Saturday, March 28, 2009

Earth hour, a radical suggestion

At 8:30 pm local time, cities around the world turned out their lights as part of the Earth Hour initiative. Organized by the WWF, this event caused the Sydney Opera to dim its lights, and the Peace Tower in Ottawa to turn off its lights. It is a symbol of how people can work together to make a difference.

However, outside the dream world of darkness created for an hour today, there are some crude facts that glare like a naked bulb. There was widespread participation and endorsement of the Earth hour event, but in Canada for one, we have a government who refuses to act in a significant and concrete manner on climate change, which most people would consider to be one of the greatest challenges, to use a mild word, of the century.

The event is organized as a signal to the governments of the world to take action on this pressing issue by providing a massive display of public opinion. It is hoped that the public pressure emanating from the symbols of the darkened Eiffel Tower, or the barely perceptible CN tower against the Toronto skyline, will change these politicians' hearts.

Let me suggest a radical suggestion that never seems to be considered by those participating in such events. Why bother to change the politicians' hearts when you can change the politicians? Isn't it more convenient to have a Prime Minister that will take the initiative needed on climate change without being prompted to do so by looking at the extinguished downtown core of his capital? With one of the options, you may take years to sway the powers that be in the right direction, whereas with the other one, the powers that be lead you in the right direction. How much more convenient that is.

But there seems to be a great reluctance to adopting such a solution. There is even a great aversion to making Earth hour politically involved. For some unfathomable reason, in many voters' minds, it seems you elect a government, and then participate in events that oppose the core policies of that government. It is enough to leave anyone perplexed.

The public's affection for symbolic events and chances to repeat that overused slogan, "we can all make a difference", knows no bounds. This is because it is easy to identify with these ideas and endorse them. On principle, no one disagrees with them! It's when it gets to the specifics, the politics, that people suddenly are unable to convert events such as Earth Hour into real change.

It is not by using charities and organizations outside of government that we will solve global warming or other environmental issues. The symbolic events have gone too long. Voters have got to realize the disconnect between their voting patterns and their active participation in initiatives such as Earth Hour.

Be radical. Next election, vote for what you believe in the rest of the year. Vote to save your environment. It's much easier to get what you want when the government is on your side.
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