28 March 2010

Earth Hour: A Confession

No, this is not a soppy apology by an environmentalist for not obeying this symbolic event. Quite on the contrary, I cycled to Chiefley Meadows on campus yesterday -- a 15 min journey through poorly-lit paths -- to join in the countdown at ANU.

But that's not the point. The confession is on the fact that I realised I have been rather harsh on the organisers and supporters of Earth Hour. Previously, despite being an environmentalist, I have hardly been a huge supporter of Earth Hour, seeing it as a useless symbolic gesture that achieved little practical results. In my eyes, I saw it as a feel-good initiative for people to pretend that they had done their part for the environment.

In fact, I have once written elsewhere that,

I just think that this Earth Hour will not change people’s habit. First, with regards to the point of increase awareness, I do seriously think that the time for awareness is over.


The challenge for environmentalists now is to get people to be more environmentally friendly in their actions, either by persuasion or by coercion (e.g. through laws).

And my point was that Earth Hour does not achieve that, because it is at best an hour of fun and games for most people, and after that they will resume their normal energy consumption. And therefore, whenever someone calls Earth Hour an environmental action, I feel insulted because it kinda trivialises the changes I've made on my lifestyle.

But on further reflection, I realise that my reaction is unjustified. Specifically, if I feel insulted, it is because I held an elitist view of the label "environmentalist" as well as the environmental movement. I treated it as some exclusive club where entry is earned by making significant changes to its members' lives.

True, most people will not change their lives because of Earth Hour, but it may serve as a rallying call for people to join in. It may remind them to turn off the lights when they leave the room. It may persuade them to choose a more environmentally friendly alternative (e.g. CFL instead of incandescent bulbs). It may even convince a few to live a lifestyle that is gentler to the Earth.

However slight each of their contributions are, they will add up and make a difference.

And that, I now think, is a good reason to support Earth Hour. I should drop my severely stuck-up view of environmentalism and support action that helps the environment. After all, environmentalism is more than climate change -- which is under siege by scientifically-unfounded skepticism; there are many pressing environmental issues such as light pollution and vanishing biodiversity that Earth Hour will have an effect as well.

And thus, the title of this post, Earth Hour: A Confession.

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