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The Meaninglessness Of “Earth Hour”

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Tonight at 8:00 pm EST people, cities, and businesses around the world will be turning off their non-essential electricity for one hour. Earth Hour is the brain child of the World Wildlife Federation (WWF) who have co-opted the idea from an event staged in Sydney Australia last year where 2 million people and 2,000 businesses shut off power for an hour. The idea was to show people easy and effective means that can be taken to save electrical power on a regular basis.

This year the WWF have taken the idea global by encouraging people, cities, and businesses to sign up on-line to pledge taking part in a simultaneous world-wide hour of turning out the lights and shutting off the power. To date only about 230,000 people and twenty major cities have pledged to go along with the idea, which isn't even a tenth of the number who took part in last year's event in Sydney. In other words it's looking like this hasn't exactly caught too many people's imaginations.

Now I'm sure that there are going to be people who will say things like the television stations and advertisers aren't going to want lose that hour's worth of prime time audience on a Saturday night, so they're not going to go out of their way to promote it. It will be easy enough to point the finger of blame at some big media conglomerate who doesn't want to lose a penny, for why this event doesn't fly. It's far better to do that than to admit that the whole exercise is pointless and just another sap to people's consciences that won't accomplish anything at all.

It's just another joke like Earth Day, and the corporate sponsored pick up a piece of garbage programs that take place every April 23rd. You know those events where everybody gets in their cars and drives to some spot with garbage bags and collects some of the crap that our society produces on a daily basis so that it can be added to overflowing landfill sites, burnt in incinerators, tossed in the town dump, or buried in abandoned mine shafts. Yep, then every one gathers round and has a barbecue consisting of hamburgers made from cattle that acres of rain forest were cut down to make room for. Very ecological.

I hate to break it to everyone but no amount of Earth Days, Earth Hours, Earth Minutes, or even Earth Seconds, is going to change the condition the world is in. If you want to do something constructive for the environment it is going take a commitment far in excess of anything that any of us, and I include myself in that us, are probably willing to take. One only has to consider the environmental impact we each have going grocery shopping each week to get an idea of what I'm talking about.

According to statistics reported by Barbara Kingsolver in her book Animal, Vegetable, Miracle if you were to remove the products made with corn, soy, and canola from the supermarket, close to 97% of what's on the shelves would vanish. Soy and corn are not just found in soy milk, tofu or your can of creamed corn from Green Giant these days. Check the ingredient list on the next box of frozen chicken breasts that you buy and you'll notice some interesting additions; soy protein and maybe even corn meal. Both are added to the "chicken breast" as filler to give it more weight. Yet that's only the surface, because a great deal of the packaging that your food comes in has used corn in the manufacturing process.

Now that might sound "ecological" until you start factoring in something else, how much of our agricultural land is now being used to grow what used to be know as feed corn – corn unfit for human consumption but you could feed cattle with – that can be processed for manufacturing purposes? In order to make that box your chicken product came in we've wasted land that could have been used to grow food instead of creating packaging that has to be disposed of.

Then there's the matter of how that packaging was manufactured. How much fresh water was used for the paper to be pulped, for the inks to be manufactured? How much electrical power was needed to for the various stages of the manufacturing process from the cutting down of the tree that supplied the wood that made the paper until the box ended up on the factory floor where the frozen chicken bits were stuffed into it? What happened to all the waste product from the manufacturing process all the way along the chain?

None of that even takes into account the chicken that was used in the process to make the contents of the package. Skipping over the whole ethical thing about factory farms for now let's just consider chicken shit. That's the real problem with all these factory farms is the disposal of the animal waste product. You get thousands of chickens in one place you're talking about one hell of a lot of chicken shit that you have to get rid of somehow because you can't just have it piling up on the floor. So where does it all go?

All of that just from buying one box of frozen chicken breasts at the supermarket. If you were to take every product you purchase in the grocery store that came pre-packaged and start tracing back through the manufacturing process for each part of it, you'd come up with a similar scenario. Even those so called "green" products we all buy are packaged and contribute somewhere along the way to the damage we're inflicting upon the planet.

So things like Earth Hour and Earth Day are meaningless jokes when compared to the damage we inflict upon the world we live just by going about our daily business. No one-off event once a year will change that. Sure turn your electric power off for an hour tonight if you want, but while your at it why not sit down and look at the real impact of your personal habits on the planet earth.

Oh and everybody, don't rush to turn on your electricity all at once; the power spike could black out North America for hours.

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About Richard Marcus

Richard Marcus is the author of two books commissioned by Ulysses Press, "What Will Happen In Eragon IV?" (2009) and "The Unofficial Heroes Of Olympus Companion". Aside from Blogcritics his work has appeared around the world in publications like the German edition of Rolling Stone Magazine and the multilingual web site Qantara.de. He has been writing for Blogcritics.org since 2005 and has published around 1900 articles at the site.
  • Dan

    If you are going to knock an event that is trying to raise awarness towards one of the few serious issues that effects ALL of us please get your facts straight.

    It’s really pathetic how you slam the WORLD WILDLIFE FUND and don’t even get the organizations name correct.

    Then you say they co-opted the idea from Sydney. It was WWF who created and staged EH in Sydney.

    Next you say only 230,000 people signed up and only 24 country’s are participating this year. Wow are you off. There are nearly 400 cities around the world turning off their lights. 35 of them are officially working with the WWF.

    It’s bloggers like you that give blogs a bad name. You are entitled to your opinion but at least be intelligent about it.

    Fix your blog or get off the net, there is no place for people like you on here.

  • I understand your concerns about this event, but it is certainly not meaningless as you argue it. It is not because it shows that, together, we can achieve something good. Closing lights isn’t what will save us, but it will certainly help raising awareness amongst people all over the world, especially amongst those willing to take the necessary steps to turn-off the lights. You see, when someone turns-off the lights for an hour, he certainly understands that it’s not that hard to help environment. Of course, as you said it, we must not acknowledge that the Earth Hour is all we have to do once a year to help the environment; this would be plain wrong. But this is not what the even is about; the event is about raising awareness over the world.

    Your says make no sense, and are even ironical in the sense that your point is that we should not raise awareness on Global Warming and all that matter because people will think that we have have done the necessary steps. The problem is, what should we do? Not raise awareness?

    You sound like the Honorable James David Manning who criticized Barack Obama because by electing a black president, people would think that the Blacks cause would not be an important matter anymore. You should think about it once more.

  • Doug Hunter

    What in the hell is wrong with envirowhacko leftists that make them so miserable? It’s always about how the world is going to end, and eating = death, and breathing is pollution, kids are bad, blah, blah, blah.

    This phenomenon only seems to exist inside lazy overwealthy western countries. Perhaps we have become too safe and healthy. We have nothing in reality to worry about so have have to coneptualize future potential hazards and worry about those.

    The sad thing about these people is they are extremely motivated to convert others into their misery. They seek bureacratic positions where they can force their views on others, they propagandize constantly on the internet and in person. It’s a sickness really.

  • The real sickness is the notion that the American ideas of “left vs. right” are transferable to other countries in the world. The reason you don’t hear about other countries having this “phenomenon” is that “other countries” typically don’t degrade the notion of taking care of the environment to partisan politics and empty mythology.

    Since when is deciding to take care of the environment a political issue or a “right or left” issue?

  • Akiva

    This is only the bigening.

  • T

    And your solution is….? Liberals always denigrate, scoff, and sneer but never offer their own solutions except tax everybody who makes money.

  • Doug Hunter


    Their solution is exactly that. The very natural feelings and fears about the environment that every human has are being manipulated to serve a left wing agenda.

    The left has always believed govenment should exercise great control over industry and hence capital. The answer to these so called environment catastrophes is…you guessed it… to put government controls over industry and additional power in the it’s hands. A marriage made in heaven.

    There is no conspiracy, noted UN insider (from Canada even) and environmental activist Maurice Strong stated his disdain for capitalist western systems:

    “Isn’t the only hope for the planet that the industrialized civilizations collapse? Isn’t it our responsibility to bring about?”

    Incidentally, to save the planet he has long pushed for measures to regulate, limit, and license the right to have children for others(he himself has 5). He long ago left Canadian politics for the UN becuase he prefers unrestricted power that comes from not being held hostage to an electorate.

    This is the typical hypocricy of the leaders at the heart of the green-left movement. They are fabulously wealthy but they want to destroy the system that allows others to become wealthy. They want to restrict travel and children and energy, yet they want expansive estates and private jets andd 5 kids of their own. They are the heart of the movement, our writer here is just an ignorant foot soldier passing on the base propaganda to others.


    First of all, ‘left-right’ is a concept derived from the seating arrangements in the French legislatures as far back as the 1700’s. Secondly, an idea can be applied to anything regardless of whether the target understand it as such. People outside the US may not consider themselves on the left-rigth spectrum but it is possible for me to evaluate them based on the principles embodied in their politics.

    Thirdly, and you know this already but I’ll do the obligatory rebuttal, eveyone cares about having and clean, healthy, and safe environment. That isn’t partisan, what is partisan is the fearmongering defeatists and their self righteous preaching of the coming environmental apocolypse.

    On a side note, I love my country. I love how frustrated the rest of the world gets when we don’t buy every doom and gloom prediction put out by the UN. How irritated they are that we don’t bend down before unelected world bureacrats like they do. We’re born skeptics and it has served us well.

  • Marcia L. Neil

    Perhaps a mass die-off of other species was expected, with a follow-up mass barbecue.

  • Dan

    It’s amazing how ignorant all of you are. Wake up! The proof of climate change is everywhere. Other countries ARE talking about climate change and ARE doing things about it. The US is too caught up in themselves to know their head from their asses. You spout about Leftists and right leaning folks the bottom line is it doesn’t matter what your idiological beliefs are, climate change is non-partisan. What needs to happen for you all to realize we have a problem?

  • Brian aka Guppusmaximus

    What needs to happen for you all to realize we have a problem?

    You know what?? If people are so concerned with “Global Warming” and the damage that is being done to the planet, then I have a solution…

    Give up your Car/Truck/SUV!! Just get rid of ’em.
    I know, that can’t possibly happen because then we would have to discuss the real reason why this planet is going down the sh!tter. That reason is Breeding!

    We have mass awareness of AIDS & poverty in Africa but yet those people continue to have children.
    We have mass awareness of the poverty stricken here in the US, but those people still continue to breed. Hell, if an immigrant gives birth to a child in this country they automatically become a citizen. They weren’t brought here because they don’t have hospitals in their respective countries.
    [Do I have to explain why??]
    It’s not always the responsibility of the government to impose these changes…

    We all want our supposed “legacy” to live on but no one here would make the ultimate sacrifice for the planet!

  • Amanda

    Earth Day is on April 22nd. Thank you.

  • wayne

    my understanding is that turning our lights off for an hour will do very little if anything for global warming. but it is maybe making some people think that possibly the majority can have an effect in other ways.i spoke to a few people about what they did during earth hour last year and a number of them took their kids and drove around neighbourhoods to see the impact of very few lights on.(driving around producing more co2
    during earth hour ????????????????) what i would like to see is that for a 24 hour period every vehicle using an internal combustion engine not be used. (except of course for any emergency vehicle)
    i wonder how many people and how many companies would be supportive of that.