mixed messages


This weekend, people all around the developed world are switching off their lights for Earth Hour. The initiative, facilitated by the WWF "acts as a worldwide call to action to every individual, business and community to take a stand against Climate Change" according to the website.

I must admit to having mixed feelings about the whole thing. Don't get me wrong... I think that it is a great idea, but I just wonder how much of a real difference it will make.

I remember during the 1980s in South Africa when I was one of a group of editors working on UpFront, the journal of the UDF and in many ways the mouthpiece for the then-banned ANC, there were some people within the organisation who were critical of the contribution of whites to the struggle. Their argument was that we could enjoy the adrenaline rush of putting up illegal posters or holding illegal meetings, but at the end of the day we went back to the cocoons of our safe homes in our white suburbs.

I feel a little like that now. Those lucky enough to have electricity (and cars and various other consumer-culture necessities) are contributing to climate change far more than those for whom electricity is a dream. Like people who are living in a yurt in the middle of Mongolia. Or a shack in any South African town.

So sure, we should register our support for climate change initiatives. We should call for action to stop further environmental damage. But sitting in the dark for an hour isn't really going to make a difference. We'll go back to our safe, electrified environment straight after the adrenaline rush has worn off.

And really, how many people are actually prepared to change their lifestyles because of climate change?

The big corporates certainly aren't. Shell and BP announced recently that they are no longer going to invest in renewable energy such as wind and solar power. Instead it will be looking at increasing biofuel production, where profits are much higher. Who cares about the implications! Biofuels have been criticised for a range of ills, including nitrous oxide emitting fertilisers and starvation of populations whose arable land is being turned into fuel rather than food production.

The world's biggest investor in wind power, Iberdrola Renewables, is cutting its investment in Britain by more than 40%, which means that 200 000 less homes will be powered by renewable energy.

So, while I absolutely support the idea of Earth Hour, and encourage all of you to sign up (there's a link on this page), I'm left feeling that it is just a show. Toyi toying because it is fun rather than because of any real commitment.

Real commitment will mean changing the way each of us live our lives. Every day. Without exception. And just how many of us are prepared to do that?

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Comments

Jessica said…
I don't think Earth Hour is about saving electricity for one hour and magically saving the planet.

I believe Earth Hour is about two things, first of all, raising the public consciousness and teaching people about making small changes to their daily lives to bring about lasting change. If I can turn a light off for one hour, I can turn a light off every time I leave a room. I can choose to take public transport and leave my car in the driveway. I can recycle, I can have a shorter shower. Every little change helps.

Which brings me to the next point... It's also about Hope... hope that if enough of us band together we can change the direction our governments and businesses are heading in. By switching off my light, I am showing my neighbours, my city, my country, my planet that I care and I am willing to make a difference. At the same time, thousands of people are switching off their lights and telling me back "You are NOT alone".

For these reasons I believe in Earth Hour.
Anonymous said…
Good post Lynne - Although the idea is noble, switching off for a hour, largely due to peer pressure, isn't going to change mindsets, behaviour, or establish a new way of thinking and more importantly living ... a pity - but true. The bottom line is nobody wants to change and those that could be persuaded don't want to make the necessary lifestyle sacrifices unless everyone else does. We've not found the win-win button yet.
Anonymous said…
Yes, It is about awareness and hope.

Couples and families should start to have dinner by candlelight, spend more time talking to family and friends.
Less of the internet, television and games.
Have a braai or barbeque instead of using the stove.
Make a commitment to have no lights, no television, no computer games, no internet, no radio, no cooking on stoves and use no use of geysers for one day a week.
That will make a difference to the earth and a difference to your pocket as well.
If once a week is to much, why not start with every second week or once a month, or even every second month.
While contibuting your efforts to saving the earth, try walking around the neighbourhood, good exercise and an opportunity to meet the neighbours.
julochka said…
we turned off the lights on saturday night, but i agree that i don't know how much difference it made. for one, we looked around at other houses and it didn't appear that anyone else did it.

i struggle all the time with a desire to live more simply and a love of gadgets and fabulous kitchen appliances. but i watched this (http://www.storyofstuff.com/) today and i think it may make the difference for me.

that and austerity april began today. for me at least. :-)
Larissa said…
unfortunately, an initiative like this - ironically - results in a waste of electricity. where does all that electricity go when no one is using it? it's pretty much the same thing as the government initiative on SABC 1,2 and 3 informing us of the electricity usage and pleading with us to keep all 'unnecessary' lights and equipment, like stoves and geysers off. this simply doesn't work! switching your geyser on and off uses WAY more electricity than you would EVER use if you just left it on but gave it an insulated cover. it's ridiculous that people are telling the public to do things like this and it's ridiculous that the public is falling for it.
earth hour should focus on things that can make a positive difference for the environment, like encouraging ppl to recycle and to create compost heaps in their garden.
Where are you? Too long a silence! Your life must be very busy. Just know you are missed.

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