I belong to a homeschooling co-op, and over its e-mail list I just received a happy, bubbly e-mail that's got me seeing red.
A group called Earth Hour is urging everyone to sign up for an intiative to "show support for fighting globa warming" by having as many people as possible turn off their lights for one hour at the same time. The person forwarding this empty feel-good measure notes, "Last year all of Sydney Austrailia did it and they conserved 10% of their energy in just one hour! Spread the word!!!
I kid you not. Who the heck comes up with lame-brain ideas like this?
For those who think this is a great idea, let me stress that I'm sure this is a heartfelt gesture, but as gestures go, this one isn't even a token. The electricity we use to light our houses when it's dark is a fraction of the energy we use during that hour. While these people are merrily pretending they've cut their energy consumption by 10 percent, every appliance they have plugged in -- even the ones they have turned off -- will continue to bleed energy off the grid.
I doubt the electric companies will even notice, even during that one-hour window.
Most of the stuff people bandy about for ways to reduce our energy usage and fight global warming is baby steps, and most of them are baby steps we don't want to take because they're too hard. You know: baby steps like "Don't drive a sport-utility vehicle" or "buy energy-efficient light bulbs."
Heck, the U.S. Congress recently voted to raise fuel efficiency standards for the first time in decades, over howls of protest from American automakers, to standards the rest of the world already beats.
You want to start making a more realistic effort to reduce global warming? Okay, here's what you do: Either get a job near where you live, or take mass transit. Leave your church and start attending one where you live. Eat less meat, raise your own produce or at least buy from local farmers, refuse to buy any vehicle that gets less than 40 mpg, recycle everything you can, walk the kids to school instead of driving them, buy only energy-efficient appliances, and the next time you move, buy a small house rather than a spacious one.
Those are still only baby steps, but if you do those, you'll still be doing more than most of the rest of us in the West.
And you can even use your lights during that hour.