60 minutes to a healthier climate and healthier ecosystems?

While idealism and pragmatism are considered polar opposites, and striking a balance between the two is a noble quest, I have come to believe they are not mutually exclusive. The World Wide Fund for Nature can’t truly be criticized for lack of idealism in regards to their much-hullabalooed Earth Hour, but I must question the amount of time and resources devoted to such a superficial, fleeting event. In other words – was Earth Hour a practical, pragmatic way of addressing climate change? Frankly, last week’s event, as it does annually, made an important media splash, and saved a few carbon dioxide emissions, too, but is that enough to warrant the media clamour?

However, I’m not sure how much importance can be placed on the public service announcement, or educational aspects of the event any longer. While the most sheltered people might understand why  they should cool their non-alcoholic beers in energy-efficient fridges, I think the conversation must quickly move from a question of education to one of urgent action.

Of course, a more relevant question may be why on earth it is still considered appropriate to perpetually bathe the Eiffel Tower, the Sydney Opera House and the CN Tower in wasted electricity, in an era where global science has determined climate change represents our most ominous threat.

Regardless, I hope all of you had a super time bathed in surprisingly inefficient and carbon-emitting candlelight! For the record, I did. Though the impact of Earth Hour may be a drop in the bucket, I’m always up for some collective action, and enjoyed my hour-of-no-power.

Perhaps, energy conservation-wise, we may now claim we’re 1/365th of the way towards true sustainability. However, this says nothing for the original sources of the power we generate, be they coal, nuclear, wind or hydro. Each unnecessary extra Tim Horton’s Roll Up the Rim Cup or disposable water bottle suggests that we are unlikely to change our habits of convenience enough to make the difference that transitioning away from our dirty power sources will.

Greenpeace, despite their notoriously radical image, suggest in their ‘Sustainable Canada Energy Outlook’ that Canada should be nearly free from coal-generated electricity by 2030, and completely free by 2050.

Considering that Greenpeace is classified closer to the extreme end of environmental organizations, the significant but growing gap between their goals and those of the federal government is not only shocking, but terrifying as well. Greenpeace’s framework remains both realistic and pragmatic and is based on solid scientific research. Unfortunately, the Conservative government’s emissions reduction target remains at a pathetic 17 per cent from 2005 levels by 2020, while Greenpeace aims for a 40 per cent reduction from 1990 levels in the same time period, a truly daunting discrepancy.

I’m not nearly as optimistic as Justin and Madonna – we’re going to need more than four minutes, and yes, more than an annual hour to “save the world”. The clock should start ticking now, should have started in Copenhagen, should have started 20 years ago.

When it comes to the extraordinary achievements of humanity in terms of human rights, technology, culture and knowledge, our efforts to preserve our future are definitely justified. If we are too late, however, it’s still better than accepting this ‘fate’ lying down, isn’t it? If peak oil and climate change are going to deliver the knockout punch in the latest of the succession of great human civilizations, we may as well take it standing up - fighting. Fight climate change – in your everyday lives, on your electoral ballots, in the media and in dinner table conversations. Fight ignorance with education, but more importantly, fight it with action. Thanks for reading over the past few months.

//Jens Ourom

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