Earth Day 2008


Nobody can be so amusingly arrogant as a young man who has just discovered an old idea and thinks it is his own.
~Sydney J. Harris

April 22th is Earth Day 2008, a day dedicated “to grow and diversify the environmental movement worldwide, and to mobilize it as the most effective vehicle for promoting a healthy, sustainable planet. We pursue these goals through education, politics, events, and consumer activism” (http://ww2.earthday.net/~earthday/about).

Similarly, tomorrow March 29th is Earth Hour, where we are invited to turn the lights off for one hour, between 20:00 and 21:00, with the sole objective of reducing greenhouse gases emissions and to have people talking about what to do to reduce people’s ecological footprint.

The event was born in Sidney, and it came from one of my favourites organizations, WWF. I have sponsored this organization since 1998 (http://mexicanphoto.tripod.com) and have always praise them to the point that I have solicited to work with them several times (they never called me, I sadly confess). In Talking With Perspective I elaborated about this organization and its efforts to make our world a better place. Having said that, I think that Earth Hour is just another feel-good ecological gimmicks.

The interviews of people promoting Earth Hour denote the “fun” part of being without electricity for one hour. They recognise the limited effect on greenhouse gases emissions but they mention that the real objective is having people talking about what can they do for the environment. The idea is amusing, but the problem I have with these events is that people often get a holier-than-thou feeling, talk about the problem, but do nothing more to address the issue.

The futility of such events derivates from the fact that real measures are really painful, no fun. To reduce greenhouse gases emissions we need to reduce consumption in our lives. We need to park the car, to reduce non-recyclable consumptions, to eat locally (no oranges in winter, unless you live in Spain), to stop spending our money in non-sense products. Lighting candles for an hour is fun, but in Canada, where almost our our electricity comes from hydroelectric power plants, lighting candles instead of a light bulb effectively increases greenhouse gases emissions.

What we can do to really have an impact? I propose some ideas in
Organic Versus Local, How to Eat Ethically?, My bulb is Burned, A Real Alternative to Ethanol? I, and A Real Alternative to Ethanol? II.

I will love to hear some of yours!

Seal Hunting. As we speak, several Quebecois seal hunters are heading to the southern Gulf of St. Lawrence for the annual harp seal hunt. Although the Government of Canada defends seal hunting, and despite my usual attitude towards commerce and the invisible hand that leads the markets, I can only regret that we are still pursuing such a barbaric custom, with no use whatsoever; seal products are non-sense idiotic luxury items that have perfectly substitutions. Going there and protest will do better than turning your light off for one hour, I will protest tomorrow in Montrèal, I hope you will too, wherever you are. I will trade you your one-hour with no electricity for one hour in front of a Canadian Embassy or Consulate, or if you live in Canada, write to your MP, or participate in one of the protests. Find more information in http://www.seashepherd.org/.

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2 Responses to Earth Day 2008

  1. Jorge says:

    It would have surprised me that you stood behind Earth Hour; it would’ve been very un-Grinchlike of you 😉

    But it does serve two more purposes. First, it’s a simple way to make people realize that it’s possible to organize to fight climate change. And second, it helps to show governments that environmentalism is becoming more relevant.

    I agree that it’s a gimmick, and we need systemic solutions rather than one-hour-a-year commitments. But it’s still a positive activity.

    As for seal hunting, it’s fantastic that you’ll go protest it! However, I’d like to point to your readers that seals go through this horror just for the last few seconds of their lives, while the cows and pigs we eat, though less cute, are just as cognitively developed or more, and spend a lifetime of suffering to fill our plates.

  2. mcyclops says:

    The problem that I have with the premises is 1) Yes, it is a positive action but most people stop there and feel that they have done enough and then can preach how good they are, 2) Government already realized that environmentalist are more relevant, but environmentalist haven´t realize how every history have two sides and they try to stick to the environment ignoring that sustainability has three bottom lines: Environment, Economical, and Social.

    I will write someday about the suffering of pigs and cows, and how some meat producers are addressing those issues, but I have not enough information yet (please do not quote “The Meatrix”). Anyway, you may argue that meat is necessary for human consumption (and I know a lot of people disagree with this), but nobody needs seal´s fur. The moment we started living in cities instead that in villages, we condemned ourselves to mass production and now it is impossible to produce everything we need organically (See how biofuels may starve the poor).

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