Saturday, March 29, 2008

Earth Hour: How Will You Spend It?

It's Earth Hour in 5 hours and counting down. Earth Hour joins a distinguished list of trendy mass-feel-good exercises. There was Live Aid, Food Aid, Farm Aid, Sport Aid, and then there was Toronto Aid, London Aid, Garbage Day, Live Earth, and now Earth Hour. We've rocked the planet, got down on our gloved hands and knees together for 20 minutes one day a year, worn plastic bands around our wrists, thrust our arms into the air, taken photos, opened our wallets, felt good.

Today in just over 5 hours, Torontonians will flick off together. We'll join cities around the world that have already flicked off, sing and dance, feel good. And at just over 6 hours, turn the lights back on and resume normal life.

I listened to a couple of eco-people talking about how to use less electricity. One bright one suggested we go out and buy new washers and dryers with timers so that we can do our laundry at 3:00 am when there are apparently no carbon emissions (trendy buzz phrase of the year) from using electricity, in our neck of the woods anyway. I suspect a country that uses mostly coal or oil to produce electricity belches carbon 24/7. So, who's going to get up at 4:00 am to move the wet clothes from washer to dryer? Or are we supposed to move them at 8:00 am to the dryer where they'll sit and slowly mould for 24 hours until the dryer kicks on the next early morning? Or perhaps we're supposed to purchase the all-in-one washer and dryer with timer and do one load a night, never mind our actual laundry needs? And then, of course, where does that leave all us plebes with no money to spend on new laundry machines when we have perfectly functioning basic ones? We're supposed to pay high rates -- 50 cents per kWh I believe was the rate suggested -- for being such narcissists.

Well, those who are truly poor and/or senior can get subsidies, according to the eco-trendy (who are BTW 20 years behind the times but I digress). Oh goody, just add that to my stack of "please, please" paperwork of proving my low income and, for the disabled or chronically ill, proving bad health with more and more doctors' notes. And, anyway, the poor who have to pay their own utilities practice their own Earth Hour every hour of every day of every week already. Who can afford to keep the lights on when your income barely feeds and shelters you? That's at the rate the eco-people think is criminally low.

The biggest problem with this idea of conservation is that Toronto Hydro dinged us for conserving too much last summer! And the other big problem is that the province imposed a limited-fossil-fuel electricity generator upon Toronto, instead of going the braver route and using the endless supply of garbage to generate power for the local population. So we have the city polluting the land and air through landfills and trucking garbage down the 401, and the province depleting a finite resource and creating more CO2. Very eco friendly.

We are all nut jobs, living in a screwed-up land, doing feel-good exercises that amount to nothing but guilt on the middle class and burdens on the poor and ill. I shall be spending my Earth Hour in the 19th century with candlelight.

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