The Misery of Earth Hour

‘Earth Hour’ was a celebration of failure and regression. We should be celebrating the control of the electron, not lamenting it


Over the weekend many of you were probably inundated on Facebook, Twitter, and in the news with reports about this dismal celebration which encouraged you to turn off your electricity for an hour. 

The goal was to bring attention to environmental issues and global climate change, something seemingly innocuous at first glance, but let us think about this for a moment.

The underlying theme to Earth Hour is that mankind is a blight on the planet, that our electrical generation and our technology are diseases that must be arrested. Have we really become so masochistic, so self-flagellating, that we would take pride in shutting the power off?

Over 1.6 billion human beings on this planet live without that fundamental spark of modern civilisation we call electricity. If the West is supposed to turn down the power, what can that possibly mean for those in the Global South?

One would imagine that the Congolese or Nigerian citizen thirsting after their new coal or gas power station should wait until something more environmentally appropriate comes along. We understand that they may want to claw their way towards development, but we just aren’t ready for them. Don't worry though, we’ll dim the lights for an hour one Saturday a year. 

At its core, the modern Green movement is disdainful of civilisation. It laments the rise of our planet's population as more mouths to feed, more bodies to clothe, and more power that must be consumed. What they never acknowledge is that each human being brings with him an invaluable asset: his mind.

Indeed it is what makes bringing electricity and lighting the fires of civilisation around the world so amazing. The great technological dynamism that has so often liberated us from our vulnerability to scarcity, and mitigated environmental harm can only accelerate as more members of our race are assimilated into the modern world. 

We should be celebrating our mastery of electricity, the development which has improved the human condition to a degree hitherto unimaginable.

Virtually all of modern civilisation is predicated upon our control of the electron, and that control has allowed us to transform the planet for the better. Modern medicine, engineering, flight, computer technology, all of the good these have reaped are sourced to the humming power stations that dot our planet. Yet, the Green movement would have you believe that the problem is not how we can spread this boon to the rest of the world and abet human ingenuity, instead the problem is us. 

Always, always the problem is us. Always the answer is conservation, reduction, or learning to live without. We were going to have to learn to live without food as a result of overpopulation, without raw materials as a result of too much demand and over-mining, and of course more recently we were going to have to learn to live without fuel because of the impending collapse of our hydrocarbon supply. Yet every single time we have pitted these challenges against human ingenuity it is our ingenuity that has proven victorious. 

Environmental stewardship is a worthy endeavor and should be encouraged. The negative externalities created by adverse pollution on the health of people are real and dangerous. But to suggest that ‘turning off the lights’ will help anyone is disingenuous and lays the framework for a dangerous anti-human mindset. Without electricity, even for a small period of the day, most of humanity would be living a miserable unfulfilling and largely fruitless existence. 

Our answers have never been found in devising ways to reduce our consumption or limit our growth. Indeed it is our growth and our consumption that has fueled the innovation that has reshaped our world. The effort to confront today’s environmental challenges is inextricably linked to our efforts to continue growing and fueling civilisation. Building a power station in Abuja or Kinshasa would do more for our planet and that goal than any self-gratifying hour of slacktivism.

So next year for Earth Hour, instead of turning off the lights, why not celebrate how many more people have been connected to the grid? Or better yet, donate a bit of money towards making a fully powered world a reality. Never forget that the goal isn’t to turn the lights off, its to turn them on

Joshua Jacobs and Eftychis John Gregos-Mourginakis are founding members of the Conservative Future Project

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