Earth Hour is about Progress

 So I was bored and turned on Sun TV. David Corens’ show was on its last five minutes and well, I thought I could watch it. Honestly, I had to turn it after about two. For, after the talking about the Trudeau-Braseau Charity Boxing Match, Mr. Coren took it upon himself to advertise Sun News Network’s “anti-Earth Hour Celebration”: Human Achievement Hour.

Human Achievement Hour has been embraced by some on the “Right”, as a ‘logical’ response to what is seen as a symbol of the “Left”. However, if one thinks about the accusation, one will understand that those who criticize Earth Hour are actually out of step with economics, history and most of human experience.

Economics foundation is the concept of Scarcity. Therefore, when I was in Economics 1000 at York University, a number of concepts came to the fore. They included Opportunity Costs, the Production Possibility Boundary, Capacity and Technology.  For those who have taken Economics, the concept is simple: everything is limited and that limit drives human experience. Or put differently, humans are always trying to do more with less.

Just think about cars. Cars today use fewer material resources than they would have forty years ago. Accordingly, automobiles use less gas, oil and lubricants then they did in the 1950’s. They have fewer fumes and pollution than their ancestors. Some cars even have parts which have been made from recycled materials. Or put differently, cars today are more environmentally friendly. Given, that European and North American Governments have brought in new regulations, the truth is that cars will just continue to become more efficient.

Or one can look at computers. My cell phone is smaller than the Commodore 64 or 128. It is also more powerful than those 1980’s era computers. They use less material and probably take up less energy. Just as the Commodore 64 was “light years” ahead of the WWII era ENIAC computer. While, ENIAC took up 1800 square feet (167 m2), and consumed 150 kW of power, my cell phone plugs into a standard wall socket.

So with cars as with computers, we have done more with less. In the 1970’s, we in North America reduced our oil consumption dramatically; because of the OPEC-led Oil Crisis. In general, this meant more insulation and better construction techniques. So, at the end of the day, while we had less, North Americans ended up with a better environment, less consumption and a higher standard of living.

Or one can take the German and Japanese reversal on Nuclear Technology in energy production. In both cases, Governments are finding ways to keep the same lifestyle, development goals and income with less energy. What is most interesting is that those economies tend to have higher productive numbers than we do. Consequently, while these countries have Northern Climates, they use less energy than the average Canadian. Russians, Norwegians, Swedish the Finnish and the Danish all have similar lifestyles to Canada and leave in similar climates. However, they do so with more recycling of materials; coupled with using less energy and water use.

For years, we have been told that we cannot have a better lifestyle while using fewer resources. However, many economies in the world have shown the opposite: That growth and environmental forethought are not exclusive. They can be mutual beneficial. For example, in 2008, Unilever made a commitment to purchase all our palm oil from certified sustainable sources by 2015. On their website, the noted that Unilever was “one of the world’s largest buyers of palm oil for use in products such as margarine, ice cream, soap and shampoo. We purchase around 1.3 million tonnes annually, which is about 3% of the world’s total production.”  Imagine that: a largec ompany change to a more sustainable method and the change did not cause the company economic harm. Or one could look at BP, Shell and Statoil. Those major companies are still making huge profits even as their home countries move toward more intensive carbon emission regulations.

Denmark is depending more on wind energy and The German use of solar power is exptect to rise over the next years. Depending on political conversations, the German energy mix could move from 2% solar use today to as much as 10% by 2020. None of these changes have caused a single European citizen to have a lower standard of living. In fact, Human Development Index shows that European Countries are usually on top. They live longer and better than North Americans. They use less health care services than us too. They are generally happier and have a higher mean income than us. Or put differently, their environmental conscience has led to more rather than less. Or put differently, taking care of the “Other” can be beneficial. If we define the environment as the “Other”, we can still make money by protecting it.

So to critics of Earth Hour, one thing should be said: Earth Hour is about Human Progress. So, please, celebrate with the rest of us.

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