Sunday, March 30, 2008

Lights out

By Capt. Fogg

There's nothing wrong with the urge to do good, but most often the urge is expressed with romantic, meaningless and even counter-productive gesture. Perhaps "Earth Hour" is one of them. Switching off the electricity for an hour would indeed have some kind of a psychological attraction to those who think technology has done us a mean trick by allowing us to have a more pleasant evening environment than possible whilst squatting around a fire, swatting mosquitoes and worrying about malaria, but I'm sure an hour after Earth Hour, the twin Sub-Zero refrigerators will be back on, along with the pool heater and the air conditioning and the climate control in the wine cellar every house in Beverly Hills is possessed of. I'm sure more kilowatt hours are involved in spreading the word than will be saved by switching to candles made from petroleum based, paraffin wax.

Sure, I could have switched off last night; lit some kerosene mantle lamps and indulged in some battery powered music, but to what purpose? Living in a hurricane zone and being an emergency communications specialist, I'm well equipped for temporary self sufficiency. A home lit by fire however, is far less efficient and far more polluting than one blessed by Edison's genius and the pollution and energy consumption involved with producing and disposing of batteries is far worse than what comes off the grid. It's all a bit like wearing ribbons and going on walks for AIDS or breast cancer. It gets people talking and socializing and feeling like philanthropists, but doesn't really involve them in doing anything constructive. Worst of all it allows those who really are vested in raping the planet to dismiss us as hippies, tree-huggers, wearers of sandals and with other meaningless categories. Isn't it a bit like getting stoned and painting your face like a color blind Apache and thinking that's going to bring on a new age of peace and harmony?

Is it really that the benefit of having good light after the sun has gone down has made our atmosphere unstable or is it that there are far too many of us? Is it a grand gesture to do without an hour's light while so much of the world lives in abject poverty and filth and darkness, or is it hypocrisy? It's really only the relatively affluent who do these things for an hour before running the jacuzzi, turning on the 52" TV and cranking the AC down to 70 anyway. Isn't it a sad fact that if two thirds of the world had a third of our comforts, the planet's ecology might collapse?

And who knows what people will really do when the lights are out? We had a mini baby boom here after the storms of 2004-2005 and that gets to the root of the problem - there are so many of us that we may have to keep the larger part in poverty so that the smaller part doesn't have to go to sleep when the sun goes down, gets to eat strawberries in February, can travel at will and is never out of sight of a Starbucks. It isn't technology with it's hand around our throat, it's your kids, their kids and their kids' kids. It isn't technology that makes us give in to the urge to breed like rabbits and it isn't sanity that makes us interfere in other peoples efforts to keep the population under control. It's religion, it's greed and sometimes it's even fear of a socialism free future where society won't take care of us making us think we need to have 18 children.

If there's anything I have faith in though, it's that circumstances will continue to rule us rather than the other way around. It's partly because we aren't quite smart enough or rational enough, but it's partly because we indulge in fatuous displays rather than making hard decisions.

Cross posted from Human Voices

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Blogger rockync said...

It would be far more meaningful for every citizen of the earth to be challenged to cutting their use of resources by say 10% each of the next 5 years. I'm not sure if most of us could cut our use by 50% but it would be a great challenege. Not just saving power, but water and fuel and trash,etc. I think we should be more conscious of our world and how to protect it and become good stewards, but let's start at home every day, where it counts, teach our children from the knee and then, maybe it might make a difference. Shutting down for an hour? A "feel good" gimmick designed to relieve the guilt of resource guzzlers...
Completely off subject; I've just read about the death of Dith Pran, photojournalist and survivor of the Khmer Rouge. Also the subject of the book and movie, "The Killing Fields." His story of courage and determination and great suffering should be remembered always. A poignant and most pointed story about the true cost of war.

12:29:00 PM  
Blogger Capt. Fogg said...

Nobody seems to care about the true cost of anything - witness the current real estate debacle and of course Bush's war. It's much easier to see the movie and tell ourselves we're sympathetic (while bombing the bejesus out of Iraq) much easier to turn out the lights for an hour while they remain brilliantly lit at shopping mall after shopping mall. . .

4:17:00 PM  
Blogger rockync said...

So sad and so true, Capt. Personally, I hate the mall and only go there about once every two years. I think we really lost a big piece of our heritage with the replacement of Main St. I loved going "downtown" when I was a teen.

6:34:00 PM  
Blogger Capt. Fogg said...

I detest malls of all sorts - they're not doing well, but they keep building more and more and more until you have to drive 6 hours outside of any small city to be clear of them - and even then there's a Starbucks and a McDonalds and ten car lots and a Bennigans, a Wal-Mart, 6 supermarkets and an endless forest of plastic signs. There at least 6 drugstores withing 5 miles of me and I live in the country.

10:14:00 PM  
Blogger rockync said...

I have the same problem. I live in a SMALL town and we have 3 chain drugstores, 3 grocery stores and they are getting ready to open the biggest Super Walmart in NC here. I hate Walmart and they are going to be on the road I need to travel every day. We also have a Lowes Home Improvement (like Home Depot). I live in a town of about 3,000 - I guess someone knows something I don't. With the Blue Ridge Parkway in my backyard, at least I don't have far to go to get into the wilderness.

11:55:00 PM  
Blogger Capt. Fogg said...

It's a surprise to some - not to Swampcracker, of course - that Florida has more wilderness than anywhere east of the Mississippi, but of course much of it isn't very accessible unless you have wings or scales. But if I go east there's nothing but water all the way to Africa. Of course the Bahamas seem intent on becoming another Las Vegas, which gets back to my points - too many people and too much energy using entertainment and retail.

8:58:00 AM  

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