Next Time May It Be Real

The Rising Dark
By Patricia Evangelista
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 23:09:00 04/05/2008

Many of the reports call it “Plunging into Darkness,” as if a teetering Manila sucked in a deep breath, gritted chattering teeth, and leaped into the void with tightly closed eyes. In reality, Manila sank into a softer dark last Saturday, sprawled on the pockmarked grass under a periwinkle sky.

First there were the children, pigtailed tots plodding around the grounds of the Cultural Center of the Philippines, offering flyers to all and sundry. Their mamas, dressed in the same black shirts and jeans, followed their charges’ progress, diving for chubby hands whenever small feet wandered into ruts. Next there were the teenagers, tangled on picnic blankets, in fisherman caps and the obligatory jeans. Then there were the cameras, the television vans, the occasional celebrity and the politician with a microphone. We are told that many of our leaders have crossed over to the dark side. This is the one time the accusation is not an insult...

There are arguments that Earth Hour, and other movements like it, do very little in the big picture. And perhaps it is true. In a country with 80 million people, in a world where many believe that development comes at the price of sacrificing natural resources, several million light bulbs in several cities are not particularly earthshaking. The Philippines may not be that responsible for global warming—the United States, for example, emits a fifth of the world’s carbon dioxide emissions, with just 5 percent of the world’s population.

“Gimmicky,” says one 24-year-old boy. Useless, says a blogger.

And yet, the value of Earth Hour is not the 2 percent decrease in power consumption—although that is well and good. It is the establishment of awareness, the highlighting of individual modes of action, and, most importantly, what amounts to a challenge to government to institute changes that have wider impact. In this country, politicians only act at the behest of cameras and crowds of warm bodies. Perhaps this is the one time it is a good thing.

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If the value of Earth Hour is the establishment of awareness (awareness of what?), then it should go beyond mere campaigning of turning off lights for one hour during a night time. Most people who participated in the action were willing to participate because of the simplicity and the dramatic mood of the action -- it was like a countdown at new years eve. Even a "bum" on the street who totally has no knowledge and concern for climate change and global warming would not be hard to draw to participate in it.

But what if the action to be done is something that will cause some real degree of inconvenience to those who will participate, will there be many still willing to do it? Suppose if the action is done during the day and within working hours, what do you think will happen? Instead of turning off lights (which has no significant impact on climate), airconditioning units are turned off for an hour during peak hours of the day, would there still be many who are willing to participate? Will the originators of the movement still be willing to campaign for such elevated level of the action?

This is where dwells the subtle deception (that I was mentioning about in my previous blog entry). People are merely made to be aware of global warming that causes climate change in a wrong way such that they don't truly experience the real effect and danger of global warming upon themselves. As a result of that wrong way of awareness, people will keep looking forward to that event every year without truly taking real steps that can minimize global warming. And so concepts like the selling and buying of "carbon neutral credits" becomes an easy escape from doing real actions like sincere compliance on the gradual reduction of carbon emission by industrial establishments, and efforts to actually go out to denuded forest areas to actually plant trees (instead of staying inside airconditioned work places wasting time thinking of how to gain more carbon neutral credits).

Global warming is a very serious matter that demands seriousness of answers and solutions. It calls for a degree of real sacrifice and commitment of every individual, and not just convenient movements in the level of mere awareness.

May the next Earth Hour be not deceptive and insulting.