Colleen Figg

Earth Hour 'an empty gesture'

2009-03-27 11:39

Colleen Figg

This Earth Hour lark planned for this coming Saturday brings the same reaction out in me as The 46664 concert does: A chance for "names" to grandstand and strut about looking earnest and committed and in this case, a way for the man in the street to salve his greedy conscience by staggering about in the dark for an hour.

I see all the celebrities and public figures in South Africa have already got their pictures on the South African Earth Hour website: politicians, ex-beauty queens, comedians, the clergy, presidents - all are intensely dedicated to this very trendy cause.

E-mails I have been receiving from all over the world indicate that a series of parties are being planned by and for those who will be participating in the blackout.

Parties where people and their friends can rock on their heels and pat one another on the back for being committed to reducing their "carbon footprint" whilst downing a few good glasses of superb red and snarfing a line or two to keep themselves amused.

Not buying it

I simply do not buy into it. As one popular News24 blogger put it:

    How is the resulting power surge when the Earth switches its lights on again, going to make up for the hour of darkness, for instance? Half the world will be online in an instant, too, sharing their stories of their hour of darkness. Journalists and bloggers will be inundating the internet posting articles and participating in discussions.

I read last week that there were massive media launches and functions being held in this country alone, to draw attention to the Earth Hour and the energy these events must have used in food preparation (not to mention any other aspect of arranging such events) would surely eclipse any good the blackout might have achieved.

Some respond to my scorn by saying that even if the Earth Hour itself generates a huge burst of electricity, it will also surely point public awareness to the plight of the earth and the threat of climate change, which is after all, its primary aim.

This to me is analogous to sending an animal abuser in to work with animals as punishment, or a paedophile to work in a crèche.

Before you start shouting in outrage, let me at least draw the analogy, will you? We have been exposed to the principles of environmental awareness for a few decades already.

Those who are interested in saving and preserving the earth are doing so, in their own way, every day. Those who are not, most likely never will.

Shallow public

Earth Hour remains in my mind one of those simplistic attempts by a shallow public to pay lip service to an ideal without having to inconvenience itself too greatly.

It will generate income, too, for people like me who are and who will write articles about it, it will allow some previously high profile people who have since sunk into obscurity to appear on the world stage once again and when all is said and done, I am sure Mother Earth will raise her eyebrows in silent irony at a largely empty gesture.

Send your comments to Colleen.

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