Earth Hour: a dissent

I thought this essay deserved a wider audience. I have added some paragraphing to aid readability but changed not a word. Reprinted with permission.

– John A

The whole mentality around Earth Hour demonizes electricity. I cannot do that, instead I celebrate it and all that it has provided for humanity. – Ross McKitrick

Earth Hour: A Dissent

by Ross McKitrick

Ross McKitrick, Professor of Economics, Univer...

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In 2009 I was asked by a journalist for my thoughts on the importance of Earth Hour.

Here is my response.

I abhor Earth Hour. Abundant, cheap electricity has been the greatest source of human liberation in the 20th century. Every material social advance in the 20th century depended on the proliferation of inexpensive and reliable electricity.

Giving women the freedom to work outside the home depended on the availability of electrical appliances that free up time from domestic chores. Getting children out of menial labour and into schools depended on the same thing, as well as the ability to provide safe indoor lighting for reading.

Development and provision of modern health care without electricity is absolutely impossible. The expansion of our food supply, and the promotion of hygiene and nutrition, depended on being able to irrigate fields, cook and refrigerate foods, and have a steady indoor supply of hot water.

Many of the world’s poor suffer brutal environmental conditions in their own homes because of the necessity of cooking over indoor fires that burn twigs and dung. This causes local deforestation and the proliferation of smoke- and parasite-related lung diseases.

Anyone who wants to see local conditions improve in the third world should realize the importance of access to cheap electricity from fossil-fuel based power generating stations. After all, that’s how the west developed.

The whole mentality around Earth Hour demonizes electricity. I cannot do that, instead I celebrate it and all that it has provided for humanity.

Earth Hour celebrates ignorance, poverty and backwardness. By repudiating the greatest engine of liberation it becomes an hour devoted to anti-humanism. It encourages the sanctimonious gesture of turning off trivial appliances for a trivial amount of time, in deference to some ill-defined abstraction called “the Earth,” all the while hypocritically retaining the real benefits of continuous, reliable electricity.

People who see virtue in doing without electricity should shut off their fridge, stove, microwave, computer, water heater, lights, TV and all other appliances for a month, not an hour. And pop down to the cardiac unit at the hospital and shut the power off there too.

I don’t want to go back to nature. Travel to a zone hit by earthquakes, floods and hurricanes to see what it’s like to go back to nature. For humans, living in “nature” meant a short life span marked by violence, disease and ignorance. People who work for the end of poverty and relief from disease are fighting against nature. I hope they leave their lights on.

Here in Ontario, through the use of pollution control technology and advanced engineering, our air quality has dramatically improved since the 1960s, despite the expansion of industry and the power supply.

If, after all this, we are going to take the view that the remaining air emissions outweigh all the benefits of electricity, and that we ought to be shamed into sitting in darkness for an hour, like naughty children who have been caught doing something bad, then we are setting up unspoiled nature as an absolute, transcendent ideal that obliterates all other ethical and humane obligations.

No thanks.

I like visiting nature but I don’t want to live there, and I refuse to accept the idea that civilization with all its tradeoffs is something to be ashamed of.

Ross McKitrick

Professor of Economics

University of Guelph

h/t to the Bishop Hill blog for bringing this essay to my attention

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Excellent essay.
Apparently the watermelons are promoting another ‘Earth Hour’ at 8:30 PM on March 26th (Saturday). Might be a good idea to move this post up to the top then. Last year I turned on every light in the house (and the outside ones, too), as did some of our neighbors.
/Mr Lynn

Greg Holmes

What an absolutely brilliant riposte, it says it all, absolutely all.

Mark Twang

Amen. The boobs and their shame-and-blame game are not fooling anyone anymore.

Luke

I am amazed by the calls to rip down nuclear power and replace them with windmills. Are people so uneducated to know they are demanding to be removed from the grid?

Stacey

Thank you Professor McKitrick, a very erudite treatment of the modern day luddites.
What would our world be like if they existed back in time?
Alarmist: Thomas what is that machine you’ve made?
Newcomen: It’s a steam engine.
Alarmist How can that possibly benefit anyone?
Newcomen: We will be able to pump water out of the mines more efficiently which will allow us to dig deeper. Also to pump sewage and clean water.
Alarmist: Anything else?
Newcomen: Well, one day it may be adapted to transport people and goods.
Alarmist: Whatever, any other bright ideas?
Newcomen: The dynamo hasn’t been invented yet, but when it is we will be able to create electricity to power homes and industry.
Alarmist: Enough. Newcomen the machine, unless you didn’t realise uses coal and you know that coal is destroying our environment. Cease now with all this poppycock and stick to what you are good at, my sister needs some iron gates, she will call in about four to discuss.

Great essay.
What people who adore Earth Hour are saying is that the modern way of creating energy is sustaining the world’s population at its present level…so let’s create less energy. I suppose it’s less electorally toxic than forcing people to be sterilised, coercing women into abortion and rebuilding death camps.

Tom T

This should be read and re-posted by everyone who hasn’t shut down their computer, and everyone who hasn’t shut their mind.

ldd

“Earth Hour celebrates ignorance, poverty and backwardness. “
I love this!!
Thank you Mr. McKitrick.

Observance of Earth Hour is nothing but a religious ritual, and that is guaranteed by the right to freedom of worship. I have no more problem with those who observe the ritual than I have with those who observe any other. I do not share their faiths, but cannot prevent them from worshipping their gods.
But, there are two undesirable consequences of the ritual:
Those who observe it are also likely to promote lobby groups that pressure elected vote-hungry governments to cut back on power generation, especially fossil-fuel power generation, thus succeeding in reducing our supply.
If enough of them get this madness and shut off their power all at the same time, the resulting spike could damage the grid. And when they turn it all on at once, the overload could be as damaging. At that level of participation, it looks like sabotage.

We may want to organize an Energy Hour on March 26th, an hour of celebrations and thanksgiving to electrical energy and what it has done for the mankind and us.
Everyone should try to increase the consumption of electricity during the hour at least by a factor of 5: note that it would only cost a fraction of a dollar. I wonder who would win. 😉

Pops

Every time I see misguided people like DeChristopher pulling their hypocritical stunts I feel the same way. To them I add my voice, “You go back to nature and leave the rest of us alone.” Not only do I like the way things are, but I also think we could make them a lot better by widespread deployment of nuclear power.
(How many people have been harmed by the damaged reactors in Japan? Not so many. Allowing people to build homes and cities in a potential tsunami path is infinitely more harmful.)

Scott B

**Applause**

banjo

Hear Hear!

Jeremy

I think the true green believers should embrace earth hour so much that they remove their websites. After all, accessing their nonsense uses electricity in the form of servers, router time, etc..etc.. I’m all for freedom of speech, but if by your own speech you condemn your best methods of spreading your speech, well that’s nearly the definition of insanity.

Anton

My Florida apartment went for two different weeks without electricity because of tropical storms hitting my city several years ago. It was torture. Soaring temperatures, 100% humidity, no air-conditioning, and no lights. Fortunately, I was able to pack up my critters both times and escape to a relative’s air-conditioned house.
Anyone who celebrates a lack of electricity is either a fool who doesn’t have a clue, or a masochist who enjoys suffering.
Back to Nature, huh? I can’t even stand picnics.

I detest Earth Hour for the western prententiousness of it all.
Rajenda Pachauri (IPCC) gave a presentation in India last week, at Amrita University.
http://web.amrita.edu/news-images/2011/pdfs/pachuri-amrita.pdf
“1.6 billion people lack access to electricity, 25% live in India.”
According to the Indian Times he also said this at this presentation:
“Given that human actions are increasingly interfering with the delicate balance of nature, natural disasters such as floods, earthquakes and tsunamis will occur more frequently, said Dr Rajendra K Pachauri, director general of TERI, and the chief of the inter-governmental panel on Climate Change.”
http://articles.timesofindia.indiatimes.com/2011-03-14/coimbatore/28687815_1_harmony-green-drive-renewable-energy-sources
Tsunamis are by definition caused by events like earthquakes…
The Amrita University, omit ‘earthquakes’ from their quote, or has the newspaper made the connection and added it?
“Human actions are interfering with the delicate balance of nature,” he added. “Floods, heat waves, water scarcity, tsunamis will become frequent in the future.” Rajendra Pachauri, 11th March 2011
http://web.amrita.edu/news/news-content.php?id=7&ct=10

sHx

“h/t to the Bishop Hill blog for bringing this essay to my attention”
Hey, that was me! Where is my hat tip?
http://wattsupwiththat.com/tips-notes-to-wuwt-2/#comment-622372
REPLY: Happy to give you one if JohnA says he read your comment. He may have simply seen it at BH independently. It happens. Thank you sincerely in either event. – Anthony

Kevin G

Like others on here, I celebrate Earth hour every year by turning on all of the lights, and preheating the oven to 350 F.
Let’s all join in the fun and see if we can offset the actions of all the technophobes who still find it okay to use their iPhone (let’s hope they unplug their chargers while they aren’t charging!).
——
http://earthhourblog.posterous.com/go-beyond-the-hour-this-earth-hour-with-the-6
The 60+ iPhone app will integrate with the recently launched ‘Beyond the Hour’ platform – an online platform that captures and allows individuals, governments and organisations across the globe to share their actions, and acts as a tool to showcase and inspire environmental commitments.
The app allows you to search for the acts of others for inspiration, add your act and share it with the world, with the following features:
* Add your action
* Add a picture to every action from the camera or the photo gallery
* Embed video from YouTube
* Find acts by searching for recent, popular, country, and quickly find your own acts
* Use the phone’s location-based services to filter actions based on location and proximity
* Share each action using popular social networks, and by SMS and email
* Add an Earth Hour reminder on your phone’s calendar

Mike O

Since they started this nonsense, I have put it on my calendar and ensured that every light in the house and out of doors is turned on. Talk about shining a bright light on ignorance!

Kudos to my fellow Canuck’s essay. Ever since Earth Hour appeared, my way of dealing with it has been to leave all the lights in the house blazing, with curtains wide open for the world to see. Many were not amused when told (indicated by a sad glance at the floor or their shoes), although a few did get the point.
Apart from the sheer inanity of the concept, laid out nicely by Prof McKitrick, the whole exercise reminds me of the state-engineered mass behaviour shenanigans we were subjected to in commie Eastern Europe a lifetime ago. Demands for arbitrary, “symbolic,” and otherwise pointless, useless and ultimately degrading gestures such as Earth Hour are the hallmarks of tyranies, or at least wanna-be tyrannies. One way to turn otherwise intelligent humans into dull cogs is by getting them used to going along with stupidities without daring to even asking why. Today we are urged to volutarily “show solidarity” with Mummy Earth, tomorrow we’ll have earnest teens knocking on our doors to politely suggest that we should turn off those lights “like everyone else,” and the day after tomorrow, they’ll be lobbing brick bats through our windows for non-compliance.
If knew what the diff between AC and DC is, why on earth we need a positive and a negative, or how to effectively manipulate physical objects like wires without strangling or frying myself, I’d assemble a big, 100 Watt incandescent bulb-lit sign reading “Happy Earth Hour !”

N.A.M.

Thanks a million Ross, couldnt have said it any better. Sure nice to read about someone who is highly educated and has common sense as well! I read and see way to many highly educated people talk total nonsense/stupidity about the way we live and our environment. Maybe these cool guys like Ross we dont hear much about because of our lefty braindead media. Making energy more expensive just for the sake of it is madness!!

Darrell

BANG!
Nice.

Susan C

Perfect, Ross! I shall copy, post & distribute this.
others might be interested in this dissenting T-shirt:
http://www.zazzle.ca/light_up_your_life_tshirt-235072970493487076
a new design available from “bluewalrus” at zazzle.com
(this image can be put on any item – t-shirt (as shown), hat, mug, etc.)

I have already said everything about electricity that needs to be said.
But if you prefer just seeing, here it is. Bosnia, 1902.
(Elecric power plant in Jajce at night by Csontváry Kosztka Tivadar)

Jeremy

True earth-hour rebellion would be putting up christmas lights and turning them on… something like this:
http://crossfitseven.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/12/Griswold-House-700px.jpg

Noblesse Oblige

“Earth Hour celebrates ignorance, poverty and backwardness.”
Bullseye. Thank you Ross. This is the 21st century version of witchcraft supersition.

So, if we all turn off all our lights and electrical appliances and hide in the dark for one hour each year we will solve what exactly ?
Watermelons who wants to do that should be forced to do that for at least a month during the winter season in the north.
Not being allowed to use any modern technology, heating, electrical appliances or transport, they will certainly change their mind.

I spend a lot of my time working in and on behalf of sub-Saharan Africa. Believe me, not having electricity is a major issue. While hotels and large institutions can afford generators, normal people can’t. Instead, when they need light they burn unhealthy smoky oils for a flickering flame.
Nobody wants to live like that. They want the benefits of what electricity can bring them. Such as power in their health clinics that would allow them to treat patients after dark, for example!
Generators are more expensive than grid power. Every hour they run their businesses on generators is making them less competitive in the world. Is that the aim of those who would deny them electricity?

Ah-ha! Just figured out why Earth Hour will never be expanded to throw us into the Dark Ages for an entire day. All but a few fanatics would reel back in horror and demand that they burn kittens, puppies and their grandmothers on nuclear piles at their front lawns just to keep the juice flowing.

sHx

“REPLY: Happy to give you one if JohnA says he read your comment. He may have simply seen it at BH independently. It happens. Thank you sincerely in either event. – Anthony”
Thanks, Anthony. That did cross my mind, but the opportunity for a humourous remark was just too good to ignore.
I already have two hat tips from WUWT, by the way. Still, my trophy cabinet looks bare. 🙂

Patrick Davis

As I keep telling Aussies in support of this, the power stations are still running, generating power. You simply cannot turn off a power plant like you can turn off your lights, and visaversa. They simply don’t get it. The emissions are still, well, emitted.

HaroldW

Luboš Motl (March 17, 2011 at 7:32 am) wrote
“We may want to organize an Energy Hour on March 26th, an hour of celebrations and thanksgiving to electrical energy and what it has done for the mankind and us.”
Something of the kind exists, Human Achievement Hour. Celebrate what man’s intelligence has created!

Sceptical Me

Reminds me of the futile gestures here in England by those supporting the miners during the 1980s miner’s disputes, by placing a lighted candle in the window of their gas centrally heated house – I would not allow it in ours, much to the reprobation of our public sector neighbours. We were one of the few remaining houses in the street with a working coal fireplace.
The lights were on, but no-one was in.

Gareth Phillips

There will be half a million people demonstrating in London’s Hyde park on the 26th of march against the right wing governments attempts to sabotage the NHS under the guise of economic necessity. If the light all go off, half a million people groping around (or maybe just bumping into each other), could be interesting. Maybe we should just do it in broad daylight.

Douglas DC

Right now there are 180 men going into the gaping maw of the Japanese Reactors
(Bushido,truly) they need electricity, to power pumps. Earth hour is irrelevant
and empty-I plan to turn every light on in my house run my dryer,and fire up the old F-150….

Hugh Pepper

Well certainly no one wants to return to earlier times when we lacked the immense benefits of electricity. But it is wise for a short time every year to remind ourselves that this incredible enterprise we have constructed, our economy, is the real “abstraction”. The benefits we enjoy are not without cost, and we need to be aware of this. Earth Day serves this purpose.
It is also prudent that we celebrate our successes, as you say. But let us not blind ourselves to the reality that this same success will be short-lived if we over-use our dwindling resources, pollute our environment and destroy vital, life-supporting ecological processes. We are doing this now and the whole planet is affected by our actions. Earth Day is intended to remind of this fact.

mathman

My brother-in-law, a Professor at Rutgers, an expert in the physics of surfaces, is now in India. Guess what? India is too vast and poor for a network of electrical power lines. So they are working like mad on another solution: solar cells for every town. THEY seem to think that bringing electricity to the masses is important. How do you make better solar cells? Pick the brains of our best and brightest, that’s how.
I would put money down that India does not celebrate Earth Day.
By the way: without GM crops, India would really be hurting.
And nuclear energy will only help the urban areas of India, again because of the distance limitations.
It is just another fraud perpetrated by the phony one-worlders, who preach but do not practice. It is okay for energy limits to be imposed on others, but they will still travel in their own jets, own several houses, and use up resources. Check how much energy Bono uses in his travels. Or how much of a carbon footprint Al Gore has in his little place. Any of them.

ShaneCMuir

Fantastic! I agree totally..
I guess we all do here.. but it is commonsense.
One small point though..
..there is no such thing as fossil fuels.
And that makes Earth Day even more ridiculous.

Steve Keohane

John A., thank you for sharing this. To Prof. McKitrick, I say, amen. With half the population living in cities, humans are becoming more clueless about nature and are turning their fantasy of it into a religion.

t stone

Bravo! A brilliant summary.

Matt in Houston

I would like to applaud Mr. McKitrick for his excellent essay on the importance of cheap electricity. Cheap energy is quite possibly the single most important factor in the unleashing of mankinds potential. It is the cornerstone as he so eloquently elucidates.
This piece should be trumpeted from the roof top of every free man’s home during the most repugnant “earth hour” along with running every single light in their household.
P.S.- Many thank yous for all your work & efforts in the battle against the CAGW madness.

Where can I get a “I dissent Earth Hour”-button for my website ?

ew-3

Excellent!
It seems even more profound when you think of what the people of Japan are going through. Some of those people don’t have a choice to do without electricity.

Vince Causey

Hugh Pepper says:
March 17, 2011 at 8:12 am
“Well certainly no one wants to return to earlier times when we lacked the immense benefits of electricity. But it is wise for a short time every year to remind ourselves that this incredible enterprise we have constructed, our economy, is the real “abstraction”. The benefits we enjoy are not without cost, and we need to be aware of this. Earth Day is intended to remind of this fact.”
It would certainly remind me of how precarious our civilization is, of how the flick of a switch could turn us back to the dark ages. In such moments of melancholy introspection I would then insist that governments provide cheap and reliable electricity for all. Contemplating a world without electricity would make me aghast at the idea of replacing proven technology with the vagaries of wind.
But that’s just me.

John Marshall

Justr about says it all. Who wants to live like the North Koreans or even the poor Africans. We want cheap electricity for ALL when demanded and DDT for those areas that suffer from the diseases that were prevented before Carson’s ill researched book Silent Spring.

John B

Outstanding
A breath of sanity – Quite raised my spirits for the day…..!!
Well done Ross and thanks to John A for posting it here.

Ray

Do you imagine if our ancestors living in caves had a earth hour where they would extinguish their fires? If they did that we would not be here to enjoy the fruits of the human intelligence and ingenuity.

Don K

I’m 80% in agreement. Anyone who wants to live without electricity deserves to, and I’m four-square behind their right to do so. As long as they leave MY electricity alone. I like electric lights and refrigeration. Even the Amish have sufficient sense to use technologies they deem to be non-disruptive. (I think our greenies and techies could possibly both learn a lot from the Amish)
That said, there appear to be just about enough recoverable hydrocarbons to support 9 billion humans through the end of this century at decent levels of energy use — 200,000 btu per day per person in temperate rural areas; 400,000 per day in industrial countries; 600,000 per day in very cold climates. And we really ought to leave a few of those resources for future centuries. They might come in handy.
I think there is sufficient evidence already in to write off wind as more than a minor contributor to future energy mixes. Not that wind turbines shouldn’t be deployed. They’re fine up to a level that no country other than perhaps Denmark yet comes close to. But they can never really power more than a fraction of a society where every human has access to adequate housing, food, water, medicine, and some luxuries.
So, I think we should be pouring research money into solar, nuclear, and fusion. The human race needs some mix of those technologies. It does not need deus ex machina solutions from people who have neither the skill nor desire to practice basic addition.

Martin457

So, I guess it’s okay if I don’t wear green on St. Patricks day?