In the Blog

is earth hour a hypocrite?

April 5th, 2008     by Thea Lim     Comments

This article from the National Post forwarded to me by Stacey May made me snort-laugh:

At 8:15 p.m. on Saturday, [Toronto] Mayor David Miller got in a car and drove from City Hall to a Shoppers Drug Mart on Eglinton Avenue West. He bought a card for the bar mitzvah of a family friend. Then he got back in the car, driven by his press secretary, Don Wanagas, and went to the bar mitzvah.

The Mayor did this during Earth Hour, after having called on Torontonians to “join me in the dark.”

The Post article goes on to insinuate that Miller is a big fat hypocrite, though it does stop to quote his supporters who say funny things like “”The Mayor has lots of things to do. He was very helpful in turning off the lights.”

But is it Earth Hour that is the big fat hypocrite? Tell me if I sound like the kind of person who enjoys crushing the dreams of small children and ripping up flower beds, but like the much maligned Buy Nothing Day, to me Earth Hour seems like one of those days that requires zero sacrifice, and allows the extremely class privileged to feel like we’re doing our part for one day (or one hour!) of the year. We get to pat ourselves on the back for really doing the absolute least possible that we can do.

I know that my bitterness and cynicism makes me very unattractive. But superficial and extremely showy acts towards social or political consciousness make me hopping mad. Not only do they allow people to think that things aren’t as dire as they are - because the fact that turning off our lights for one hour seems meaningful, implies (inaccurately!) that things can’t possibly be that bad - they allow people to feel righteous about acts which really aren’t that righteous. They set the bar for “doing the right thing” pretty damn low.

Is something really better than nothing? I must admit that the numbers from Earth Hour are worth noting: in Toronto energy use dropped by 8.7% (compared to average use for this time of year), in Christchurch, New Zealand it dropped by 13.1%.

But we wouldn’t celebrate “Don’t Use Racial Slurs” Hour, “Don’t Say Abusive Things to Your Female Partner” Week or “Let a Homeless Person Sleep On Your Porch” Day. Because those holidays would clearly trivialise hugely important issues, and deeply insult efforts to meaningfully end racism, violence against women and poverty.

So is Earth Hour ok?

Tags: eco speak

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