Earth Hour is coming! Yes, on Saturday we will be invited, indeed commanded, to turn off our lights, our computers and TVs and the rest of our carbon-dioxide producing machines, from 8.30 to 9.30, to show the world that we care. Or something.
Earth Hour is a phenomenon characteristic of our age. It was invented in Australia in 2007, and has spread at last count to 152 countries and 7001 cities. Its sponsors here are Fairfax, Leo Burnett advertising and the World Wildlife Fund (WWF). Our federal government is involved. I was astonished to discover, when I was associated with a bit of it, that we had to take all this seriously, with everything switched off for the vital hour. But then realisation struck: it was a classic piece of talking the talk that would make Green supporters and their counterparts elsewhere feel good, at little expense or bother.
I have from time to time thought that the right course to adopt at home would be to have have every light blazing. But domestic counsels prevailed: why draw attention to ourselves? So we just go on as usual, making use of the lights and whatever else we would normally be taking advantage of. No, I am not a supporter of Earth Hour. I think it is what is technically known as a wank. It allows people to do something for an hour that they wouldn’t do at any other time, feel good about it, and think that they have done something important.
As soon as you get into the websites that proclaim Earth Hour you come across the ‘climate change’ message, and the ‘save the planet’ message. There is no uncertainty here. I was not deeply impressed by the appeal to schools to show their support by turning off all their electricity-using implements for an hour during the school day, on the ground that no one will be at school when Earth Hour strikes. I hope the schools that I know will do no such thing.
Nonetheless, Earth Hour is a clever idea, and characteristic of the Leo Burnett firm, which made its name by coming up with clever ideas that stayed in the mind, like the Jolly Green Giant and the Marlboro Man. This year the pitch is that Earth Hour supporters are all going to sign up to renewable energy, solar rather than wind. I will, too, once we have learned how to store solar energy for night-time use, and the unsubsidised cost of solar is cheaper than coal-fired power. Coal has many other good uses.
Apparently our Prime Minister is going to announce something, or say something, or do something, on or about Earth Hour. That will be exciting, and it won’t have anything to do, I am sure, with the coming election. Greg Hunt, the Opposition spokesman on these things, has signed up as a supporter, which suggests that the Opposition will lie low on this one.
It may be that Earth Hour is on the wane. After all, if 7001 cities are now involved, where else can it go? Google Trends shows that interest in it rose sharply from 2007 to 2009, when it caught the wave that was to collapse at the Copenhagen conference where Australia sent 114 or so participants. Interest has declined steadily since, and it may be that it has now become something of an annual ritual that people go along with. It is the politically correct thing to do.
It annoys me, just the same. There are so many environmental aims that make good sense, like preparing for the next bushfire, the next drought and the next flood, and not seeing them as ‘natural disasters’. They are natural events, and they seem unconnected with ‘climate change’, and we could do something serious about them. They don’t have to be disasters.
Yes, we are doing a little, but the floods in Brisbane point to a deficiency in thought on the part of developers and local government in allowing residential building on areas known to be flood-prone. Concern for the natural environment seems to have caused some local government councils to ban burning-off, which creates greater fuel load for the next big fire. The indigenous peoples learned that frequent small fires were better than irregular blazes that killed everything. We don’t seem to have cottoned on. And droughts? The next one for the Murray-Darling basin is coming, sooner or later. How well prepared are we for it?
Those ought to be our environmental concerns, not this celebrity-endorsed Earth Hour.