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Monday, March 15, 2010

A good campaign

"Earth Hour is a WWF initiative which sends across an inspiring message of hope and action for Climate Change. At 8.30pm on 27th March 2010, cities, towns and municipalities across the world will turn off their lights for one hour – Earth Hour – sending a powerful global message that it’s possible to take action on global warming. "

So started the email from campaigner Poulomi, urging me to talk about the coming event (which they want to make the largest mass-participation event in history) on my blog.

What they are essentially doing is to create mass awareness about the need to be less wasteful in our use of energy – and thereby cause less pollution. An initiative like this deserves everyone’s support, I think. It doesn’t cost anybody much to switch off all gadgets for just an hour on just one particular day. While the energy-saving from that might be minuscule compared to the amount we consume annually planet-wide, I believe that a) every little bit counts, and b) the real benefits will start pouring in when people in the hundreds of millions (including people like teachers, judges, journalists, engineers, entrepreneurs, and all our educated youth) start thinking seriously about not only energy conservation but also taking really serious steps towards harnessing alternative, less-polluting, renewable sources of energy on a scale large enough to say goodbye to coal and oil within a few decades…

Go ahead and do your mite: not just by switching off the lights at your own house on March 27 at the scheduled hour, but persuading at least five other people to do the same.

And I hope they will do likewise in Las Vegas!

You can find more details about this effort on the official Earth Hour website. Also look up their campaign on Facebook, or even follow them on twitter here.


Gaurab Mandal said...

Sir, I think its a splendid idea the campaign has come up with; I noticed your tweet and well lets see how many people I can persuade to take part in the campaign. But I have one small question ........ why are they doing just for an hour for one day; they could just try it once each month ??

Subhasis Graham Mukherjee said...

Good question.

anything more than a token gesture would be a very "unhappy" thought for major economies where energy in general and oil in particular is still a major driver of the economy and it's price an index of the health of the economy.

conservation and less consumption of energy? what a scary thought, can we do something to shut that guy up?

It's no wonder that India has a far better record in conservation, control and restraint in the energy consumption and therefore environmental issues, than western economies from where all the awareness and actions seem to originate. Wonder what kind of cars are driven by Nobel Laureates in this area like Al Gore, or what kind of houses they live in.

It's well known though, that Bill Gates lives in a mansion which has a earth-friendly design and state-of-the art energy control management systems - Bill Gates' house

Suvro Chatterjee said...

You are absolutely right, Subhashis. I posted this advertisement because I like to encourage young folks, but I fear that this is mere tokenism (though rather glamorous), and will make no substantial difference. Very big vested interests stand in the way of conservation, less consumption, as well as a switch to better forms of energy: this is the main reason why no big leap forward has happened in this area of science and engineering since the time we were boys (as compared, to, say, advances in surgery and computing).

Krishanu said...

Respected Sir,
Thank you for this timely post. As my fellow readers have already pointed out (very eloquently) the unnecessary hoopla over this 'event', I will limit myself to another issue which has recently hogged the limelight; that of the 'Save the Tigers' campaign. The number-1411-has gripped everyone's attention like never before; apparently that is the number of tigers left in the wild, although the number is based on a census taken one year back! Moreover, there was some controversy about the way the tiger-census was carried out; apparently the rangers and the census-takers used the old, now discarded, method of recording and counting the pug marks left by tigers, and not the commonly accepted electronic/camera based methods. Evidently, then, the number may be flawed.
But, what surprised me the most is the fact that a majority of people have ignored the facts, or have not even tried to seek them out, and have started displaying their humane, politically correct, sides on 'Save the Tiger' fan-pages on Facebook, and other sites. I may be mistaken, but somehow something tells me that the people and organisations who are working tirelessly to protect and increase awareness about the few surviving tigers in the wild, would do well without the blatant outpouring of public sympathy for their work (and that ,too, on the Internet).
You will excuse me, Sir, if I have digressed from the point, but, in my opinion, these two issues are inter-related; both profess to be directed towards saving the ecology, and therefore the environment, and both represent what subtle and clever marketing can do. Plus, both reek of tokenism, although, as you pointed out, a very glamorous form of tokenism.
However, I have no intention of being branded a pathological cynic, and, while I do recognize a few welcome results that these two programs will throw up, somehow I feel a lot more need to be done. We just seem to shrug off the real responsibilities by responding so vigorously to such inanities. When will we grow up?
Yours' Sincerely,
Krishanu Chatterjee

avishek said...

Dear sir,
It is great you posted this campaign on your blogspot. Many people like me who did not know about this campaign earlier came to know about this wonderful initiative by WWF from reading your blogpost.
You are correct when you pointed out that real change will come in when the common man makes a true and sincere effort to harness alternative sources of energy as a part of everyday life. We all know about solar lanterns but how many of us living in urban areas really use it? Recharging solar lanterns is so easy – one just needs to put it out in the sun for a few hours and the job’s done. It has the potential to save about 30% of our electricity bills every month. I feel today’s India is lagging behind in the adoption of clean energy technologies. May be we are bogged down by high initial capital costs but if one considers the significant benefits this can have in the long run, we shall realize making such an investment is not at all difficult.
Campaigns like the Earth Hour are immensely important - they can generate greater awareness regarding global warming and the need to take urgent action , considering the massive news headlines it can generate on that particular day across the world. One can rest assured Las Vegas will never shut down – even one hour means billion dollars of losses to the gambling industry which sustains Las Vegas’s economy. I agree initiatives like Earth Hour may seem like an act of tokenism for many and it might even be fashionable to join in the Green Movement for a single hour – but i think we should always remember ‘a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step’. We can all look towards the future with a sense of hope that some day, all these efforts will surely bear fruit.

Subhasis Graham Mukherjee said...

Good point on trying to make a cost-benefit analysis - it really is better for the longer term, but that is totally clouded out of the common persons common senses, like so...

Gas/Petrol prices kept rising to historic levels. Common people kept trying to cope with that as best as possible - using cars less often, ride-share, taking transit, choosing fuel-efficient cars if they had to make a change and so on. Oil companies made a killing. Car companies made token announcements and efforts of coming up with fuel-efficient, hybrid and alternative energy (electric) cars. Then came the worldwide economic collapse and oil prices made a sharp downward spiral. The fall may have seen dramatic but the lowest prices of gasoline were actually around those seen in the early 2000s. There were some noises that the fall in oil prices were bad for the economy! Guess what came next - stupid and gullible consumers went back to their humongous gas-guzzlers and made merry. Car companies halted the research and development on alternative fuel and fuel efficient cars - the cost benefit math now showed not a single car would be sold. Oil companies laughed again - then they slowly played the supply - demand game again to get gas prices where they feel is the right point for them.

I don't know the situation now, but having been involved in Energy Conservation and Management research in US in late 80s and early 90s, I know what a big farce it is. Most of the Energy Conservation research was funded by - surprise! the oil companies. No prizes for guessing how effective those research efforts would be "allowed" to be.

US Congress has been pushed for ages to enforce a higher minimum mileage for cars - the technology has always been there. But the bill never passes due to the overwhelming influence of the oil lobby. Japanese cars repeatedly achieve much better fuel efficiency than American cars. For all their operational and product inefficiencies, when American car companies go bankrupt, they have to be bailed out by taxpayers money. Weird! shouldn't the oil companies pay for their miseries? - whose interests they were so steadfastly assuring!

Shuvojit said...

@ Subhasis i would beg to differ on the point "It's no wonder that India has a far better record in conservation, control and restraint in the energy consumption and therefore environmental issues, than western economies from where all the awareness and actions seem to originate." purely on personal observations.

Conservation in India does not take place. Which cave/view point/monument in India have u come across which did not have X loves Y written on/around. I have found it on a tusk in Kolkata museum. Sanjay Gandhi National Park is being sold to real estate barons by parts.
Not related to energy consumption?! We Indians show this trait in every action we do. When I checked the picture of the world in night I noticed that India has the most densely populated lighted spots.
I have found the smaller cities or Tier2 cities as it is popularly called now, to be far more polluted than some State Capitals in US.
We are merrily lapping up the gas-guzzlers that are being launched now than try & use public transport. Sadly we are yet to have options. Toyota Pirus (even after the call backs) is still too costly to afford however much i may want it.
We are mindlessly following the same foot-steps that these so called western developed economies have taken & falling in the same pits. And if the doomsayers of IPCC are to be believed we are not far if not already crossed the point of no return.

Sir i would like to thank you for putting up the post.
Power is going to be a huge problem in future. I had written a blog on it sometime ago & can be found on the link http://shuvlostinwonder.blogspot.com/2008/05/ooh-power.html

Today i have 2 fears.
1. Would World War-3 be fought over Power??? Power as in Energy & now show of might. I believe they are too inter-related now. Also the war has started though in a subtle way. The WMD are actually making the concept MAD successful.
2. Sir in one of your classes you had lamented that when motorized cars came in people were happy because the then "pollutant" horse dung was being done away with. As history repeats itself, would we shift to an alternative which after 100 years would prove to be more harmful than the current pollutants?

Vaishnavi said...

Dear Sir,

I unfortunately couldn't comment on this post or your other recent ones but I did read this one and did my bit on the 27th of March. Thanks so much for bringing this to our notice!


Suvro Chatterjee said...

Thank you, Vaishnavi. As I said, everyone's little bit counts...