you just proved it!

    • Anonymous
      Steve Rating:
      neutral
      #28 15, 03, Fri, Mar 25 2011

      Uh...that picture is a composite...the Earth is not all dark at the same time. You can't make any conclusions from it.

    • Anonymous
      nikkie Rating:
      neutral
      #27 12, 33, Fri, Mar 25 2011

      what's the point,one way shout loudly, asking the common folks to switch off their lights, the other way you make all seasons swimming pools and ice-skying/skating rings.
      Qatar is going to make fully air-conditioned soccer stadiums with man made clouds as shades.

    • Anonymous
      Raghu Rating:
      neutral
      #26 12, 02, Fri, Mar 25 2011

      In India (even city like hyderabad) we are enforced to follow earth hour every day during summer and that too two times a day :). And I dont understand why is this has to done at a particular day only ?? instead ask not to waste it...

    • Anonymous
      Schwarz Rating:
      neutral
      #25 11, 49, Fri, Mar 25 2011

      @Back to school for you - Dude, 9 out of 10 people that claim support for the Earth Hour actually believe it to give them indulgence for their sins against nature. WWF do not do anything to disperse this misconception.

    • Profile preview
      ushoples Rating: 205
      neutral
      #24 11, 48, Fri, Mar 25 2011

      @Back to school for you do you own a car? Do you drive it? I assume the answers to both questions is a big fat YES! Starting from this point, how has the Earth Hour initiative urged you to be more environmentally aware, to be sustainable in your use of fuels and energy? Does your home use an environmentally friendly heating system like for example a Brown Gas generator? Please, do answer me this. Oh, by the way you missed to say the article is racist ;)

    • Anonymous neutral
      #23 11, 38, Fri, Mar 25 2011

      I congratulate you on completely missing the point of Earth hour. Your article is not dissimilar to a to the rantings of a petulant child. Your "it will hardly make an impact, so why try at all?" attitude is weak and misinterprets the message trying to be sent, but by all means, continue to fight against this injustice that is Earth Hour!

    • Anonymous
      dante Rating:
      neutral
      #22 11, 10, Fri, Mar 25 2011

      i wholeheartedly agree. there is nothing more abominable in this world than the hypocrites.

      keep writing like this fellow.

    • Profile preview
      ushoples Rating: 205
      neutral
      #21 11, 00, Fri, Mar 25 2011

      Indeed, indeed, Earth Hour is a mindless self indulgence. Earth Hour is not just hypocritical, but also a completely useless, retarded idea, which fails big time to promote eco-friendly bulbs, sustainability, renewable resources use, etc.
      @yourwrong and some of us can't afford to buy a car at ALL, so shut up and stop complaining!!!!!

    • Anonymous
      Aaron Rating:
      neutral
      #20 10, 46, Fri, Mar 25 2011

      I generally agree with most, although I take exception at the unflattering and in principle false implication of the comment mentioning the Catholic Religion. People forget 1 of every 6 people are Catholic, and it's about time we say we get insulted with these things.

    • Anonymous
      Schwarz Rating:
      neutral
      #19 10, 40, Fri, Mar 25 2011

      You should note who 'invented' the Human Achievement Hour.
      Many people might not like the idea that strong pro-capitalist establishments like the Ayn Rand Institute stand behind it and yet, the Earth Hour simply sounds and looks like and is a hypocrisy. Though a nice PR tool, it is does not help, it even harms the case of most environmentalists, including WWF. But there is worse - the Beyond the Hour initiative which sells indulgence by letting you 'pledge' a single environmentally friendly action - will ride the bus, will recycle and alike...

    • Profile preview
      cydhi Rating: 63
      neutral
      #18 10, 40, Fri, Mar 25 2011

      racist? no, just a reference to nice piece in last week's Observer about the town of Otsuchi... i'll paste the relevant paragraph in here:

      There, officials at one shelter say they have been overwhelmed by donations of winter coats and instant noodles, which the evacuees cannot cook without boiling water.

      -for it is the doom of men that they forget

    • Anonymous
      yourwrong Rating:
      neutral
      #17 10, 30, Fri, Mar 25 2011

      Some of you seem to completely miss the point of earth hour. It's to show that you support advancement in efficient technologies that reduce our impact.

      And the author's arguments are completely ignorant and one is racist. Some of us Americans can't exactly afford to buy a new super efficient vehicle. Sorry to say we aren't all billionares and have a job. Id gladly get a new car if someone was willing to give me 20,000 us dollars.

      Also I changed my family's habits and improved some efficiency in our water and [...]

      Read the full comment power use. We collect all steel, aluminum, and plastic for a few months and recycle them. So don't say people won't change or at least try.

    • Anonymous
      Dee Rating:
      neutral
      #16 10, 28, Fri, Mar 25 2011

      Well said. Earth Hour's only impact on me may be faster Internet speed because of less other users perhaps. I have a deadline to meet and the concept of sitting in the dark for an hour - especially knowing how much I need that time to be productive - is nonsense.
      I use energy efficient light bulbs (did so long before it was "fashionable"), recycle, buy energy efficient appliances, and even have my electricity meter running backwards on many days(as I'm using less power than the solar panels are generating during the day). Therefore I consider I'm making [...]

      Read the full comment more than a token effort for the planet for every other day of the year and don't need to switch off for "Earth Hour" to feel 'responsible' or whatever! ANYWAY the entire Earth would not be in darkness at once because of the different time-zones, daylight savings time and non-daylight savings time countries.
      Right now European countries have started their workday whilst here in the southern hemisphere our work day (indeed our work week) has ended!

    • Anonymous
      Umm... Rating:
      neutral
      #15 10, 27, Fri, Mar 25 2011

      So this photo shows the entire world at night time does it?

    • Anonymous
      Sean Welsh Rating:
      neutral
      #14 10, 15, Fri, Mar 25 2011

      Great article!

    • Anonymous
      peter Rating:
      neutral
      #13 10, 05, Fri, Mar 25 2011

      Your a bit racist claiming that all Japanese eat instant noodles

    • Anonymous
      Bob Jones Rating:
      neutral
      #12 10, 01, Fri, Mar 25 2011

      Why did the earth-at-night photo not include New Zealand?
      Also, of course, not all parts of the world are moving into Spring. Here in NZ, we're moving into autumn.

    • Anonymous
      Lewelyn Rating:
      neutral
      #11 09, 59, Fri, Mar 25 2011

      Hit the nail right on it head!!!!!!!!!!!!! Well said.

    • Anonymous
      Nawaz M Rating:
      neutral
      #10 09, 59, Fri, Mar 25 2011

      Well said. WWF loves to fool people

    • Anonymous
      Anand Rating:
      neutral
      #9 09, 51, Fri, Mar 25 2011

      As told by Manav. People in other indian cities are contributing to earth hour(s) every day.

    • Anonymous
      Disappointed Rating:
      neutral
      #8 09, 43, Fri, Mar 25 2011

      This article is disappointing. You take the responsibility of writing to an audience with a message of nil empowerment. Sure, some will use earth hour as a "badge" to wear with pride when they are doing little else to improve their consumption. This is not the fault of the WWF.

      I agree with your comment that it is an institutionalized problem. That there are greater powers than the individual at play. However, you undermine one of the few organizations willing to create a collective.

      After all, there are many other causes such [...]

      Read the full comment as anti carbon tax, privatization of infrastructure, general fear mongering and the like.

      You have greater potential than retort and a strange sense of nihilism.

      It's unfortunate that people feel global warming is only about temperature. It's a metaphor for a greater issue, specialization, which this article absolutely reeks of.

    • Anonymous
      dinesh Rating:
      neutral
      #7 09, 43, Fri, Mar 25 2011

      I totally agree. me being from a developing country, we make do with a fraction of electricity. Even today, we are using LED lamps to save power because power costs are too high by our standards. I personally use a bicycle for short distance commutes and there are no air conditioners but ceiling fans. To keep things cool, we color our houses in light colors to reflect sunlight. It is absolutely true that the fuel burnt by one care in a grand prix can last one family in our country a whole year. That is the efficiency, do more with [...]

      Read the full comment less. We do not use heating at 7 degrees but wear gloves and use sweaters and blankets. But then we do not go singing to show the world how much energy we save. It is just a way of life here.

    • Anonymous
      sagar Rating:
      neutral
      #6 09, 37, Fri, Mar 25 2011

      mention the particular hour also

    • Anonymous
      George Ellis Rating:
      neutral
      #5 09, 35, Fri, Mar 25 2011

      'It is about efficiency – not just energy, but all natural resources – proper recycling and finding less wasteful ways of doing things.' This is exactly what Earth Hour is trying to raise awareness about. Earth hour = luddism is your own 'straw man' invention, unsupported by any promotional statements by Earth Hour. I agree that Earth Hour by itself is pointless, but that is why this year's slogan is 'beyond the hour'.

    • Anonymous
      Barb Rating:
      neutral
      #4 09, 34, Fri, Mar 25 2011

      Bravo!!! A well written, sensible article regarding the utter hypocrisy of "Earth Hour"

    • Anonymous
      Manav Rating:
      neutral
      #3 09, 33, Fri, Mar 25 2011

      Completly agree with the article.

      Millions of Indian’s contribute to the Earth Hour each day of the year. The infra in our country does not provide us enough electricity for 24 hours 365 days and 7 days a week. We in cities of Delhi and Mumbai might just be lucky enough not to face such situations – but just look around in a peripheral city like a Gurgaon or Pune where there is 8 to 10 hours of load shedding in hot summers; what would one expect them to do on the earth hour? Go to [...]

      Read the full comment the interiors and you will find them living without electricity for 2 – 3 days continuously.

      This approach may work in developed countries, and by saying that I am not trying to escape our responsibility.



      Let’s be logical in our approach and let’s come out with practical opportunities to save our environment.

    • Anonymous
      flawedprefect Rating:
      neutral
      #2 09, 32, Fri, Mar 25 2011

      Where did anyone suggest switching off for an hour shows a significant drop, save poor media outlets in need of an angle? To equate this to a religious absolvement of suns is just dumb. Earth Hour is PR. no doubt, but it should stand as a symbolic reminder to be efficient with our energy. It should inspire us to invest and develop better ways of using energy, and seek out more sustainable sources of energy. Sustainability is a great goal to reach. Fossil fuels will run out. To ignore this fact is folly. Any action to keep awareness of our [...]

      Read the full comment energy use and what it might be like without is a sobering reminder, and should stand as example to appreciate it all the more.

    • Anonymous
      Mags Rating:
      neutral
      #1 09, 29, Fri, Mar 25 2011

      Bravo! Well said. I hope more and more people come to realise this hypocrisy. I was an earth hour advocate but now this movement is more about do as I say not as I do, so I shall keep my wonderful electrical appliances going in praise of all those inventors who made this world a better place to live. When the greens, et al cast off their modern-day, polluting conveniences, then I may start to take notice. Until then...

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