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.

14 thoughts on “The Earth Hour :: Does it make sense?”

  1. The rusted wheels have been at least set in motion my friend…I agree that words alone are not sufficient but at least awareness is increasing worldwide. And efforts will follow soon…And such events are a great inspiration to do so…I’ve been an enivormentalist and I always follow the same. Now with such things happening, I feel I’ll have to tell less people that they should be aware of their planet

    1. Chintan there are very few people like you, who actually care about the Planet and understand the gravity of the situation enough. This is becoming more or less like a ritual you have to go through out of social pressure. The planet demands sacrifice and efforts in all spheres of our ecology. We need to build smart (construction being the most energy intensive human activity), drive smart and consume smart. We not only have to develop cleaner modes of energy generation but also reduce the energy consumption. And out of all this trouble people forget see the potential of growth that stares the Human race in the face. Better computers and networks, Better vehicular systems, Use of high end technology in day to day life.. We are standing at a point in time where we can develop our technologies the way we had done during the two World Wars. This is the third World War.. the only difference being we are fighting a common enemy instead of each other. And we should not waste it in doing these small distracting “Green” rituals. Lets do something significant. And the forum is open.. This article is supposed to initiate a discussion on what can be done, apart from flicking light switches off.

  2. I have seen many green cities in past, That too in india. Don’t you beleive it…??? I tell you they were all green. All painted green with a plastic color, which won’t fade for years and nor be degraded….:)

  3. Agreed! Even people find my suggestions ‘stingy’ and act without concern…neway, we shall continue to do what we’ve been doing…

    1. For starters.. Let us stop getting hyper when the headlines show an increase in Diesel and Petrol prices. 🙂

      But, seriously the solution to this issue will involve a lot of discomfort as well as a lot of effort, effort, painfully planned, holistic and precisely maneuvered. This requires more synergy of action than humankind has ever displayed. e.g. Lets say you develop better nuclear technologies for generation of electricity, so now you have a lot of cheap and fairly greener electricity at your disposal.. but do you have the right transmission systems to handle this? enough electric cars to consume this? Hope you are getting my point. So this will require collaborative effort from the entire human race. I guess the right way is to just start. We need to do anything and everything that is in either of the following direction:
      1. Provides/Promotes greener and cheaper source of energy
      2. Provides/Promotes reduction at the consumption end

      And we need to work not only at the Energy front but in general for all resources, metals, food, water, land.. everything!!

    1. Hayden, that’s the point I am trying to make. Earth Hour is a symbol of awareness, and it should be treated like one. But instead it has become a symbol of participation and responsibility. It may seem like a trivial difference, but the truth is that many people think shutting the switches off for an hour is enough. Our neighbours own a Prius and we own a Humvee. Well, we “do” the Earth Hour!!

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