Environmentalism & Hypocrisy

as i found out this morning via my facebook newsfeed, today is earth hour. wait, what?!? the day is an hour? well, not quite. it’s a global, annual event iniated by the world wildlife fund (or world wide fund for nature, as they call themselves now) to raise awareness for energy conservation. at 8.30pm today, participating cities (and inidividuals) will turn off all lights for one hour. this off-switch event will move around the globe through all time zones. i’m not going to go into the details of all this, you can read about it on its wikipedia page.

i already heard about it on the same day last year, and it bothered me then as it bothers me today. call me cynical, but turning off your lights, be they public or private, one measly hour out of an entire year won’t do jackshit.

don’t get me wrong, i really do appreciate the effort of raising awareness for the environmental catastrophe we’re all headed towards if we don’t collectively change our way of life and how we treat our planet. but don’t think you’re actually doing anything about it simply by switching off your lights for one hour. i’m talking to you, big cities. as soon as the clock strikes 9.30pm today, and your part in “earth hour” is done, you’re gonna go right back to flashy neon lights, 24/7-lit shop windows, and all the other kinds of urban light pollution. am i right? (here’s a wonderful little site that superimposes NASA’s night-lights imagery from 2012 onto an interactive google map of the world. quite frankly, it’s disgusting how bright the planet is when it actually should be dark.)

there’s 8760 hours in one year and you’re doing something about your energy consumption for just one of those hours. what about the other 8759? don’t let that enormous potential go to waste. turn off unnecessary illumination of buildings and monuments past a certain hour of night. nobody’s gonna care whether that cathedral is lit up at three in the morning. change the bulbs of the street lamps and use something more energy efficient like LEDs. convert public transport systems that still run on gasoline to electric. there’s plenty of things you can do.

also, individual people: don’t think you did your part just by participating in today’s “earth hour.” even more so than municipal governments, the collective individual can make a huge difference. change little things in your life. they may not seem significant to you, but as a whole they make all the difference.

over the past five years or so i’ve continually used less and less electricity, despite moving into a much bigger apartment, with more lights and more electronic devices and gadgets. also i am fortunate enough to live in a city where the utility company supplies all of its energy from renewable sources. granted, it is a bit shady what they consider renewable, but there’s definitely no coal or uranium involved.

so here’s a few tips (although they should all be common sense by now):

  • if you live in a city where everything is close by, use your bike to get around. it keeps you fit and it is completely carbon-neutral (except for the production of the bicycle, of course).
  • get energy-efficient light bulbs and turn the lights off when you’re not in the room.
  • don’t overdo it with the radiator. in the long run, a sweater and blanket are much cheaper than your heating costs. also, your kitchen heats itself up just by cooking.
  • when you’re cooking something that requires boiling water, fill the pot with hot water from the tap. that way it boils much faster, uses less energy, and you get to eat sooner. and always put the lid on!
  • if you have a dual-flush toilet, use the half flush. because most of the time even that is too much water to literally flush down the toilet. it’s drinking water, for fuck’s sake!
  • drink water from the tap and non of that sweetened soft drink shit. water will actually quench your thirst whereas sugary drinks will have you coming back for more. the magic word is “osmosis.” also, no diabetes after 30 years. and for the love of god (you know, the one that doesn’t exist) don’t buy bottled water!!! 95% percent of industrialized areas get perfectly fine drinking water from their kitchen faucets. it costs next to nothing and it’s convenient as hell.
  • don’t put electronic devices into standby mode for long periods of time (like over night or when you’re at work). they will still use electricity. hence the term standby. always use the main power button. it should be an actual switch, otherwise it doesn’t cut the circuit. but since most new devices don’t have that kind of button anymore, either get a power strip with an on/off switch, so you can hook up multiple devices, or just pull the damn plug. so basically when you leave the house or go to bed, nothing should consume any power except for your fridge/freezer and maybe your alarm clock and the cell phone charger. in the long run, this can save you considerable cash.
  • only buy as much food as you’re actually gonna eat, especially when it comes to fresh fruits and vegetables since they can spoil quickly. it pains me to see people throw away spoiled food just because their pantry was jam-packed and they couldn’t eat everything in time.

i could go on and on about grocery bags, paper towels, recycling batteries, doing your laundry, or diapers, for crying out loud. although i do see the advantage of throw-away pampers. furthermore, there’s massive potential for cities to install green roofs, brighten the asphalt and pavements to reduce heat absorption, and so on.

so let’s try and turn this “earth hour” into an “earth year” and eventually “earth millennia” not by radically switching off all lights for a few moments, but by being conscious consumers and using the resources that we have just as consciously. after all, this isn’t super mario bros. where you get to start over when you can’t defeat king koopa in the final level.