Earth Hour: A brilliant ad campaign.

Here’s my take on the World Wildlife Fund’s Earth Hour campaign:

On March 29, 2008 at 8 p.m., join millions of people around the world in making a statement about climate change trendiness by turning off your lights for Earth Hour, an event created by the World Wildlife Fund.

Because after all, this is really just a brilliant and trendy ad campaign by the huge advertising company Leo Burnet. Peter Foster of the National Post has an interesting take on it:

The presence of Leo Burnet indicates that this is very much about business and branding (a bit ironic for the No Logo crowd, surely). Guidelines about how the Earth Hour brand must be used are available on the WWF Canada Web site, along with the information that: "The Earth Hour tone of voice is human, optimistic, inclusive, passionate and caring. The Brand should never appear to be aggressive or use scare tactics to incite participation."

How this squares with all the greatest-threat-the-world-has-ever-seen stuff escapes me, but what the hell, this is about business and power, not truth.

Just a thought – I wonder how much WWF donated money went into the pockets of Leo Burnet?

The thought that turning your lights off for a single hour in a year will make a difference is pure silliness. Even funnier still is that you wouldn’t even be bothering unless an advertising company told you to. And again, this is just trendiness. It will all be forgotten the next day.

The Globe and Mail notes:

"They were looking for a way to demonstrate the public’s deep concern about climate change," said Julia Langer, director of the climate-change program for WWF-Canada.


Tomorrow, more than 50,000 Canadians and 2,500 businesses in upwards of 150 cities and municipalities are scheduled to turn off, forming the second-largest national group of participants – behind the United States and ahead of Australia. Toronto was the first Canadian city to join on as an event partner, followed by Ottawa, Montreal and Vancouver, alongside 21 other world cities.

Deep concern? 50,000 Canadians for one hour per year? That’s 0.15% of Canadians for 0.01% of a year. Far more Canadians are worried about watching the Leafs lose their next game.

When I was a kid, long before anyone had heard the word "recycle", my father composted everything, even soda cans that were then made of steel. We set back our thermostat every night – manually. We used the most efficient lights we could, and we turned them off when we weren’t using them. We used flourescent bulbs where we could, leaving them on because we knew it took more energy to start them than to run them (I wonder what happens when everyone turns their lights back on after Earth Hour?).

As an adult I recycle. I use compact fluorescent bulbs almost everywhere in the house, except in my family room where we prefer 60 watt regular bulbs because of the more pleasant light. I wash dishes by hand. In the summer we hang laundry outside to dry. We take short showers. We keep the house at about 68 degrees during the day, and set it lower at night. We generally use fans in the summer instead of air conditioning. I like to walk and bike every day, and I drive as little as I can.

Please spare me the self-righteousness about how you are going to do your part for the environment by turning off the lights for one hour this year. We do something for the environment every day. And I didn’t have to wait for an advertising agency to tell me to.

You’ll be able to find my house during Earth Hour. It will be the one that looks the same as it does every other day.

Earth Hour is symbolic of a problem humans seem to have. They always assume that the choice is between all or nothing. They never seem to understand that you can achieve any goal a little at a time. Like Jimmy Buffett says, moderation is the key.


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