8:30 Saturday night is Earth Hour, where people around the world turn out their lights in support of action against climate change. It started in Sydney in 2007, and mostly spread around the world, but it has always been a flop in the United States. This year appears to be studiously ignored by everyone; the only comment I see anywhere is Bjorn Lomberg in USA Today writing that " this Earth Hour event is nothing but an ineffective feel-good event" and "Celebrating darkness signals a turn away from an ever brighter future" before coming out in favor of building coal fired power plants in Pakistan.
Last year I was angry, and blamed the trolls for ruining Earth Hour, that it never had a chance in the politicized American environment.
This year, it is more important than ever that we turn out the lights as a symbolic message. Bjorn is not alone in trying to move the argument from cutting back on fossil fuel use to increasing it to keep electricity cheap, after all, he writes, "climate policies keep making electricity more expensive. This especially hurts the poor."
In Huffington Post, Kate Sheppard describes how Peabody Coal is behind a new initiative to promote the virtues of coal energy for poor people. She points to a press release from Advanced Energy for Life, quoting Peabody Coal CEO Gregory Boyce who rhymes of the millions suffering from lack access to energy:
"These sobering statistics demonstrate that energy poverty is the real human and environmental crisis facing the world today," said Boyce. "The greatest crisis we confront is not an environmental crisis predicted by computer models, but a human crisis fully within our power to solve. For too long, we have been focused on the wrong priorities."
Seriously. Someone actually writes this stuff, and makes these graphs. In the meantime, the minute someone turns out a light and supports Earth Hour, the same people come out and call us all stupid hippies wasting our time polluting the world with candles and condemning people to darkness. This is what we are up against.
So this Earth Hour, Saturday night at 8:30, turn out the lights. Show them that our priority isn't burning more coal and using more electricity, but using less. It's entirely symbolic, and it's all about solidarity. We can't be like Nick Cohen and conclude that the climate change deniers have won. We can't cede the moral high ground to Bjorn Lomberg and Peabody Coal.
We have to stand up and be seen to be counted. So proudly turn out the lights for Earth Hour.