It goes without saying that I think the Red State response to Earth Hour was ridiculous, and I have spent the last few days having my email bombarded by A.C. Kleinheider about whether or not Al Gore left his lights on or not, but what I really don’t understand is why they think this is an effective way to raise public support for environmental causes.
Let me break it down for you. People don’t want to sit in the dark for an hour in 2009. Period.
I am all in favor of efforts to promote the health of the environment. I will pay higher taxes on fossil fuels. I will support investment in green technologies. I will support investments in biofuels and alternative energy. I will support higher CAFE standards and substantial investments in mass transit. I will support efforts to protect endangered species, wetlands, and to preserve pristine tracts of land. I will reside in an eco-friendly abode as soon as it is economically feasible. I recycle. I use reusable bags when I shop. I will carpool. I’ll do all of that, and I am sure I will do more.
But I’m not going to sit in the damned dark for an hour. That is just silly.
I made a pretty good time of it…
What do you have against turning off the lights when you sleep?
But I’m not going to sit in the damned dark for an hour. That is just silly.
You… you… DENIALIST.
I did it. *shrug* It doesn’t get dark until 8 anyway.
What did you do the other 58 minutes?
It’d make more sense if they tied it into light pollution.
Since Saturday was a New Moon, just about, I was going to point my telescope at Saturn during that hour, hoping the light pollution from Boston would be reduced a bit.
Unfortunately, it was foggy and I couldn’t see anything and my upstairs neighbor’s toilet was overflowing into my bathroom. So no joy.
I liveblogged the shit out of Earth Hour and had fantastic time! Stop being so negative!
Next time set your telescope outside of your bathroom.
Quaker in a Basement
Well, March isn’t the ideal time of year for this sort of thing.
I’ll happily sit in the dark–outdoors–if only I don’t freeze.
Since moving to NC in Dec of ’06, I’ve endured more involuntary hours in the dark then I did in all of my 10 years in CO where they have excuses for power outages, like sudden dumps of snow measured in feet, not inches. Can’t recall losing power there more than twice, tops. I’m with John. I’m not doing it voluntarily. (With the annual excepetion of one "lights out" hour on Christmas Eve when I play Joni Mitchell’s "Blue" and sob. But that’s special.)
I am not with John on the carpooling. I understand it involves being trapped in a small space with other people? I will donate money, pay more money, and recycle every single thing that’s eligible. I’m not sitting in the damn dark of my own free will. Period.
But I’m not going to sit in the damned dark for an hour. That is just silly.
Yeah. Between my commuting on foot, using compact fluorescents, driving a hybrid, and – most importantly of all – not having children, I figure I’m doing my bit environmentally enough to avoid goofy promotional nonsense like Earth Hour. To be honest, I forgot all about it.
Seriously? So you had access to primitive amenities like high speed internet and a computer with either fabulous battery life or an electrical outlet that was functioning, but just did it all with the house lights off?
I guess I could deal with that, then. Next year!
Edit: Hey! If that was snark, you totally got me. It was good!
Edit 2: yeah. Not having Kids! That’s worth a lot of recycled wine bottles!
jake 4 that 1
I thought Earth Hour involved shutting off or dimming the lights on major landmarks. Unless you have Tunch wrapped in Christmas lights, I believe you were excused from the exercise.
And rail, dammitt! Support High-speed intercity rail combined with investments in local light- and heavy-rail. Use models like the development of the Docklands and the DLR by the TfL (Public-Private Development, Brownfield reclamation, urban redevelopment, etc.). Reduce dependence on inefficient air and car travel. emphasize benefits to riders non-riders (i.e. less people on your roads, in your skies, kidly let the DFH’s remove themselves from your presence, etc.).
Rail! Rail! Ra-Ack!
What a world! What a world!
Well, then screw "support" – an enormous amount of energy was actually saved. (Cool, clickable photos at 2nd link.) Maybe we should do it once a week. You could just go for a walk, or something.
The Other Steve
What made eHour all the more annoying was the obnoxious eInsurance commercials.
Aw, see now, that’s just letting the idiots win!
So don’t turn off all your lights, just turn off your lights and shit that you aren’t using at that time. And turn your outside lights off so that people like Jon H and me can escape some light pollution for just a little bit of time.
The sentiment goes in the right direction, but you’re right that the implementation doesn’t really make sense.
The biggest problems, or so I think, with getting people to conserve energy come from the idea that drastic steps are needed to make a difference. I just took a shower, and for the ten minutes or so I was in there, I took it without the lights on. Granted, this was possible because light was still shining through the window, and it’s not anything huge, but every little bit helps. Similarly, I’ll have all lights in the house off except for the room I’m in, even if my other family members complain. It’s nothing major, but if enough people did it, and it was complemented with a federal strategy like a gas tax or something, it’d make a difference.
The other problem, at least as far as I see it, is that people think the small steps are acceptable so that they don’t have to make any sacrifices in any other way. I argue with my family about this all the time. I’m ripped apart for not unplugging my cell phone charger, supposedly costing an extra $5 a month, yet nobody seems to think it’s a big deal every single light and the television are left on even if they aren’t in the room for hours on end. Like I said before, small steps can make a big difference, but not when they are a substitute for larger steps.
The Tim Channel
On the ‘dumb criminal’ story, I have to note that we had a fellow here in Jackson Mississippi a few years ago who tried to rob a cop at a cop convention at the Holiday Inn on Highway 80.
That criminal is no longer a threat to society. He is dead.
The Other Steve
My outside lights don’t have a switch. :-(
They go on at dusk, off at dawn. Sometimes they stay on all day if it’s overcast.
I will say that is sad.
Thank you for saying this John. Sentimental gimmicks.
When the sun goes down, my house is in virtual darkness anyway, an advantage to living alone. I’ve got a couple 25watters on timers around the house and my outdoor lights have sensors. For me, this has more to do with economics than it does greeness.
I keep wondering what would happen to the power grids if, after sitting in the dark for an hour, a billion people all suddenly switched their lights back on at exactly the same time.
@Laura W: What is the deal with the electrical supply in western NC.? We have a house there and can count on an outage about every two weeks in the summer, with no visible storms etc. We are scared about the winter when we finally move there year round. Should we just buy a generator or hope the pooches can keep us warm?
I’d go beyond saying it’s silly. It’s dangerous. Americans could turn their lights off for a year and it wouldn’t come close to getting us to our emissions targets. Making people think they’re contributing to success by participating in things like this (or buying carbon offset cards at Whole Foods for birthdays) will only make it harder to convince people that real sacrifice is needed in the coming decade or so.
Al Gore is supporting these sort of incrementalist approaches to hitting emissions targets… displace carbon from electricity in 10 years, etc. Even if we succeeded in matching everything he’s asked for, it wouldn’t be enough. We’re nowhere near having the political support to make meaningful deals at Copenhagen, let alone come to the table with the moral authority of having made progress here. I guess it’s not fair to only focus on Gore, but the point is that the climate change community needs to get beyond selling their plan by saying we’re going to kick the foreign oil addiction. That’s entirely ancillary and the utility of that argument waxes and wanes with the price of oil. The only solution is educating folks on the consequences of doing nothing–hoping Obama will be helpful here.
I’m with you…and inevitably someone would have to break out some offensive, smelly food on the way… no thanks
Brick Oven Bill
Everybody who has a brick oven should be given money by the government. This is because when I burn my tree that has fallen down in the back yard, this prevents it from rotting. Rotting wood gives off the same carbon dioxide that comes out of coal fired power plants and my brick oven when it is fired up.
But when my brick oven is fired up it means there is only one source of carbon dioxide, namely, the stuff coming out of the top of my oven, which is very thermally efficient, by the way. Way more than 50% and even up to 80% if it is operated at lower temperatures.
This is in contrast to an electric plant that is perhaps 33% thermally efficient. So these yahoos who are sitting in their dim room, and then later go to Panera Bread and have their fancy sandwich baked in an electric oven are using 4 units of carbon. Three from the electric oven and the fourth from the rotting wood that goes unburned.
My brick oven, in contrast, uses 1.33 units of carbon, one third of the carbon that the dim people in the dim room give off eating their fancy Panera Bread sandwich, yielding 2.67 carbon credits for me, for which I should be compensated. My food is better in quality as well.
As someone who works a lot in the power industry, I certainly hope that people don’t observe Earth Hour in large numbers.
Balancing the grid is a tough enough proposition, what with surges in electrical demand when a cold wind blows in from the north, or cloud cover suddenly breaks on a summer day. Add the variability from trying to accomodate thousands of MW coming in from wind power, which suddenly start up or die down with their own rhythym. Same with solar, and those aforementioned clouds.
Certainly don’t need people to start acting in weird ways also. The system reliability folks already have enough headaches.
meh, so what. I don’t think the deal was to really get everyone to do it, but just drive the publicity, you know?
Different strokes and all of that. Keep it on the front-burner and whatnot.
Just ’cause it’s silly TO YOU doesn’t mean it’s silly to millions of other people. You know what works for you may not work for someone else. Easy come, easy go.
Give a 110%. Ask not what your country can do for you…
I think I got off topic somewhere.
We were supposed to turn the lights back on after an hour? Damn, I’ve been sitting here cursing the darkness.
We did it because of the kids. It turned out to be pretty educational. I asked them how much electricity they thought we were saving and they gave their guesses and then I asked them about how much we had only shifted by turning on the rechargeable flashlights for the hour. That led into a discussion of on-demand vs. stored power and all sorts of other things. We talked about how much power all the other appliances used that don’t have lights telling you they are obviously using power – the refrigerator, the TiVo, etc. We concluded that since we rarely have more than three lights on the house at one time – all three almost certainly being CFLs (we’re pretty good about that) that we were probably only saving the equivalent of two 38 watt lights, and heating a frozen corn dog in the micro would have wiped all that effort out.
In the end we concluded it was at most a symbolic effort and that many of the meaningful things we could do had already been done.
Funny thing is, you really can’t turn off a lot of appliances or gadgets, even when you turn them off. Stuff like the TV or the dvd player or the home theater system. Look at all the stuff in your house that has a little stand-by light or a built-in clock or something that uses power even when it’s supposedly ‘off’.
Somewhere some product designer twit thought we needed a light to go on to tell us the damn thing was off — because not having the ‘on’ light on was not clue enough. The argument was hey it’s only a LED so it only draws a teensy-weensy bit of juice a month. But multiply that by the number of other gadgets in your house that insist on being ‘on’ to tell you they’re off along with the millions of households that also have little ‘off’ lights glowing away and I’d bet in a year it adds up to some real sizable wasted energy.
That energy could be saved by just not having stupid ‘off’ lights. It would also save the energy it took to manufacture, ship and install all those lights.
Maybe if they weren’t also trying to change the settings on BOBs thermostat, they’d have less work to do?
The Moar You Know
I replaced all my bulbs with CFLs two years ago. I now have replaced several of those with GE’s LED bulbs, which are insanely expensive but have GREAT color temperature and light quality. All my outside lighting is solar – and not those little wussy lights with the panels on top, I run a 60-watt panel, charge controller, deep-cycle battery into a Xantrex inverter to power a few outdoor CFL’s and a full string of high-power pathway lights. The pathlights also use LED bulbs and suck a whopping 4 watts of power. If I want to do anything else (and I do) I’m going to have to fight it out with the condo board, never a fun prospect even with the law on my side.
I’ve done enough, I’m not turning off my lights for an hour. Fuck that.
It. 29 more times.
Except of course, for the bits that return to the ground and/or local wildlife.
No BOB, your oven does not count as a CDO.
I wish I could answer that (I’m in Western too), esp. the "no visible storms" part. They always blame it on wind, but when we get a really big wind/rain storm, or finally do get a couple inches of snow, it stays on. I have never understood the reasoning. I will say I am on a local co-op that buys from Duke (lucky me!) so I pay more for less, apparently. If I were you, I’d fear the still summers with their inexplicable outages far more than the winters. The only upside is the days are longer so not quite so intolerable since you can read outside, drink a lot of wine, and then hope to be bored and tipsy enough to fall asleep at dark.
And yes, buy a generator! If I owned my own home, I sure would. The pooches can keep you warm but they can’t keep your perishables eatable and they can’t power up your computer, let alone work your septic system and your well. Sigh. When I lose power, I lose everything. Most especially my normally patient and understanding nature. Ha!
It’s stuff like this that make me shake my head in amazement: Fucking idiot, or genius spoof? I cannot tell.
Truly you demonstrate amply how half-baked science can be dangerous in the wrong hands. Or in the right hands can be worked into a sublime example of spooferific gold.
@Brick Oven Bill:
This is not even close to an applicable comparison. It’s hilarious, oh yes, but not close.
How about we just hook up treadmills or stationary bikes to turbines and batteries for our home use?
"Kids, if you want to play your video games, you have to stay on the bike for an hour."
@The Moar You Know:
Interesting stuff on energy saving tips.
For years, while my son was growing up, I wished there was a product on the market that had a stationary cycle linked to a video game so you had to peddle faster or slower to make your spaceship/tank/whatever move around in cyberspace.
By the time he was 17, he’d have been ready for the Tour de France.
Who cares? BOB’s back. And I haven’t seen Asshaturajat post in a while either.
Agreed. Plus it plays into the the right wing frame that this is all about individual sacrifice, which allows them both to pontificate about how Al Gore is a hypocrite, and to say liberals want you to give up stuff. The big changes that need to be made are collective: how do we design our electric power plants? How do we organize mass transportation? What are we going to do for energy in the long run?
Earth Hour might have been the dumbest idea I ever heard… until Red State went ahead and trumped it.
By the way BOB, have you calculated how many carbon units were used to make the bricks of your brick oven?
Hint to those who don’t understand how bricks are made: They basically bake soft clay chunks in a huge-ass oven like so many clay brownies, albeit at about 1000 degrees C for hours on end, until they fuse. That kind of continuous heat requires a lot of something to be burned. Where did the carbon in the combustion products for that fuel go? Hmm.
And what about the carbon units used to transport all those bricks? The end-loaders and dump trucks and fork-lifts and flatbed trucks all burned a lot of fuel moving a couple of tons of brick around from the quarry pit to the kiln to the building supply yard to your back yard. That’s not an inconsequential amount either.
Or put it another way: Just imagine the zillions of carbon units saved by all the people who didn’t build a retarded personal brick oven in their back yards.
I’m with John on this one. I just put 20K worth of solar panels on my house. I think I’ve earned the [email protected]*!ing right to keep my lights on for that hour.
hells littlest angel
I believe the point was to raise awareness of, not necessarily support for, environmentalism. And it appears to have been very effective. Also, the idea was to turn off unnecessary lights and such, not necessarily to sit in the dark — a continuum exists, you know, between back-to-naturism and grotesque chuckleheads like Moe Lane.
More important than whether or not you inconvenienced yourself, many public buildings, such as the Empire State Building, were part of the observance, and made an impact on all our thinking.
Excuse me for getting personal — I really like your blog — but sometimes you seem to revert to the weird, two-valued logic of right-wingery.
@D-Chance.: You do it again. Who stops?
I actually took part. I didn’t turn off all my lights, just most of them. And you know what, to my surprise, I barely noticed. So these last few days I’ve started leaving more lights off. My electric bill is a teeny tiny bit less, it helps the environment a teeny tiny bit and I don’t have to do anything differently than I ever do.
@hells littlest angel: I’m in a pissy mood.
And it makes no sense to have lights on in empty buildings.
Hell, I never have more than one light on in my house at a time anyway. Why would anyone?
@The Tim Channel: "On the ‘dumb criminal’ story, I have to note that we had a fellow here in Jackson Mississippi a few years ago who tried to rob a cop at a cop convention at the Holiday Inn on Highway 80."
At this point I’m inclined to suspect they killed a completely innocent passerby, for entertainment, and made up a story. Who’s going to doubt a convention-full of police officer witnesses?
We turned the event into an educational experience for our 5- and 8-year-olds. First we rang a gong that we have (8-year-old’s idea) and lit some candles. Then I turned off the circuit breaker, and we went from room to room identifying all of the things that use energy.
Then we went to bed and my wife and I got a 45-min nap before we had to get up and do all the chores.
(Sittng-or lying-in the dark for an hour is a luxury many parents would love to have.)
@Laura W: Thanks, I’m a city girl so it came as quite a shock when the water didn’t work! It’s not a big deal in the summer and it never seems to be off for more than a few hours. Other than the lovely resetting of all the damned clocks on every electrical appliance made in the world. I’m not sure if the wine will help me get them synchronized.
We want to help keep nc blue but not at the price of sitting in the dark with no heat. So I guess we’ll shop for generators. Do my bit for the economy.
All those years you spent sitting in the dark with the GOP and faux conservatives, and now you can’t even begrudge a simple hour?
@hells littlest angel:
Right, an awareness exercise, not a strategy. Kinda like meditation. And if that’s not your thing, that’s fine.
Because even thinking about the lights you’re not using is un-American. Drill, baby, drill!
Last year, my son and I used it as a camp-out-at-home hour and had a ball. (My husband sat at the computer and read; we didn’t begrudge him that.) This year, Earth Hour occurred while the husband and I were out for our Saturday date night. Oh well.
I agree that Earth Hour is first and foremost a gimmick to get people to think about ways they can conserve energy for real, for more than just one lousy hour out of the year. If you’re able and willing to participate, great. Otherwise, to paraphrase our prez, it takes more than fucking turning out lights for an hour to turn our global environmental clusterfuck around.
As a participant in the original Earth Hour, back when it was just a localised Sydney based futile gesture, instead of a global futile gesture, my apologies for making you sit in the dark.
While some people seem to have used it as an eductional tool for their children, it seems to me that the real problem is that Earth Hour lets people think that they have "done something" about global warming, and that they can then cross that off their list, instead of making actual constructive changes to the way they live.
Tokenistic crap, and we’ve managed to guilt you all into participating!
(and yes, I did turn the damn lights off… I live in a suburb where there were people crawling the streets checking that their neightbours were doing the right thing).
Dude, you have got to get a date.
Brick Oven Bill
If you tell me that Murray Wiggle is walking around his neighborhood encouraging people to turn off their lights, I may have to, at long last, throw my TV into the street. Murray, Anthony, and Jeff were my last hope.
@Brick Oven Bill:
I’m not sure BOB – I didn’t see him, but I know the Wiggles have a significant interest in soc1al1st crap like UNICEF and access to clean drinking water…
Actually I thought it was nice. Quiet and candles for one hour. Also made me more conscious of the lights I use in general, without thinking. I didn’t have the slightest problem with it. What’s all the fuss…??
You know, I actually find the entire thing to be educational, and I see no harm in it. To make too much of it is, well, to make too much of it. Alanis Morrisette was on Larry King the other day, and I can tell you that she was taking it way too seriously.
But, like Martin said so eloquently above, it sounds like a great teaching moment for kids. Little things like this can have an immeasurable lasting impact, so long as they don’t seem cheesy at the time. I’m positive that I’m such a recycling/lights out/energy-saving freak because I was just a little kid when Ford had those WIN buttons, and Carter wore the sweater. My parents talked about it, and trust me, they weren’t tree-hugging hippies by any measure. There were Schoolhouse Rock episodes about it, and our teachers talked about it in school, and I think it just kind of sunk in through the years and taught Generation X some good habits.
More power to Earth Hour, I say (unintentional rhyme).
Maybe sometimes it’s a good idea to look at what can be unplugged. The only things running in my apartment during the Earth Hour were one light fixture and my fridge. Everything else – DSL router, power strips, battery chargers, the works – were either switched off at the power strip, or else unplugged outright.
And can I join in and say that I think that the reaction of "I’m going to turn on every power-drawing item in my house for Earth Hour, just because I don’t like the people who promote it" is industrial-grade stupid?
So Al Gore’s stalker posted exactly two pictures of the lights supposedly left on at Al’s house … one of which was illuminating his house number.
It was pointed out in the comment thread that those are solar battery operated lights, and that no, the Earth Hour observance didn’t require homeowners to go out and remove the batteries.
What a bunch of idiots.
We just ignored it.
We had already put our commitment on the line. All lamp bulbs except hallways and ceiling floods have been converted to CF bulbs. We plan to convert the ceiling floods over next year. We kept tungsten in hallways and stairwells to have instant bright light where needed, and where lights are turned back off almost immediately.
We also invested last summer in new top of line Water Furnace geothermal heating/cooling, and dropped additional insulation in the attic, finishing out one area, doubling up the rest.
Our kilowatt usage per month is now running 10-20% BELOW last year, as I compare month by month.
That was one hell of a lot more effective than sitting in the dark for an hour.
P.S. When you dispose of your compact fluorescent bulbs, PLEASE remember, they have mercury in them, and must be disposed of through proper hazardous waste disposal operations. One study I read recently reported only 3% of fluorescent bulbs are being disposed of properly. This is a serious downside to the swap, and the public needs education on this as well as how it would help energy savings to swap to CF bulbs.
I live off grid. So, after charging my battery bank all day with my PV panels, I was fully charged. At dark, I turned on my 12′ 1500W wind generator (wind speed 15mph). I turned on every light that I own,put a Grateful Dead DVD in the player and rock&rolled for an hour. It’s my electricity. I made it. I’ll do what I damn well want to with it.
Everybody is entitled to try and get people together to make a point regardless of opinion BUT does anybody think this stuff out?
Our time would have been better served for the environment if we all would have went outside for 1 hour during daylight and picked up all the trash that is littering our great nation.
By the way, then we would have been cleaning up the world WHILE not using electric. Imagine the message this would send as opposed to millions just flipping switches. With everybody having to get off the couch and do some work you’d really know who truely cares.
I think of "Earth Hour" as having the same utility as Sabbath restrictions do for Jews — it’s primarily a way of making you stop and think about exactly what you are doing and how you are doing it. Like hell’s littlest angel above, I view it as, essentially, a consciousness-building exercise.
That said, I didn’t bother raising my consciousness any at the time (wasn’t the NCAA Tournament going on then?), and don’t think that whether any given person participated was particularly important or significant.
Oh, and the Red State thing? Totally fucking stupid. Of course.
Eh, I do that a few times a month anyway. I’m a candle nut.