Did you leave your lights on?
March 28, 2010 7:14 AM   Subscribe

Did you remember to turn off your lights last night for Earth Hour? This global event was celebrated from Kazakhstan to the Maldives with darkened public buildings, power savings, speeches, candles, rock’n’roll, fireworks, embarrassment, fire acrobats, and cocktails.
posted by twoleftfeet (79 comments total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
 
In this civilization we destroy the natural world to create comfort, allowing us to funnel our lives free of suffering into various kinds of self-pleasure and failed attempts to circumvent human nature, while at the same time remembering every once in a while that we are destroying the planet and turning off the lights to symbolize that we are sad to see it go.
posted by shii at 7:18 AM on March 28, 2010 [2 favorites]


Now I feel like a dick.... I accidentally left all the kitchen lights on last night. I guess I will need to buy some tungsten offsets or something.
posted by crapmatic at 7:26 AM on March 28, 2010


we are destroying the planet and turning off the lights to symbolize that we are sad to see it go.

I think it's more like, if we make a small, meaningless symbolic gesture like this once in a great while, we feel perfectly comfortable continuing to consume as much or more than before.
posted by Forktine at 7:29 AM on March 28, 2010 [22 favorites]


I have no friggin idea what that accomplished last night, but I hope everyone feels a little bit better about themselves.
posted by pwally at 7:33 AM on March 28, 2010


I felt bad for the employees of the utility companies. If ideas like this lead to less energy consumption, they'll surely be laid off. So, I turn on a few extra lights, just to balance things out.
posted by oddman at 7:37 AM on March 28, 2010


I turned all the lights off in our house, but I didn't have to turn the TV off, right?
posted by jaronson at 7:41 AM on March 28, 2010 [1 favorite]


Yeah, I really hate to slam anyone for taking any action, however small and wholly symbolic, toward addressing the climate crisis. That said, I find it hard to see a path to success in this struggle that will lead to a banner-headline story 20 years ago that starts: "It all began that one time we turned off the lights for an hour."

I've cited him often around here, and I'll do so again: I'm with Hermann Scheer on this one. Scheer is to my mind the most important progressive politician and the most effective climate legislator on earth, and I believe he'd refer to this as little more than "sounding brass" (he was referring specifically to the empty declarations of UN climate conferences, but it applies here too). And I have serious problems, as he would, with the messaging of the whole lights-off thing. It couches the problem solely in terms of a burden to be shared and a collective guilt to to be atoned for. We must sit in the dark, suffering in sombre silence, for our sins.

Why can't this be a celebration of renewal? A party? A green carnival? Because we'll get to the top of the proverbial mountain on this thing, if we do, only because we come to see our own best interests and greatest opportunities in pursuing the sustainable track.
posted by gompa at 7:45 AM on March 28, 2010 [5 favorites]


I have no friggin idea what that accomplished last night, but I hope everyone feels a little bit better about themselves.

I wouldn't be surprised to see a huge spike in consumption at 9PM as a bunch of kniobs logged on to congratulate themselves for being oh so thoughtful and doing the right thing: "Juz did #EarthHour! Luv th planet! Snaps to @Felix42 4 doing it 2!"
"RT @MaryMary Juz did #EarthHour! Luv th planet!"
"RT @MaryMary Juz did #EarthHour! Luv th planet!"
"RT @MaryMary Juz did #EarthHour! Luv th planet!"
"RT @MaryMary Juz did #EarthHour! Luv th planet!"
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 7:49 AM on March 28, 2010


Kniobs?
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 7:50 AM on March 28, 2010


In Finland, at least one fatal traffic accident has been partially blamed on darkened streetlights.

Great success!
posted by lifeless at 7:57 AM on March 28, 2010 [1 favorite]


It is more difficult to play Mafia by candlelight. Just sayin.
posted by vortex genie 2 at 8:03 AM on March 28, 2010


From the embarassment link:

"I was to be at the India Gate function (Saturday evening) being the ambassador, and all, but prior shoot commitments would not allow me. I'm tucked away in Goa. I had sent a video message for all at the event, thanking them for their participation and support, but for some reason that couldn't be shown" Abhishek tweeted.

The Bachchan family has had a previous public episode of unintended humour.
posted by the cydonian at 8:05 AM on March 28, 2010


You know what would be really awesome? If we could use this thread to talk about really meaningful ways to fight the climate crisis, instead of just letting this thread turn into a snarkfest about the futility of small, symbolic action.

I'll start it off - demand that your utility stop using electricity from coal-burning power plants. James Hansen, NASA scientist and one of the top 2 or 3 climate change experts in the world, has said that coal is the single greatest threat to civilization and all life on our planet.

So that's my suggestion. What else?
posted by lunasol at 8:06 AM on March 28, 2010 [9 favorites]


I got this confused with national night out, so I turned on all my lights.
posted by fixedgear at 8:07 AM on March 28, 2010 [1 favorite]


where was this advertised? I'd never heard of it.
posted by desjardins at 8:15 AM on March 28, 2010


No. I'm saving the planet my own special way.
posted by seanyboy at 8:24 AM on March 28, 2010


...and so of course there was also this...
posted by damo at 8:24 AM on March 28, 2010


I turned the lights out at home and as symbolic as it may be, I believe every little bit counts.
posted by VickyR at 8:25 AM on March 28, 2010 [2 favorites]


re: My last comment.
Not the sodomy though. Oh dear god, it looks like I'm now boasting about anal sex and abortions. It's not. That's not what I meant at all.
posted by seanyboy at 8:27 AM on March 28, 2010


Did you remember to turn off your lights last night for Earth Hour ?

Why yes indeed, I most certainly did not.

In celebration of human ingenuity and of the startling advances made by Western technology, I powered-up every light in the house and flipped on several electric appliances, not to mention the HDTV and DVD player.

Congratulations to technical invention and to electricity, which have saved humanity!

Now if we could jettison the primitive mythologies and scary hobgoblins cultivated over the last 40 years, we could employ various forms of nuclear energy and move to the next levels of human endeavor.
posted by geeyore at 8:29 AM on March 28, 2010 [1 favorite]


where was this advertised?

They had a bunch of ads. Probably: the coolest one.

I would show you more, but I have to pedal my bicycle generator for twenty more minutes before I try.
posted by twoleftfeet at 8:29 AM on March 28, 2010


Turning lights off for Earth Hour is a great way to remind yourself of just how much power you use and demonstrate how people lived as recently as 100 years ago. At least that's what MY kids learned last night.
posted by DU at 8:33 AM on March 28, 2010 [8 favorites]


I kind of enjoyed watching the lights wink out on the George Washington Bridge. Yes, this is a bit silly and symbolic, but it was interesting to me to realize how the view out my living room window changed.
posted by sciencegeek at 8:36 AM on March 28, 2010


We live across the street from two government buildings. I would have felt pretty stupid sitting in the dark while every single light in every single vacant office was left on in those two buildings.

Plus, I didn't even know this until my son came home from school and told me we had to make sure all the lights were turned off at 8:30, which is an irritating thing for a teacher to do, because my son goes to bed at 8:30 anyways. All the lights are turned off in the house every night at that time, except for one energy-efficient fluorescent light in the living room, where I read a book.

And doesn't a fridge use more electricity than a lightbulb, anyway?
posted by KokuRyu at 8:41 AM on March 28, 2010


Shouldn't the rock 'n' roll have been "unplugged"?
posted by Jode at 8:42 AM on March 28, 2010 [1 favorite]


Every day I ride public transit to work and I drive a car that gets 45mpg. I recycle every bit of paper, plastic, glass, aluminum, etc that comes through my door. I harp on my friends to stop using plastic bags at stores, and even bought them reusable ones for their birthday (with a cupcake!). So when my sister texted me last night to turn off my lights for earth hour, I decided to just keep playing FF13, illuminated by my one CFL. Stuff like this lets people pat themselves on the back once in a while instead of being confronted with real change. I would love it if my city outlawed plastic carrier bags for a start.
posted by msbutah at 8:46 AM on March 28, 2010 [2 favorites]


Unless the rock'n'roll concert was acoustic, I'm not interested.

I think big, pompous concerts to raise awareness are a sham, and do more to increase awareness of the musicians participating. Do you remember what Live 8 or Live Aid were for? And if you do, can you remember how the world changed after those events? All I remember is that Björk played somewhere. Apparently it was in Japan with Good Charlotte (from USA) and Do As Infinity (from Japan!)

where was this advertised?

They had a bunch of ads. Probably: the coolest one.


The Amazon ad? Oh, it's a different stop-motion, shot laying down video. And his good deed for the day (in which he left the lights on while he was out, drove to work alone, walked on water (?), and dodged piles of paper (avoiding actual work? cheeky comment on how much useless paper is generated in most offices?), was he that when came back home, he then turned off the light and cheered for himself?

It's just as empty as the rest of the parade of self-congratulation hidden behind the notion of doing some small good in front of everyone else. Now if you don't mind, I have to go now. I'll turn off the lights, but leave my computer on, and I'll drive myself a distance I could cross by bus or bike, but I'm running late so I'll drive myself. But hey, I'll be driving a hybrid car, so that counts for something, right?
posted by filthy light thief at 8:48 AM on March 28, 2010


I see the cynics are out in full force on this one, but for the rest of us:

The lights here at Matty's Rancho Relaxo went out for an hour, as did the tv, the computer and any other appliance other than the fridge that was an electrical vampire.

Did we 'suffer' in the dark? Not at all! Lit some candles, had some drinks, and ended up having a naughty 'ol time in the sheets.

THAT's how you make a symbolic sacrifice.
posted by matty at 8:49 AM on March 28, 2010 [2 favorites]


Can anyone with knowledge of power generation/distribution provide some input here? I took a class on energy markets a while back where I learned, among other things, that electricity spot prices can go negative when demand is low, e.g. it's more economical for the power companies to pay someone to receive the power they generate than to turn off the generators and start them up again since that's actually quite expensive.

What kind of effect would something like Earth Hour have where power demand suddenly drops to near-zero then spikes up again?
posted by pravit at 8:55 AM on March 28, 2010


I'm surprised you left out a picture of the perennial champion of Earth Hour: North Korea. No symbolic gesture there.
posted by reformedjerk at 8:56 AM on March 28, 2010


If you're sitting there with lights on that don't need to be on, you're an idiot. If you need a light on and you're sitting there in the dark when you could switch the light on, you're an idiot. As far as I can sse, all Earth hour achieves is to demonstrate how much unnecessary light we waste on all sorts of major buildings, and the sheer imbecility of people who are happy to join in turning off lights to bring themselves some social kudos then are quite happy to turn them right back on straight after and behave exactly as they were before.
posted by biffa at 8:58 AM on March 28, 2010 [1 favorite]


The supermarket was sold out of tea lights, and when 8.30 rolled around none of my neighbour's lights went out so I was like, whatever.
Sitting alone in the dark for an hour sure wasn't going to make me feel good 'n smug about anything.
posted by Flashman at 9:09 AM on March 28, 2010


What's the efficiency of candles versus cfl or incandescent bulbs?
posted by Lemurrhea at 9:18 AM on March 28, 2010


This post is a day late and an hour short.
posted by cjorgensen at 9:20 AM on March 28, 2010


I never leave my lights off. You never know when Belinda Carlisle will be here before I close the door, to give me all the love that I need.
posted by soundofsuburbia at 9:22 AM on March 28, 2010


Ha! Matty's comment and the North Korea comment reminded me that South Korea actually forced the lights off in order to boost the population. I'm wondering if we can trace population spikes in first-world countries to Earth Hour and calculate the actual environmental damage caused by said increases in the population.

(We need to remove any dead Finnish from our population calculations)
posted by seanyboy at 9:29 AM on March 28, 2010


What kind of effect would something like Earth Hour have where power demand suddenly drops to near-zero then spikes up again?

The grid operator in Ontario put up an earth hour web page that shows the actual demand compared to demand on a typical Saturday. Their final estimate is that demand was reduced by about 4%, and from the graph on that page it's easy to see it doesn't really spike up again after earth hour is over.

So, they would have had to make some minor adjustments to supply to keep things balanced, but nothing out of the ordinary given that demand normally declines during that part of the day anyway.
posted by FishBike at 9:40 AM on March 28, 2010 [2 favorites]


I made the foolish mistake of looking at Freerepublic.com yesterday and there was a thread with commenters encouraging each other to TURN ON ALL YER 'LECTRIC APPLIANCES TO SHOW THOSE DANG LIBRULZ! They were reporting how they had on every single appliance they could find their house for an hour, including repeatedly running garage door openers. My face was firmly in palm well before I reached the end of the conversation.
posted by Kraftmatic Adjustable Cheese at 9:45 AM on March 28, 2010


oddly, my computer shut down while reading this thread. not making this up.
posted by desjardins at 10:10 AM on March 28, 2010


I don't think the planet is going to kill us off any later now that we turned the lights off for an hour. It will destroy us when it sees fit and no sooner and no later.
posted by ReeMonster at 10:38 AM on March 28, 2010


I'm an non-conformist so I went ALL-LIGHTS-ON
posted by republican at 10:57 AM on March 28, 2010


Heh - we were too busy to remember - we were washing the dogs. This entails not one, but two 1800-watt blow-dryers...
posted by jkaczor at 11:05 AM on March 28, 2010


I try not to keep any unnecessary lights/appliances on anyway. And my TV was off, so I forgot. I wish I had remembered, even if it is an empty gesture for many people.

But if "earth hour" is being used in schools to teach kids some of the things that DU did, then it's possible that it is making a difference in some small manner, as just a start to teaching kids to be more careful about energy use. And honestly, we have to start somewhere. It is also so much easier when something like moderating energy use becomes a habit early on, rather than trying to get people to change how they do things when they are set in their ways.

I'm originally from Sweden, where people are very environmentally conscious generally (e.g. recycling is government mandated, and there are even garbage spies who make sure you put your recyclables in the right container). There are lots of programs there for kids try to teach them to take care of nature and to be aware of how people's actions affect the environment. I think of the "Forest Mulle" program, for example, as my indoctrination into recycling and not littering. And all the kids did it, so it became the socially accepted norm NOT to litter. I am conditioned to the point where I can barely make myself throw litter on the ground, even if I know I will pick it up later. With time, the social norms of not littering became just part of how everyone behaved. And that kind of indoctrination and societal pressure is what it's going to take to change things, IMHO.
posted by gemmy at 11:14 AM on March 28, 2010 [8 favorites]


Earth hour was a reminder of how nice it can be to sit quietly in candlelight every once in a while. I should do it more often.
posted by sevenyearlurk at 11:29 AM on March 28, 2010


I live in downtown Vancouver, and turned off all the lights at 8:30 and went out for a walk because my wife insisted. I don't think Robson Street got the memo. It's probably the same in most downtowns around the world, as bright neon lights and late weekend business hours are still profitable.
posted by Kirk Grim at 11:50 AM on March 28, 2010


You didn't really expect me to miss March Madness...
posted by Cranberry at 11:54 AM on March 28, 2010


What's the efficiency of candles versus cfl or incandescent bulbs?

It's much worse, apparently:
It would be much better if the candle were shoved in a 40%-efficient power station to make electricity and electric light instead.
Taken from here.
posted by Bangaioh at 11:57 AM on March 28, 2010


So environmentally conscious people around the world took an hour to turn off their light bulbs and replace them with candles - the least efficient light source possible?

We need to re-think this.

Maybe take the 20 bucks you spent on candles and replace a light bulb with an LED bulb?

Instead of mocking Earth Hour, let's fix it. Who's with me?

Nobody?

OK, whatever.
posted by swellingitchingbrain at 11:58 AM on March 28, 2010


I forgot to turn all the lights off. To offset this guilt, today I'll shut the clothes dryer off 6 minutes earlier, enough to offset the power from 10 normal bulbs for that hour.
posted by l2p at 12:02 PM on March 28, 2010


Seems like more success can be found by taking the same kind of approach that works for budgeting cash. Specifically, make single changes, and stick with them, until you are left only with those changes you're not in a position to make.

For example: every time a light bulb burns out in my house, I go CFL. My wife refused to replace everything with CFL at once, because she didn't like the light quality, but as I slipped them in one at a time she decided it wasn't really so bad. It's been a few years now, and our electricity bills are definitely down. Similarly, we've gone to a front-loading washing machine, on the rare occasion we replace a car a boost in fuel economy is a must, and whenever I can get away with it I keep the furnace/AC off and the windows open. We've taken the same approach with our lawn, reducing its size, replacing it with water-efficient grass, and so on.*

Efforts like the lights out night are interesting, but unsustainable, because you're asking for a big change for a short time. Little changes, made and sustainable, add up to big improvements over time. Also, much like small lifestyle improvements quickly add up into things that feel like must-haves, small lifestyle reductions quickly add up to big change without a big deal.

*yes I know it would be best to drop the lawn; there are significant issues with that, where I live, but we're doing what we can
posted by davejay at 12:03 PM on March 28, 2010


I shut the lights off at the Bromo Seltzer Arts Tower in Baltimore last night, but it's not so easy in a large landmark like the tower, where there are five completely separate timers and control mechanisms, spread out over twenty-two stories, so my Earth Hour started at 8:25, 8:29, 8:35, 8:38, and 8:42 and ended with a similar spread. The worst part was that the mechanical timer for the lights in the clock faces is a brutal heavy brass steampunk-looking thing that I taped up with eight layers of tightly-bound duct tape, and it still managed to break loose early and restart the clock lights at some undetermined time without my intervention.

Seeing as I was on the verge of fainting from climbing the last seven floors on steep ladder/stairs, I opted to stay on the roof of the tower, 288 feet over Lombard and Eutaw Streets, for the duration, and watched the city going on its way around me. No other large building killed their lights, alas (particularly the old Baltimore Trust Company tower/Bank of America building, our only real rival for pride of place on the skyline, the brightly-lit SOBs), making me wonder if people would just assume some kind of electrical failure was involved and blame the facility manager (me). The air was clean and brisk and the sky as full of stars as you can expect in Baltimore, so I put on my mp3 player and a nice playlist of mid-seventies funk and spent an hour dancing over the disco-ball tabletop of the city, surrounded by helicopter fireflies.

Fire trucks came and went, in one case racing to a fire in West Baltimore that I could see clearly from my vantage point, and the Shock Trauma helicopter lifted off from the hospital below to rescue someone, and the funk kept on keepin' on. Almost at the end, a single police helicopter buzzed the tower, catching me in the twitchy blue-white light of the perp-spotter beam, and a stern voice barked out of the beating cacophony of the churning blades—

"What are you doing?"

I shrugged and yelled back, "I'm dancing!"

I'm sure they didn't hear me, but they buzzed off nonetheless. I grooved along till 9:29, then switched over to "One More Night" by Can and started the long, slow climb back to earth. I can't imagine I did much for the world, on the whole, but still.
posted by sonascope at 12:21 PM on March 28, 2010 [124 favorites]


My lights are off right now! They were also off last night, but that's because I wasn't home.
posted by !Jim at 12:23 PM on March 28, 2010


I haven't turned my computer on for a whole day!

oh, shit
posted by yhbc at 1:30 PM on March 28, 2010 [2 favorites]


Turning lights off for Earth Hour is a great way to remind yourself of just how much power you use and demonstrate how people lived as recently as 100 years ago.

No, it's a monumentally superficial and fictitious depiction of 100 years ago.

To get the genuine and honest effect, one needs to turn off the the central home heating, and fire up a coal (or wood) stove and a few whale oil lamps.

The self-deception and dishonesty of Earth hour is staggering.
posted by geeyore at 1:38 PM on March 28, 2010


Count me among the cynics. The premise behind it (and most eco-activism) is defending the planet against human activities, but the reality is that the immediate effects of global warming disproportionately affect the poor. Leftist activists' pseudo-libertarian rhetoric of freedom of choice, respect for the Other & enlightened hedonism doesn't open up much space for addressing inequality. So ecology is approached on romantic aesthetic terms, protecting the pristine purity and balance of nature, or treating nature as an Other who must be respected rather than dominated, etc.

Timothy Morton wrote a very interesting book called Ecology Without Nature which says that this kind of fetishizing of nature perpetuates the same assumptions it tries to critique.

Another interesting thing about this form of consumer choice activism is how it presents itself as an alternative to top-down authoritarian solutions imposed by the government, and yet it only works by becoming in a way, even more authoritarian. The idea is that everyone should make the correct consumer choice, which means that choice is no longer a matter of taste, with no moral significance attached to it. All the usual undemocratic tools of social control, like shame, guilt, taboos and ostracizing are used to enforce the environmentally friendly norm, but this approach is undermined by the ideal of respect for Otherness, which says these tools should not be used to enforce moral codes.
posted by AlsoMike at 1:51 PM on March 28, 2010


I made the foolish mistake of looking at Freerepublic.com yesterday and there was a thread with commenters encouraging each other to TURN ON ALL YER 'LECTRIC APPLIANCES TO SHOW THOSE DANG LIBRULZ!

You don't have to go all that way to find that. As can be seen upthread, Mefi has its share of tedious third-rate Sam Kinison tribute bands who are prepared to deploy their cutting bon mots every year about running the blender for an hour solid, hurf hurf hurf. I assume these are the same people who keep a macro of "PETA= People Eating Tasty Animals!!" loaded for the next time the word "vegetarian" appears on their screen.

Earth Hour is essentially a scheduled, voluntary blackout. I was visiting family in a major city during the unscheduled involuntary blackout in the Northeast in 2003. What would have been an undistinguished Thursday night became -- and I do not deploy this word lightly -- magical. Downtown in the absence of traffic lights, I saw volunteers taking turns standing in intersections acting as traffic cops; grateful drivers handed them bottles of water and small gifts. After dark on the residential streets, people sat on their porches and chatted with the neighbours they had barely spoken to before, then ended up inviting them over to barbecues to cook the thawing meat in the freezer. Traffic was light, and cars crept along at a crawl. I listened to kids playing in the streets, a sound I haven't heard since about the time the Nintendo 64 hit stores. I ended up playing chess by lamplight with a friend that night, then we wandered over to his place to haul out his telescope to look at the single powered building in sight, the hospital. Walking home around midnight, I could see attempts to get the power up and running in the office towers downtown: buildings would suddenly blaze out of the darkness, flicker for a couple of seconds, and vanish again. I am the most cynical bastard many of you will ever know, but I will remember that day until they shovel the dirt on me. The Thursday before and after have long since vanished into the vast and indifferent in-between.

The general feeling among my friends and family is "We should do this every year." and hey presto a few years later I found a way to recreate this in some small degree. I am happy to do it.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 3:55 PM on March 28, 2010 [16 favorites]


Kraftmatic Adjustable Cheese: I made the foolish mistake of looking at Freerepublic.com yesterday and there was a thread with commenters encouraging each other to TURN ON ALL YER 'LECTRIC APPLIANCES TO SHOW THOSE DANG LIBRULZ!

There's an awesome slacktivist post on climate change ("Few are guilty, all are responsible") speculating that this kind of anger and self-righteousness is caused by defensiveness.
It might be helpful to look at this through the lens of a textbook example from Ethics 101: The Drowning Stranger.

"A man is drowning near the end of the dock," the professor says. "What is your responsibility?"

"I didn't push him in!" the student says, with abrupt, vehement anger.

From the professor's perspective, this anger is strangely out of place, but for the student it seems justified. The student, instinctively, heard the question of responsibility as an accusation of blame. And, for what it's worth, the student's statement is correct. He didn't push the hypothetical stranger off of the hypothetical dock.

The problem, of course, is that the student's response -- standing by as the stranger drowns while adamantly insisting on his blamelessness -- is itself so irresponsible as to incur the very guilt the student set out to deny. Very well, he didn't push the man in, but he did just stand there and watch the man drown without lifting a finger to save him.

First let's get the poor hypothetical stranger out of the water and then we can deal with the question of who was to blame for causing his predicament.
Paradoxically, when people are standing around blaming each other, nobody wants to actually take action to solve the problem--it's like an admission of guilt. Instead they usually resort to counter-blaming ("look how much energy Al Gore is using!").

Leaving the psychological and political aspects aside, it shouldn't actually be that complicated and disruptive to solve the problem of greenhouse gases.

Of course greenhouse gases aren't the only environmental problem there is. In general, if a resource is being over-consumed, the first thing to check is whether the price of the resource is too low.
posted by russilwvong at 4:48 PM on March 28, 2010 [9 favorites]


The premise behind it (and most eco-activism) is defending the planet against human activities, but the reality is that the immediate effects of global warming disproportionately affect the poor. Leftist activists' pseudo-libertarian rhetoric of freedom of choice, respect for the Other & enlightened hedonism doesn't open up much space for addressing inequality. So ecology is approached on romantic aesthetic terms, protecting the pristine purity and balance of nature, or treating nature as an Other who must be respected rather than dominated, etc.

I'm not sure which "eco-activists" you're talking about, because most serious environmental activists take a collective rather than individual approach; ie, lobbying the government for stronger regulations or campaigning to get corporations to curb their emissions. And most climate activists I know (and I work in this field, so I know a lot) talk almost exclusively about the impacts on humans, because this is what most people care about.

Actually, this has been something of a source of tension within the American evironmental movement, which has traditionally been all about public lands and charismatic megafauna. Now that most of the funding and energy is being put towards climate change, many of the old-school lands folks feel a bit shut out. I think this is by necessity, since climate change poses an existential threat to those very lands, as well as to humans, but I can understand why they'd feel shut out.

So you see why I'm baffled by your statement, because it's exactly the opposite of what I see around me every day in my work.
posted by lunasol at 4:51 PM on March 28, 2010 [3 favorites]


AlsoMike said": "So ecology is approached on romantic aesthetic terms... treating nature as an Other who must be respected rather than dominated, etc.... fetishizing of nature."

Thanks AlsoMike, I was going to say much the same thing, in particular that much of today's professed environmentalism looks to be some sort of Gaian fetish, bordering on a kind of weird cargo cultism. "Geoengineering," as one example, is something plausible only to complete crackpots yet is taken seriously by the Greens.

And the latent moral authoritarianism that has always been part of the Green movement is, unfortunately, becoming less and less latent recently.

I'm all for changing our energy supplies and keeping the air, water, and planet clean (to the extent that we are able), but the direction of the Greens in recent years has become completely insane.
posted by geeyore at 6:04 PM on March 28, 2010


sonascope said: "I shut the lights off at the Bromo Seltzer Arts Tower in Baltimore last night...I can't imagine I did much for the world, on the whole, but still."

How fitting that on another March 27 Robert Irsay "shut the lights off" on another great Baltimore tradition, the Colts.

I hope you realize that the Bromo Tower means a lot to a great many Baltimoreans, like me for example.

45+ years ago, when I was a little kid, the Bromo Tower always was a comforting sign that "We're home again, finally."

I hope you don't repeat your weird ritual of "triumph" again next year, it's truly an insult to Baltimore.
posted by geeyore at 6:23 PM on March 28, 2010


Thank you ricochet biscuit. It is depressing that so few can see the value of darkness. Earth Hour doesn't save anything. It is an opportunity, missed by most, to consider what is being done. Everything has evolved under the condition of alternating light and dark. That it is no longer dark at night has consequences. Outdoor lighting can reduce security. That the highways of this planet can be seen from space should suggest that there is a lot of wasted lighting here. Turning out a light for an hour to see what happens is not anti-progress. Progress is retarded by those who mock the ones who are experimenting; those who insist that what has been done must be right because it has been done; those who think doing it again harder is the way forward.
posted by llc at 6:23 PM on March 28, 2010 [1 favorite]


It's easy to get all hepped up about the triviality of Earth Hour and its goals - super easy, because its physical contribution is so small. However, this ignores the currency of ideas. The people (arguably the only people) who can stop climate change, and in the process save billions of lives - human and other - are not citizens, but governments and politicians.

In this regard, the darkness of Earth Hour becomes its opposite: a blazing nova, proclaiming, not "We're saving the planet by doing this!", but rather, "We want YOU to save the planet. Look at this darkness, my vote and my family's vote is hiding in this darkness, and you may never see it in the light again if you do not heed the message. Legislate, fund, acknowledge and react to this message, and the message that the Earth is telling you." Frankly, I think that's an important message to share.

Whilst individual responsibility is an important element of climate change, its precedence is at the same time a furphy put forward by denialists. Governments must make this shift, and every reason we can give them to listen to us is a good thing in my book.
posted by smoke at 7:20 PM on March 28, 2010 [1 favorite]


Well, I moved back from the US to Chile about 8 years ago. That cut my environmental footprint by like 80%, compounded over 8 years. I think I'm good leaving the energy saving lights on for an hour.
posted by signal at 8:08 PM on March 28, 2010


Well, I moved back from the US to Chile about 8 years ago. That cut my environmental footprint by like 80%, compounded over 8 years.

That would depend on how you live there, no? Living like a first-world person is living like a first-world person in either country, just like living in a dense area and using fewer resources is better regardless of which hemisphere you are in. Chile's big advantage is its low population density, and the fact that it is hyper-urbanized (one of the highest rates of urbanization in the world, I think) -- so you have all the people crammed together in urban areas and most of the country left, if not alone, at least available for mining, agriculture, or other environmentally ambiguous non-urban uses.
posted by Forktine at 8:14 PM on March 28, 2010


"Geoengineering," as one example, is something plausible only to complete crackpots yet is taken seriously by the Greens.

what

the direction of the Greens in recent years has become completely insane.

Spotlight fallacy?
posted by Bangaioh at 12:46 AM on March 29, 2010


geeyore: I'm all for changing our energy supplies and keeping the air, water, and planet clean (to the extent that we are able)--

I'm glad to hear it. Atmospheric CO2 is now higher than it's been for 15 million years. Here's what the Aqua/Atmospheric Infrared Sounder shows.

Since atmospheric CO2 traps heat, the more we add, the faster warming will occur. The Arctic temperature record shows a sharp increase over the last 100 years. Arctic sea ice is shrinking even faster than projected.

Again, I'm not saying that WE'RE ALL DOOMED, or that we need to turn off the heat and light and freeze in the dark, or whatever. Summary of actions required.
posted by russilwvong at 12:21 PM on March 29, 2010


That would depend on how you live there, no?

Chile has over 80% urbanization rate. I live in downtown-ish Santiago, within 15 minutes walking distance from my office and from the university I teach at. In the US, I lived in Berkeley but commuted every day to Napa, driving 1 hour each way on highways. Plus there's the whole not living in the country that consumes 25% of the world's energy thing.

So yeah, I feel ok leaving my lights on for an extra hour.
posted by signal at 12:39 PM on March 29, 2010


of the startling advances made by Western technology

"Western" technology? All the chips in those HDTVs/DVD players/etc. are all NEC, Toshiba, Sharp, Sony, etc. All the stuff in your computer was made probably made and designed in Taiwan.
posted by DecemberBoy at 6:16 PM on March 29, 2010


(Well, except the CPU, which was most likely either made by Intel, AMD or Motorola, "Western" all, but we're splitting hairs here)
posted by DecemberBoy at 6:17 PM on March 29, 2010


I totally forgot about this, but most of my lights were off anyway because my circuit breaker started making ominous crackling noises whenever I tried to flip it back on (fixed now).
posted by BrotherCaine at 10:01 PM on March 29, 2010


russilwvong said: Again, I'm not saying that WE'RE ALL DOOMED

Err.... yes you are. And by the way, the Arctic sea ice extent was up in 2009; "Arctic temperatures" do not equate to "global climate change"; and in any case Antarctic temperatures are down....again; and finally there is not one single peer-reviewed scientific study that proves the hypothesis of accelerated warming due to CO2, and in fact the empirical evidence of the last decade+ actually disproves that theory.

Quite frankly not much at all is actually known about "global climate" and certainly even less about "climate change" in the manner asserted by AGW proponents.

However we all know that there is, has been, and will continue to be natural climate change, because that is what our planet does.
posted by geeyore at 5:01 AM on March 30, 2010


DecemberBoy said: "Western" technology? All the chips in those HDTVs/DVD players/etc. are all NEC, Toshiba, Sharp, Sony, etc. All the stuff in your computer was made probably made and designed in Taiwan.

Which one of those technologies was invented and commercialized in anywhere other than the West? Name one.

In fact the entire concept of modern manufacturing was invented and cultivated in the West.

Ask Japan about W. Edwards Deming.
posted by geeyore at 5:11 AM on March 30, 2010


@geeyore - It wasn't actually my idea to shut off the lights at Bromo--I'm one of the skeptics on the whole "grand gesture" front--but some official rulings aren't within my purview to ignore, so off the lights went.

That said, I had to hear my relatives rant about Bob Irsay for decades (or "Bob Fucking Irsay," to be more precise), though I was more sympathetic before Baltimore stole another city's ball team, then knocked down Memorial Stadium and sold the name of the new stadium to one evil company after another.

You'll be pleased to know, though, that the Tower is now in completely sympathetic hands (mine), and I'm working my backside off to undo years of neglect and get Bromo back into the public consciousness. Come around and visit at one of our Open Studio Days sometime (the next one's on Saturday, April 3rd, from 1-5pm).
posted by sonascope at 10:37 AM on March 30, 2010 [2 favorites]


Man, I'm so glad that the sidebar directed me to the Sonascope post.
posted by codacorolla at 3:22 PM on March 30, 2010


geeyore, literally everything you said in that paragraph is the opposite of the truth. I have never seen so many crappy denialist lies in such a condensed space.

I have linked to some facts, you may with to educate yourself with. It doesn't have the frothy, outraged tone of the denialist blogs you no doubt get your talking points from, but by way of contrast, it's true, so it has that going for it.

Arctic ice has recovered (it hasn't)

Anatarctic Ice is growing (it's not)

This is all part of a natural cycle (it's not)

The only people who don't believe in imminent catastrophic global warming at this stage are cranks, stooges, and the gullible. You should be embarrassed to post that nonsense here.
posted by smoke at 3:23 PM on March 30, 2010 [2 favorites]


In some parts of Canada, there is something you can do - get bullfrog power
posted by 5_13_23_42_69_666 at 12:39 AM on March 31, 2010


geeyore: Err.... yes you are.

No, I'm not. I have a lot of confidence in modern science and technology, and I don't think it'll be that difficult to replace fossil fuels with non-CO2-emitting energy (nuclear, renewables, coal with carbon sequestration), over the course of 10 years or so. I don't see a lot of impact in terms of people's day to day lives. Do you really care if your car is gas-powered or a plug-in hybrid, or if your electricity comes from burning coal or from nuclear power?

there is not one single peer-reviewed scientific study that proves the hypothesis of accelerated warming due to CO2

Not sure what you'd consider to be "proof"--studies can provide evidence confirming a theory, they can't "prove" it. Spencer Weart summarizes the various discoveries:
... Minor constituents like water vapor and carbon dioxide gas (CO2) had been found to intercept heat radiation.[7] Theorists pointed out that the result would be what later came to be named (misleadingly) a greenhouse effect, an obstruction in the outflow of radiant energy that keeps the planet's surface warmer than it would be without an atmosphere.[8] If the composition of the atmosphere was to change - e.g., if over the course of many millennia the emission of gases from the world's volcanoes increased or decreased - it could eventually change the planet's temperature. Was this the solution to that famous scientific problem, the origin of ice ages? Attracted by the puzzle, a prominent Swedish physical chemist, Svante Arrhenius, calculated how much cooling would result from cutting the atmosphere's CO2 level in half.

A colleague, Arvid Högbom, brought Arrhenius a strange new thought. Högbom had calculated that human factories and other industrial activities were adding CO2 to the atmosphere at a rate that was comparable to the natural processes. To be sure, the gas released from the burning of coal in the year 1896 would raise the level in the atmosphere by scarcely a thousandth part, but over the course of centuries it might build up to a significant level.[9-11] Arrhenius attempted to calculate the consequences of doubling the CO2 in the atmosphere, and in 1896 announced it would raise the Earth's temperature some 5-6°C.[10][12-15] A little extra warmth some centuries in the future did not sound like a bad idea in chilly Sweden. ...

... a handful of scientists took a mild interest in greenhouse warming as a topic for research. By 1910 they all set it aside. Arrhenius's idea looked implausible on several grounds. In particular, laboratory measurements seemed to prove that in the part of the infrared spectrum where CO2 interfered with radiation, the existing CO2 and also water vapor were already blocking the radiation so thoroughly that more gas could make little difference: the absorption was saturated. Moreover, Arrhenius had overlooked many important phenomena, such as how cloudiness might change if the Earth got a little warmer and thus more humid. Given the universal belief in a self-stabilizing balance of nature, it seemed probable that cloudiness would increase until it reflected enough sunlight to maintain the status quo. Another geophysical stabilizer was seawater, for a simple calculation showed that the oceans would absorb most of the gas that we added to the atmosphere.

... the physicist Gilbert Plass took up the question. In 1956 he showed, more convincingly than Callendar had been able to do, that the old supposed proof that the absorption of infrared radiation was saturated was a complete misunderstanding of how radiant energy works its way through the atmosphere. Plass calculated that doubling the CO2 level would bring a 3-4° rise; assuming emissions would continue at the current rate, he expected about one degree of warming per century. Other scientists found that Plass's calculation, like Arrhenius's, was too crude to give reliable numbers. But they also saw that the possibility of greenhouse warming could no longer be dismissed.[32][33]

Another supposed proof that humans could not cause greenhouse warming had relied on the fact that the oceans absorb CO2. Learning of Plass's work, the oceanographer Roger Revelle took a close look at seawater. To be sure, eventually most of the carbon that humanity added to the air would end up precipitated on the sea floor - but how long was eventually? In 1957, Revelle calculated that it would take a few centuries for the oceans to absorb CO2 added to the atmosphere, and remarked that the accumulation of gas may become significant during future decades if industrial fuel combustion continues to rise exponentially.[34] Two Swedish meteorologists, Bert Bolin and Erik Eriksson, clarified Revelle's cryptic chemical argument and proceeded to a striking calculation: with industrial production climbing exponentially, the atmospheric CO2 level would rise by 25% as early as the year 2000.[35]
You do know that CO2 traps heat, right? This is a physical property of CO2 which can be directly observed. Steven Dutch:
... we have an atmospheric gas, carbon dioxide, that is known to be effective at trapping solar heat. You can shine infrared light through carbon dioxide and measure the absorption. You can fill a transparent vessel with carbon dioxide, put it in the sun, and compare its temperature with an equivalent vessel of air.
Given that the level of atmospheric CO2 is continuing to increase, what do you think is going to happen?

Dutch again:
We live in a universe of patterns. Once a pattern is established, the burden of proof is on people who claim the pattern does not hold. When some philosopher of science points out that we cannot prove that the sun will rise tomorrow, I say he's absolutely right. There is no way to prove axiomatically that the sun will rise tomorrow, and nobody in science cares in the slightest. When the sun doesn't rise as scheduled, call me. Until then I absolutely refuse to waste time worrying about it. When Immanuel Velikovsky claimed the planets underwent wild disturbances in their orbits, the burden of proof was on him to show that it happened. The burden was not on scientists to show it didn't.

... we have a clear record of carbon dioxide increasing in the last couple of centuries and pretty solid evidence the climate is actually getting warmer. In fact, if you do a search of the Reader's Guide to Periodical Literature over the last 70 years, the vast majority of references to climate change - long before the controversy erupted - are to warming.

So, we have increases in a gas known to trap solar heat, and indications of climatic warming. Straightforward cause and effect reasoning suggests the one caused the other. If you woke up uncomfortably hot in the middle of the night and found someone had put an extra blanket over you, you'd logically conclude the blanket caused the warming. You wouldn't argue that your getting warm caused the blanket to appear on the bed, or that the two events were unrelated, or that there was no reason to connect the blanket and the warming.

So people who doubt the cause and effect link have work to do:

* If they don't believe carbon dioxide traps heat, what's their evidence? Give step by step physical justification for the claim that increasing carbon dioxide will not warm the earth.
* If they give more credence to studies that doubt global warming, why? Specifically, why are those particular studies more credible than studies that support global warming?

Notwithstanding all the unsolved problems in climate modeling and establishing past global temperatures, the fact that climate is getting warmer and carbon dioxide is increasing makes for a straightforward case of cause and effect. The burden of proof is on people who doubt the cause and effect relationship to show either that the cause-effect relation does not hold, or that some other process is responsible. Not raise questions or cast doubts - prove.
And by the way, the Arctic sea ice extent was up in 2009; "Arctic temperatures" do not equate to "global climate change"; and in any case Antarctic temperatures are down....again...

The Arctic temperature record is particularly interesting for a couple of reasons. One, you can see the Medieval Warm Period on it! (Until about 100 years ago, the Arctic was gradually cooling.) Two, as the Arctic ice melts, there'll be positive feedbacks--open water absorbs more solar energy than ice.

I'm not sure I'd try to disprove global warming using the Antarctic. The Antarctic ice sheet is losing mass at an accelerating rate.

However we all know that there is, has been, and will continue to be natural climate change, because that is what our planet does.

Ah yes, the geological perspective. Lab Lemming:
From a geologic point of view, carbon dioxide is irrelevant to climate. This is because the CO2 will simply accelerate silicate weathering, drawing it out of the atmosphere and eventually precipitating it as carbonate.

While there may be transient effects, the timescale of those effects is too fine to resolve geologically, so they aren’t worth worrying about.

As for the effects of climate on the biota, that too is irrelevant. Species go extinct all the time, and when they do, something else radiates into their niche.

So from the planetary perspective, this whole CO2 thing is just another blip like the PETM. In a few million years, it will be nothing but a curiosity. Narrow-minded activists interested in the survival of particular subgroups such as ice-dwelling pinnipeds or bipedal primates might complain, but to what end? We’re all headed for the fossil record eventually, so changing the extinction time of a particular group by a few tens of kiloyears isn’t going to be detectable in the long run.
posted by russilwvong at 2:33 PM on March 31, 2010 [1 favorite]


smoke said: "The only people who don't believe in imminent catastrophic global warming at this stage are cranks, stooges, and the gullible.

I thought it was called "man-made imminent catastrophic global warming."
posted by geeyore at 2:48 PM on March 31, 2010


there is not one single peer-reviewed scientific study that proves the hypothesis of accelerated warming due to CO2

Maybe this is what you're looking for (summarized here). If atmospheric CO2 doubles, the radiative forcing is 3.7 watts per square meter. Estimates of the resulting increase in temperature, based on past temperature records, appear to be around 3 degrees Celsius. (With no positive or negative feedbacks, e.g. that warmer air holds more water vapor, the temperature increase would be 1.2 degrees Celsius.)
posted by russilwvong at 3:50 PM on March 31, 2010


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