Professor Mark J. Perry's Blog for Economics and Finance
Saturday, March 31, 2012
Earth Hour is Today: N. Korea is the Likely Winner
"Earth Hour" will take place today (March 31) at 8:30 p.m. According to the WWF (watch video above), the mission of Earth Hour is to "Dare the World to Save the Planet":
"We only have one planet. You can help protect it. Participate in the
world’s largest single campaign for the planet: Earth Hour. It starts by
turning off your lights for an hour at 8:30 pm on March 31, 2012 in a
collective display of commitment to a better future for the planet.
Think what can be achieved when we all come together for a common cause."
Here's a dissenting opinion on Earth Hour from Ross McKitrick, Professor of Economics at the University of Guelph, who abhors 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
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 labor 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
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
Thanks to Joe Lais for the pointer to WUWT, which features the photo below with the caption:
The winner for Earth Hour every year since 2003 - North Korea. Odds favor them to be the winner again this year.