Saturday, March 31, 2012

"Earth Hour celebrates ignorance, poverty and backwardness..."

Earth Hour: A Dissent

by Ross McKitrick

Ross McKitrick,
Professor of Economics,
University of Guelph,
Image via Wikipedia

In 2009 I was asked by a journalist for my thoughts on the importance of Earth Hour.

Here is my response.

I abhor Earth Hour. Abundant, cheap electricity has been the greatest source of human liberation in the 20th century. Every material social advance in the 20th century depended on the proliferation of inexpensive and reliable electricity.

Giving women the freedom to work outside the home depended on the availability of electrical appliances that free up time from domestic chores. Getting children out of menial labour and into schools depended on the same thing, as well as the ability to provide safe indoor lighting for reading.

Development and provision of modern health care without electricity is absolutely impossible. The expansion of our food supply, and the promotion of hygiene and nutrition, depended on being able to irrigate fields, cook and refrigerate foods, and have a steady indoor supply of hot water.

Many of the world’s poor suffer brutal environmental conditions in their own homes because of the necessity of cooking over indoor fires that burn twigs and dung. This causes local deforestation and the proliferation of smoke- and parasite-related lung diseases.

Anyone who wants to see local conditions improve in the third world should realize the importance of access to cheap electricity from fossil-fuel based power generating stations. After all, that’s how the west developed.

The whole mentality around Earth Hour demonizes electricity. I cannot do that, instead I celebrate it and all that it has provided for humanity.

Earth Hour celebrates ignorance, poverty and backwardness. By repudiating the greatest engine of liberation it becomes an hour devoted to anti-humanism. It encourages the sanctimonious gesture of turning off trivial appliances for a trivial amount of time, in deference to some ill-defined abstraction called “the Earth,” all the while hypocritically retaining the real benefits of continuous, reliable electricity.

People who see virtue in doing without electricity should shut off their fridge, stove, microwave, computer, water heater, lights, TV and all other appliances for a month, not an hour. And pop down to the cardiac unit at the hospital and shut the power off there too.

I don’t want to go back to nature. Travel to a zone hit by earthquakes, floods and hurricanes to see what it’s like to go back to nature. For humans, living in “nature” meant a short life span marked by violence, disease and ignorance. People who work for the end of poverty and relief from disease are fighting against nature. I hope they leave their lights on.

Here in Ontario, through the use of pollution control technology and advanced engineering, our air quality has dramatically improved since the 1960s, despite the expansion of industry and the power supply.

If, after all this, we are going to take the view that the remaining air emissions outweigh all the benefits of electricity, and that we ought to be shamed into sitting in darkness for an hour, like naughty children who have been caught doing something bad, then we are setting up unspoiled nature as an absolute, transcendent ideal that obliterates all other ethical and humane obligations.

No thanks.

I like visiting nature but I don’t want to live there, and I refuse to accept the idea that civilization with all its tradeoffs is something to be ashamed of.

Ross McKitrick
Professor of Economics
University of Guelph


The video.


Anonymous said...

Wouldn't hurt youth go to the Earth Hour website and make an attempt to understand what it's all about. Earth Hour is not 'anti-electricity' as you put it. Rather it's a communal symbol that allows us all to take a moment to think how lucky we are for the resources we do have, and in the process hopefully makes us all think how we can better conserve those resources and create a more sustainable future. Yes, third world countries are not as equipped as us to jump into more sustainable resources, but does it really hurt to make the world more aware of just how valuable out resources are? If you really think about it, someone that loves electricity as much as you should love Earth Hour, because depriving people of it is one of the only ways for people to know what life was really like without it. It's a positive gesture so maybe the word 'abhor' Is just a little strong?

Alain said...

Anon, we don't need to go to the web site nor turn off all the lights in order to understand that it is wrong to pollute the earth. Another thing is that our far too frequent power outages here will not allow anyone to take electricity for granted.

I have always ignored, like most people, this silly promotion of turning off the lights, but this year I have decided to follow Ezra and turn everything on.

Anonymous said...

@ anon1
You lost me at communal.

Brad maynard

melvin said...

I get sick and tired of those who hide behind motherhood style rhetoric when challenged about environmental hocus-pocus.
If those who want a reasonable attitude toward understanding our environment want to dump the money grubbing nutbars like Slisuki and Gore go for it,
When you get rid of them I for one will join the cause.

fernstalbert said...

Thanks for posting this commentary. I quite like my creature comforts - hot and cold water on demand, heat, air conditioning, lights, vehicle transportation and the ability to cook my food with gas/electric power and store perishables in a fridge. This is the lap of luxury. Not going back to the 12th century. Cheers.

Don said...

I was in the air at 8:30 Pacific time just coming in for a landing at YVR. If I wasn't, you can bet my smart meter would be overbilling me from 8 until 9pm when I would've had all my lights on and a load of laundry in each of the washing machine and dryer. I only regret I don't have a dish washer I could've been running.

Don said...

Celebrate Human Achievement: Turn on a light.

Anonymous said...

It's more than refreshing to see Canada's shift to conservatism and the emergence of the questioning of blatant left-wing ideas. Outstanding start.

JR said...

Our clothes washer crapped out yesterday. It's a huge inconvenience. Say, maybe the machine was making a statement for Earth Hour.

Anyway, Anon #1, don't be naive. The people behind 'Earth Hour' don't want to make a "positive gesture" to let people know "...what life was really like without [electricity]...". WWF and Suzuki and Gore and Hansen and ... want to deprive us of it, to stop us from using it. They want us to deindustrialize, to achieve a smaller "carbon footprint". They are anti-human eco-fascists with a political agenda and they want to be the ones in control. Deep down they couldn't care less about the world's poor and their lack of electricity. They want to keep it that way and, worse, drive us all into a similar state of poverty.

And "sustainability"? That's just one more fashionable buzzword used by people wanting to prove "how much they care". Otherwise it's pretty much meaningless.

bertie said...

It is time third world countries started to fend for themselves.They are continually being held up as an example of why we should sacrifice our way of living.How long do we in America have to support the third world and keep putting up with the,it is our fault attitude of the DO GOOD FOR NOTHINGS lefties.We created our way of life with hard work and imagination and created a society that is the envy of the world.Don,t try to bring us down to the third world level with guilt.We do enough helping without thanks and I think it is time for these countries that have been on this earth a lot longer than America,to start taking responsibility for their own countries and stop being so helpless & blaming us for our success.