Earth Hour

Posted: March 24, 2011 in Current Events, Environment

Far be it from me to be negative about an environmental initiative like Earth Hour.  I know that it is supposed to be a symbolic and inspiring event.  I know that environmental awareness needs to be jazzed up so people take notice and get excited.  I know that the actual hour of power saved is not really the point.  I will turn off my lights this Sat. evening.  After turning off my lights this Sat. night, I’ll be taking a little drive around with my camera.

I also fully realize that it is not reasonable for certain establishments to participate.  Apartment and hotel lobbies should not be blacked out.  Street lights in key areas are needed for safety reasons.  There are probably some businesses who have to maintain lighting for insurance reasons.  –All understandable.

I guess my hesitation to fully get behind Earth Hour comes from two sources.

The first is the fact that, while businesses in downtown Toronto and other urban centres do tend to flip off lights and signs, if you go into the suburbs (such as Newmarket, close to where I live), it seems to be largely ignored.  I’d be happy to be proven wrong this year, but in past years, when I’ve driven around during Earth Hour, I’ve found little effort to turn off lights.  Industrial parking lots are lit up like daytime in spite of the fact that there are no workers there on weekends, and especially at night.  The businesses in urban areas know that they are under scrutiny.  The news media is watching them and they want to look environmental (or, more accurately, they don’t want to look un-environmental).  If they were truly committed to the idea rather than just the short term PR opportunity, they would make an effort to observe Earth Hour in the outlying areas as well.  What I object to is the hypocrisy that allows us to perceive these businesses as environmentally responsible, when all they really are is PR savvy.  We are allowing a sense of false complacency to be created because a one hour blitz is creating a false impression.

Which brings me to the second reason.  I’ve always been a little wary of hype.  Earth Day, for example, has become routine.  Every year we have a day where we can claim our concern for the environment.  To those people who carry the torch the rest of the year and keep the concern alive in day to day events, you have my admiration and gratitude.  I guess having a focal point, like and Earth Day or an Earth Hour is important to mobilize resources and attention, but I think that we have to be very careful that the events don’t get hijacked by businesses wanting to flaunt their environmental concern for and day or an hour, and then go back to their concern for profit margins.  In addition to the good they bring, events like this bring a perfect opportunity to be duped.

The excitement and the positive posturing of the event should not eclipse the reality.

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