Turn your lights on!
Earth Hour starts tonight at 8:30 p.m. EST. The event, which began in 2007, calls for everyone in the world to turn off their electric lights until 9:30 p.m., to raise awareness of climate change.
The Earth Hour website claims that last year, "Hundreds of millions of people in more than 4,000 cities and towns across 88 countries switched off their lights for one hour, creating a visual mandate for action on climate change." The website also offers this frightening warning: "New economic modelling indicates the world has just five years to initiate a low carbon industrial revolution before runaway climate change becomes almost inevitable."
But Earth Hour is not designed to be scientific, rational, or even constructive. It is designed to inspire fear and assuage guilt.
Feel-good activities such as Earth Hour primarily appeal to three constituencies: the young, the idealistic and those who would prey on their ignorance. The latter category includes politicians, climate change activists and people with other agendas, specifically anti-capitalist, anti-growth and anti-prosperity.
Indeed, the idea that we will progress by regressing is not only at the core of Earth Hour, but of the entire anti-climate-change movement. If we lived simpler, more frugal (translation less comfortable, less productive) lives, the thinking goes, we could take the planet back to a pristine state. Man is the problem, and he should scale back his activities.
This rationale ignores the fact that for every environmental concern humanity has experienced or engendered, it has also found a solution. Scrubbers remove particulate from smokestacks. Laws penalize and discourage water pollution. Private property ownership helps conserve wetlands. More efficient engines replace less efficient ones, saving fuel and reducing emissions.
These advances are not driven by regression; rather, they are driven by technological innovation, consumer demand, and the rule of law. Ironically, it is the countries that lack these things which are unable to celebrate Earth Hour. Their citizens haven't achieved the prosperity necessary to benefit from an innovation that we in the First World take for granted--universal electric light. Most people in the Third World will spend Earth Hour in darkness, as they do every day.
Earth Hour has it backwards; it's the light that saves us, not the dark.