Monday, March 28, 2011

Lights on at the Green House

Lighting at Jack Poole Plaza remained on during the March 26, 2011 Earth Hour. (Bob Mackin photo)
There are 8,760 hours in a year on Earth (8,784 in a leap year), but the World Wildlife Fund chooses one on the last Saturday of March for its Earth Hour promotion.

WWF reported $224,159,728 in revenue in 2010 and spent $186,770 on programs. WWF is a savvy marketer, having forged relations with Mars and perennial Olympic sponsor Coca-Cola. (Some readers might question WWF's intentions because of Coca-Cola's labour relations in Third World countries, as seen in the National Film Board's Coca Cola Case.)

WWF uses Earth Hour to stoke the flames of fear, particularly on climate change, and to earn a donation or two. Turn off your lights and the world will be a better place. Leave them on and you're going to bring the planet and humanity closer to the brink. Those who go with the flow get a shiny, happy feeling, then go about their lives for the next 8,700-plus hours until they can do it all over again. It may be the biggest single-day of publicity WWF gets in a year. Imagine all the people rushing to view the WWF website and use the donation portal -- things one can't do without electricity.

Earth Hour seems to have lost its novelty. In Vancouver, lights were on at the Vancouver Convention Centre (including the Olympic cauldron and spinning globe) and B.C. Place Stadium, where construction continues. Bon Jovi was rocking Rogers Arena and, I understand, it was not a hippy-dippy, acoustic affair in the dark. A Hollywood North film shoot closed Pender Street near Thurlow as floodlights turned night into day. A public art installation outside the Vancouver Public Library at Homer and Robson remained on.

City hall was mostly dim, but not the house of Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson. From the street, I could clearly see lights were on inside the front window on the main floor. Most of the Mayor's neighbours were also not drinking Earth Hour juice: one neighbour had Christmas lights on in what may have been a show of defiance against Mr. Green Capital. I found out later that the Mayor was in Calgary at the Inter-American Development Bank annual meeting. Evidently someone in his own house didn't get the Earth Hour memo. Or they all mistakenly thought that Vancouver is a big city without a single curious reporter.

I'm exercising discretion and not publishing the Mayor's home address. British Columbia politicians like former Premiers Bill Vander Zalm and Glen Clark gave up their privacy because of sleazy business deals that mixed their personal real estate with their political duties. I have no evidence that Robertson is in the same league. I'm also not going to publish the photograph of Robertson's house for now. I won't hesitate if his minions doubt my credibility.

Conservation is a noble goal, but the rhetoric and spin are outrageous. The world is not running out of oil or natural gas. It's just that it costs a lot of money and creates a lot of waste and pollution to extract and use such resources. Waste and pollution are not healthy, and wouldn't it be nice if more money could be spent on finding a cure for cancer or HIV, feeding the famished and housing the homeless.

The United Nations wants to spend $100 billion by 2020 from a climate change pool funded by taxpayers around the world, based on the conclusions of some (but not all) scientists that humans are to blame. Imagine if that money was spent instead to help victims of earthquakes and tsunamis rebuild their shattered lives and to do whatever is needed to prepare for the potential of deadly tremors and waves in the most vulnerable, seismically hyperactive places on Earth.

Fear of global warming is not something that keeps residents of Port-Au-Prince, Haiti; Banda Aceh, Indonesia; Chengdu, China; Christchurch, New Zealand; or Sendai, Japan up at night. Instead, it's the memories of dead friends and loved ones.

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