A FLASH OF LIGHT IN A MOMENT OF DARKNESS
The point of Earth Hour, as the observation has been christened, is to bring about greater consciousness of our everyday energy-consumption. Begun two years ago in Australia, it is said to have caught on a bit already in certain parts of the world. This year, the Swedish power transmission authority estimated a 2.1% drop in the nation's power consumption during Earth Hour, and reports of Toronto's decrease range as high as 15.1%. For the most part, though, Earth Hour was met with a big collective yawn. The mainstream attitude was reflected in a number of snarky articles; the smartest one I saw came from the Libertarian think tank The Competitive Enterprise Institute, who lampooned the idea by vaunting a simultaneous observation of their own: “Human Achievement Hour,” where we're encouraged not to change our behavior in any way. The Wall Street Journal's James Taranto made a similar, feebler effort, and Keith Lokitch, PhD, that Ayn Rand Institute stalwart best remembered for his fallacious smear campaign of Rachel Carson on her 100th birthday, had his own suggestion:
“Try spending a month shivering in the dark without heating, electricity, refrigeration; without power plants or generators; without any of the labor-saving, time-saving, and therefore life-saving products that industrial energy makes possible. an entire month without fossil fuel.”
His tone was decidedly tongue-in-cheek, but his recommendation was one that would do any of us a world of good. Before they die, Dr. Lokitch's grandchildren may well bring those very words to life, courtesy of the philosophy that Grandpa jovially celebrated.
Proud they may be of their grasp of the obvious link between porcine energy consumption and porcine standard of living, but the critics of Earth Hour miss the important points altogether. Like a secular Shabbat, last night's ritual benefited the individual, without intending a direct solution to global problems. Too few people ever spend an hour quietly reflecting on the issues raised by Lokitch, Taranto and the CEI, and too many find the very notion distasteful. During last night's peripatetic reverie, it occurred to me that a mere five minutes might be easier for the uninitiated to swallow, to eventually acquire the taste. I imagined for a mere three hundred seconds, an entire population moving with single intention, dousing their lights and their televisions, closing their storefronts and stifling their ignitions. Putting aside the concerns of ambition and commerce, stepping outdoors into the blackness and reveling, many of them for the very first time, at the simple beauty of the Milky Way.
illustration: MARKEA NEURANTHA (1997) acrylic 30" x 15"