Earth Hour is fast approaching, everyone’s being asked to turn off their lights for one hour to set a sign for a global movement against climate change – and then, “I will if you will,” to go “beyond the hour.”
It’s right there that the problems start.
Symbolic action to let us feel that we are part of something good is better than immersion in the rat race and denial of the problems we are facing, but it has all too good a chance of being merely a feel-good symbol alongside feel-good but ultimately destructive donations, feel-good but ultimately quite useless recycling, or (potentially even worse, potentially better) “green” shopping.
Just look at how much has been said about green lifestyles, ethical consumerism, sustainable shopping… – and has been making it into the very advertisements that try to get us to spend ever more money and buy ever more stuff.
Wal-Mart started its sustainability initiative, and it has – or make that, we, the consumers have – grown its environmental footprint (read: impact) since then.
We know a lot – probably quite enough – about the personal and ecological challenges we face, individually and collectively.
Rather than act upon them in ways that would be open to our own experimental and experiential doing – and that could actually make our lives better – we go for symbolic action and wait for the next big technological invention to keep our lives comfortable, easy, and basically the same.
Meanwhile, we overlook that we don’t just have a certain lifestyle, we lead lives.
We overlook the very real possibilities we would have of getting out of the unhappy – or comfortable but ultimately destructive – cycles we are in, and of creating better. We can bring the things that make happy into our lives and our lives (more) in line with our needs and wants, and with the ecological workings of the world.
For that, though, we need to focus on the reality of life and the impacts our everyday lives have.
We will need to seek our saving, of money and of the world, not in buying more things, consuming more, but in doing with what we already have and doing without. Or rather, doing with more skill and creative potential, and less stupefying consumerism.
We will not have zero impact on the world. We can have an ultimately neutral or even positive impact, though – not leaving destruction in our wake, but having contributed to the continuation of this our human story, by having lived our lives better, reduced consumption and changed ways of living to what fits with our better natures and into the ecological functioning of this our home.
So, as you join in Earth Hour – and also if you don’t – use the time wisely not to celebrate the one hour you give in memory of Earth, but to go beyond the hour, beyond symbolic action, beyond “eco,” to the more-mindful, harder, but so-much-more-worth-it better ways of (making a) living.
I will, also if you don’t,
because it’s better for me,
it’s better for the world,
and it needs to be done.