Tuesday, March 24, 2009

"Earth Hour"

Have you heard of this? There is a push for cities to turn out lights Saturday evening at 8:30 pm local time. (Fortunately, NOT streetlights - that was my first thought, "Oh great, then we'll have a crime wave in the darkened cities).

One of the things they're talking about is turning off office lights in the big office towers. Now, I know - perhaps leaving them on is a security thing, so there's less chance of break-ins. But I tend to wonder - why do they leave them on over night/over weekend when no one's working anyway? Couldn't companies save a bundle by doing that?

Even on my own campus, they harp at us to conserve, but when I go over on a Saturday when classes are not in session, lights are blazing - more lights than what would be needed for security - in many of the buildings. Lots of the classrooms have lights left on 24/7.

This is why symbolic stuff like Earth Hour bugs me a little bit. People are making a BIG BIG deal about "turn your lights off!" (are they going to have guys in tin helmets, with CD armbands, knocking on doors telling people to "kill the light!") when there's lots of stuff - sensible stuff - that could be done every day.

(I also have to admit I'd like to see the crime stats for "Earth Hour" - whether break-ins and assaults go up because there are fewer lights around. I can't help but think some of the criminals are just waiting for an opportunity like that to take advantage).

Most big office towers have security systems - or should - so turning lights off shouldn't be an issue. But it grates on me to harp at citizens to turn off their lights. (They are trying to be cutesy and suggest things like candlelight dinners. Well, for one thing, 8:30 pm is too damn late for me to eat - I get heartburn - and for another, why should I have to?)

I've also heard that some websites are "going dark" for the hour (yeah, I bet not any of the ones that sell stuff). I don't know about television channels but I remember back when MTV was on some enviro kick and nannying at its watchers, my response was, "Well, then, if you want to save energy, why not shut down your transmitters for a couple hours each day?" Again - largely symbolic gestures, and trying to push people to participate.

(Oh, I know - some people get a tremendous feeling of solidarity out of this. But first off, I'm not a "joiner" - I tend to be grumpy and misanthropic and not like group-think, and second, as I said, this seems a largely symbolic gesture in a situation where businesses, especially, could actually do something more conservation-minded more of the time - maybe they couldn't trumpet it with a big advertising campaign - but they'd save money).

I grew up in the 70s. During the first "energy crisis." During the time of Carter's infamous cardigan-sweater speech. My dad used to yell at my brother and me daily: "Do you think we're made out of money? Turn off that light/television/radio when you're done using it!" So I kind of live that now.

I don't do it to cut my "carbon footprint." I do it because it saves me money. And because maybe, we can stretch out the supply of fossil fuels a little longer until we find a valid replacement.

I'm also hoping and waiting for the new LED bulbs I read about coming on the market - for one thing, they seem not to have the mercury issue that plagues CFLs, and another, they last reaaaaaalllly long. And I've got stuff hooked to power strips - that was originally done so I could shut everything down fast during electrical storms but it's also a convenient way to stop the drain from "always on" stuff. And I do some of the (safer) "hypermiling" things to save gas (but I will never, ever "draft" behind a big-rig; that's kind of suicidal)

So I know about saving power. I know about conservation. I don't like slogans and being told what I "need" to do.

(I feel, I guess, kind of like I feel about the "new frugals" - the people who have, OH MY! discovered you can PACK A LUNCH TO WORK! How cunning! What a great way to save money! It's like, welcome to my world, idiots, why did it take you so long to get here.)

I think one of my other annoyances is that, just like diet and exercise are, this will probably ratchet up into a "it's never enough" campaign. First they told us to eat four servings of fruit and vegetables. Then five. Now it's something like 8-11. There are not enough vegetables I like for me to be able to get that many servings in in a day. And exercise: first 20 minutes a couple times a week was cool. Then it was deemed 30 was better. Then they said 30 every single day. Then 60. Now there are even some experts suggesting 90 minutes of exercise a day is what's needed.

So, plug these same "experts" on the energy problem:

"In the summer, set your thermostat at 80 to run your air conditioning less" Then, next year: "Set it at 85." Then the next: "hell, you don't NEED air conditioning. Here's a complimentary paper fan with the president's picture on it. Enjoy!"

Which is why I tend to be suspicious of these feel-good things.

Oh, and if you want doing something to help out the environment, what about going out and picking up damned litter like I do a couple times each year? Litter infuriates me but I'm not going to push some feel-good "no littering day." Because frankly, it's easier - and it makes me feel better in the long run - to go out on my street and clean it up. Even if I bitch about it being just as messy again in a couple weeks.

"Grassroots" activity is great, but I tend to be suspicious of the kind that seems to me to be mostly talk and flash and not a lot of real action. It seems there are always plenty of people willing to come up with cute slogans, or to tell people what they "should" do, or to sit around and complain that "someone needs to DO something!" and precious few who actually want to go out and pick up the trash, or help restore old people's houses, or plant stuff that prevents erosion on slopes...


Mr. Bingley said...

erosion on slopes, that's the most pressing issue for me (i too always turn off the lights when i leave a room - bad 70s habits, along with setting the therm at 60 in the winter). my yard is washing away: crappy sandy soil atop clay does for verdant fields make...not.

Heroditus Huxley said...

Like I said over at my blog, "earth hour," my rear end. Try "Let's get them used to being sent back to the stone age so that they don't think to complain" hour. Or, "If we can get them used to voluntary blackouts, maybe they won't notice when cap-and-trade legislation makes it mandatory on a household level" hour.

Or, "If we can make them lose power for an hour, maybe we can ration the power that the little man uses so that he gets used to government rationing everything in his life for his own good" hour.

In any case, I ain't buyin' what they're sellin'. And I won't buy it at any price.

I usually do turn off most of the lights--the closet light in the baby's room stays on because he's afraid of the dark. Call me rebellious, but for "earth hour" I'll turn on every electric thing I can in my house without blowing the breakers.