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Saturday, March 29, 2008

Earth Hour: Trivializing the Environmental Movement

Well, here we go- another exercise in empty symbolism ; a "feel good" for participants that relieves them of taking daily action that might actually reduce their energy consumption, while fanning their vanity and self-righteousness.

For the convenience-addicted American, Earth Hour supplies the ideal vehicle for the discharge of guilt while encouraging the participant in the belief that he or she can "make a difference" in our prodigious waste of energy, out-of-control overpopulation, rapidly depleting resources, and potentially devastating climate change, simply by turning off the lights and all non-essential electric appliances for an hour, never mind an entire day.

After you have served your hour of sacrifice, you can go back to consuming and polluting, knowing that you have done your little bit to Save The Planet. Just like the folks who revert to enthusiastic sinning for another week after the trip to the confessional or after their Sunday dose of prayer and sermons, the trendy eco-phonies can continue life as usual, meanwhile screaming for authorities to cap fuel prices so they can continue on with their daily lives of an average of 11 automobile trips.

This is the kind of crap our politicians and business leaders just love. It's so much easier to promote this kind of nonsense than it is to change our disastrous public policy and urban planning to shift funding from highways to public transportation, or change the zoning of towns and cities to foster walkable communities or mixed-use, higher density development, or even make small changes to render the built environment more friendly to people and bikes at the expense of cars. ComEd is one of the sponsors, and Chicago's eco-hypocrite-in-chief, Da Mare, is promoting this event loudly.

This is also exactly the kind of garbage that has trivialized the environmentalist and Peak Oil movements, and helped get them labeled as elitist movements driven by folks who care more about plankton than people; and for this reason alone,this nonsense has done incalculable harm to the quest to conserve our resources and found our communities and economies on a sustainable basis.

There is no impetus among the general population for radical re-ordering of our daily lives to drastically reduce our energy consumption and to make it possible to live life with a reasonable level of technological amenity without high imputs, because the majority of middle and lower income Americans believe that the environmentalist movement does not only not pertain to them or their lives, but will damage them economically and make their lives even more difficult than they already are.

This is the central tragedy of the environmentalist and Peak Oil movements as they are currently constituted. For it is the non-rich who will suffer the first and the most as the curve of resource depletion begins to arc into a line pointing straight down; and it is the poorest among us who will die in large numbers as the food supply crashes, potable water and home heating become unaffordable, jobs disappear by the hundreds of thousands, and the predictable reduction in sanitation and the disappearance of medicines and vaccines results in pandemics and the re-emergence of diseases we thought we defeated 80 years ago.

So, instead of promoting yet one more opportunity for celebrities to display their superior eco-consciousness while spewing hydrocarbons allover the Western hemisphere taking planes and buses on speaking tours and benefit concerts and other monuments to vanity and superficiality, our leaders and policy makers need to give a solid hour to real thought as to how to keep our lights turned on and our population employed and able to eat, drink water, and remain gainfully employed in the face of spot shortages and brownouts, and how to sell the public the policies that will enable our cities to run on a steeply reduced fuel supply with the minimum of infrastructure failure and distribution snafus.