You’ve changed your light bulbs, reduced the meat in your diet, installed a low-flow showerhead, taken toxic cleaners to the hazardous waste depot and tried all the other challenges Catherine and I have set out since mid-January.
This is the 10th and final challenge for our Green Life blog. We trust, though, that it’s just the start as you do what you can to reduce your environmental footprint.
This week, we’re proposing three more steps to turn an end into a beginning.
First, since this is Earth Hour day, the initial challenge is to turn out your lights, and anything else electric that you can safely do without, between 8 and 9 this evening.
You’ll be part of a worldwide movement that has gained remarkable momentum, particularly in Canada and Australia — where the event was launched last year.
Earth Hour is all about education and changing behaviour but, what the heck, contests are fun and why shouldn’t Toronto and the rest of the GTA achieve a bigger drop in electricity use than anywhere else.
Hundreds of governments and businesses say they’ll participate. But the consumption meters won’t fall very far, and the photos won’t be truly memorable, unless plenty of homeowners, condo dwellers and apartment residents flick some switches, too.
Second, since Earth Hour isn’t just about 60 minutes of near darkness, the next part of the challenge is to keep on keeping on with the previous green moves, and the 71 daily tips we’ve posted on thestar.com.
Some cynics scoff at this evening’s event or argue it’s the wrong approach. It’s certainly not the only way to encourage greener lives, and it can’t be enough on its own to prevent climate change and other environmental problems from reaching calamitous proportions. Government measures — things like tough regulations and substantial carbon taxes — are essential, as are new technologies and ways of doing business.
But experience shows that people who try to make improvements get angry with politicians who don’t, and it’s amazing how often politicians develop backbones when they believe their jobs are at risk.
The enthusiastic response to Earth Hour does suggest that many of us are concerned about environment issues and that the event is a great way to widen awareness. It will be a success, though, only if it helps to lead to widespread and permanent steps toward conservation.
We’ve tried to provide a good starting point, and there are vast amounts of information available to keep you going. Two good starting points are WWF-Canada’s Good Life web site and Weconserve, a project of the Conservation Council of Ontario.
Mostly it’s a matter of being conscious of the fact that electricity, no matter how cheap or under priced, is never free. From wind turbines to smoke-spewing coal-fired generating stations, every source has impacts.
The same goes for other resources: The more we use, the more damage we cause. There is no need to starve, freeze, swelter or grope in the dark: We simply need to live wiser and smarter.
Which brings us to the final part of our final challenge: Learn about the environment and make yourself heard. Whether it’s joining or supporting a group; talking to friends and neighbours; helping with a school project; contacting politicians or businesses — involve yourself.
We won't endorse any particular group, or suggest what message you should send to whom. As journalists, we’ve already ventured far enough into advocacy.
The bottom line: Simply become alive to issues that will determine the fate of our planet. To be blunt: Nothing that we do as individuals, on our own, will be enough to avert the climate-change crisis just as it would make virtually no difference to the global outcome if Canada were to immediately stop using fossil fuels. On the other hand, nothing at the essential bigger scale will happen unless people who can do something actually act and create pressure, and examples, for others to follow.
There’s still plenty of resistance to change and differences of opinion have been the order of the day in the responses to our blog.
When we suggested finding substitutes for plastic, and increasing recycling, we got an earful from Dave who objected to the city’s instruction to rinse items before tossing them in the bin. “It’s garbage. Garbage. Garbage,” he wrote. “Life is short enough. Now I have to spend time cleaning my garbage. It’s garbage. Garbage.”
Some of you expressed frustration at attempts to go greener. It can be tough to find a parking spot at GO train stations.
“Oh, ouch,” wrote Nancy, after the “Bye flight” challenge to restrict air travel and its hefty carbon emissions. “I’m finally at the age when I can afford global travel every year or so and now don’t know if my conscience will let me. My timing sucks!”
The call to go meatless for a day also produced objections. “Come on! This is another example of going way too far, at the risk of turning people off,” wrote Anne-Marie Demers. “Are you also going to suggest not having children at all, like I saw on another web site?”
Quite a few of you, in fact, have concluded that the only hope lies in population control. We didn’t pursue that debate since, while it’s true that fewer people would mean less stress on Earth’s environment, it’s an idea that’s virtually impossible to turn into a politically and socially acceptable policy. People will have to decide as individuals how many kids to have, and why.
Mostly, you’ve demonstrated understanding and thoughtfulness, and a willingness to try different things. Some of you embrace new technologies: Others look back to the future, to power-free gizmos like the “sidewalk strider” as an alternative to the treadmill.
Either way, it seems a lot of people are ready for change. We heard from many like Annie, who wrote: “Wow, this is great information ..... Great stuff! Thank you so much.”