The Earth Hour :: Does it make sense?

Had I flicked my light switches off tonight for an hour I would have done my share our commitment towards our planet. I chose not to.

The growing rate of consumption all over the world (of not just energy but also resources) is a concern we all need to address. Indian cities like Mumbai and Delhi have population ranging up to 20 million. These two cities put together are more populous than Canada or Spain. Their energy consumption has grown by roughly 10% consistently since years. And as expected from Indian governance and planning the generation capacity has been more or less flat.

The recent power plant projects (which will be commissioned at least a year or two from now, and are all either Coal fired or Gas fired) will be absorbed by our never ending internal growth potential, besides adding to the growing pollution. But shutting shop is not the solution. We cannot and should not put a cap on our growth just because we appear to be caught in a “energy crunch – harmful emissions” cycle.

The problem we are facing is not as easy as it looks, or rather is made up to look. The complexity and gravity of the situation can be understood by the fact that the solutions which can be implemented to effectively counter this hydra headed monster are available and very much feasible since decades (Solar, Geo-thermal, Wind, Fuel-Cell, etc.). This explains that our world is inherently drawn towards its doom. And this inheritance is an unexplainable result of the way economics and politics are intertwined.

I see people cringe every time Petrol and Diesel prices go up. What they do not understand (and are never told in those switch-your-lights-off-for-an-hour-today websites) is the colossal effect such small changes have on our planet. The reason why the already available solutions were never implemented is Economics. And ironically if we ever get serious and implement these solutions the reason for sure shall be Economics.

Let’s see what happens when petrol and diesel prices go up… The sector hit directly is transportation, which means movement via rail, road and air becomes costlier, which further puts pressure on industries, because they depend heavily on movement of goods. This may also affect your utility if it is dependent on fuels like Coal and Gas for power generation, which means costlier electricity. It also affects service companies like ITs and ITes (think Server Farms and Air Conditioning and Office lights). Thus a rupee more for Petrol or Diesel could mean higher operational costs for everyone around. And nothing else in this world (not even this world’s doom itself) has more power to stimulate and bring about change than Money. Only when it hurts corporate balance sheets and common man’s budget is when Government Policies will change for the good.

There is no harm in creating a general awareness about the current situation. Masses should be involved if such a drastic problem has to be dealt with. But the way this has been propagated since few years is creating more problem than it is solving. It is not the message of doom anymore but a nice topic for dining-table-debates. And as Thomas L. Friedman says we are just having a “Green Party”. And this Earth Hour Gig is just another bash thrown to celebrate our Greenness, our commitment to the cause of saving mother earth. You just have to pose “Green” (Take a look at the “Green” site of one of our Indian power companies below). So much discussion and so little effort (just a flick of your light switch) are hurting the cause by belittling its gravity. I do not question the intention of the move; I doubt the understanding and sincerity of the followers.

The "Green" Us
The “Green” Us

The best thing you can do today is keep your lights switch on all night, just to prove that you are not partying any more. It is the question of our existence and is definitely not a distant condition. This is not something our kids will be facing alone; we’ll be by their side when the D-day comes.