Wasting Time: Earth Hour

The latest, ahem, bright idea from the country that gave us Crocodile Dundee is for the globe to collectively turn off its lights for an hour this Saturday, March 29 at 8pm local time.

Apparently, a bunch of neo-Luddites in Sydney, Australia, did this last year and it made them feel good about themselves so they have decided to give the rest of the world a chance to achieve similar sense of self-worth.

Because, if we are being honest, Earth Hour, like its forefathers, is not about environmental policy, it is about social networking and self-importance.   

Earth Hour is for those consumed with monitoring their carbon footprint and confused about why they do.

The desire to be relevant, to have a positive impact on the world is a good instinct. But, it is lost in the self-involved nature of exercises like Earth Hour. 

The Gandhian ideal to “be the change you wish to see in the world” requires thoughtful, measured action towards an end bigger than one’s self.

Earth Hour, by contrast, smacks of a desperation for self-actualization. 

Rather than creating a platform for compelling, fact-intensive arguments about eco-threats or creative ideas for green energy, Earth Hour is yet another in an endless series of symbolic events that define intergalactic participation in “something” as an end in itself. 

I understand that there are those who believe that rapture is upon us because, over the past 100 years, the temperature on Earth has gone up a little less than one degree Fahrenheit.  

That, some may argue, is the higher calling to which Earth Hour is responding. 

But, even were I to accept the premise (which I don’t), is the Earth Hour response on point?

Energy consumption is the problem. Turn your lights off for an hour is the answer. Really?  

Maybe for a household in the short term but for nations in the long term? Along this line of logic, I should counteract America’s dependence on foreign oil by riding my bicycle to work — but just for one day?

The reality is that we do not want to live in the dark and we do not want to take a date out on our Razor Scooter. 

Viable eco-friendly policies will not come at the expense of our quality of life and the mobility we currently enjoy.

The other reality is that the impact of Earth Hour and these other faux call-to-arms events is negligible, if not outright counterproductive, relative to actual conservation or even to advancing a particular remedy.  

That is why the explicit mission of these events is routinely the cleverly nebulous and unquantifiable raising of “awareness.” 

Think about Al Gore doing his excruciatingly awkward hipster routine with Leonardo (or “Leo” as he calls him) DiCaprio at his Live Earth concert last July. How much wattage was required and how many metric tons of garbage were created so that Kelly Clarkson could screech on about her man troubles? That was conservation? It was a global wake-up call? 

No, it was a platform for self-congratulatory celebrities and a few bloated politicians to “raise awareness” of their deep-seeded sense of social responsibility prior to taking off in their 4,000 pound Escalades and Lear Jets.

Fast forward to Saturday. 

You are sitting in the dark for an hour hoping CBS will rerun the episode of “How I Met Your Mother” you are missing (turn that TIVO off). You are thinking about what you’re going to do with that cool $1.20 you’re saving off of your ComEd bill this month. And, wait, what was the point of this again?

No one is for capricious destruction of the environment. Truly being “green,” however, demands more than annual self-esteem boosters.