Monday, April 2, 2012

An Hour for Understanding

On Saturday I was watching the #EarthHour hashtag on Twitter as 8:30 ticked through Mountain Time, and I'll be blunt--I was demoralized by a lot of what I saw. Sure, there were people tweeting about how they were going to participate... but there were also people shooting from the hip about "hippies," about how if you want to find anyone marking Earth Hour, you just need to look for a pulled-over Prius with its passengers shivering in the dark, and plenty of people bragging about how they were turning everything on.

I can understand someone who thinks it's a meaningless gesture on their part and just doesn't participate; my own participation, while I was off for a walk around New Westminster, means that the demand on British Columbia's grid dropped by maybe 0.1 kilowatt-hours. What I have more difficulty understanding is the the thought process of someone who luxuriates in their non-participation, or goes the whole Ezra Levant route and turns on everything in their house just because they can. Is it just spite? It's not the sort of action that makes sense to me, in that case; when I set out to spite Ezra Levant in response to his Human Achievement Hour bull, I turned my heat off - which not only made me less comfortable, but saved energy and, thus, money. When people turn on all their stuff during Earth Hour, what is it? "I'll show you to turn off all your lights! I'll turn on all the things that make me more comfortable, and in so doing jack up my hydro bill!"

A lack of understanding is something that irritates me, so I tried to engage. I asked questions. I didn't swear, I didn't insult... but that didn't stop some dude, when asked why we shouldn't give a shit if George Carlin was right and it was just us that needed to be saved and not the planet, from answering that I'm "nuts" and "want us living in the 13th century."

I don't know how to respond to something that's as far out there as that statement. How do you have a meaningful conversation with someone who's so rooted in their position that their answer to a question (in the interests of transparency, my question was "Oh, so if it's only us that are going to go somewhere, it... isn't our problem? Seriously?") is a personal attack? How do you engage with someone who refuses to even entertain the basic premises of your argument?

A streetlight in downtown New Westminster.

I can remember a time when I hadn't yet come to a conclusion about the issues of climate change - back around 2002 and 2003, almost a sort of never-never-land now, when there were reports of "global warming" on Mars and before summer Arctic ice losses really started getting in gear, and before the Fear, Uncertainty, and Doubt machine really started to spew in earnest. What didn't happen was this - I didn't find a position and then weld my boots to it. As evidence continued to pile up, and I learned about things like ocean acidification that I'd never heard of before, things shifted.

When it comes to a person who shoots first and answers questions later, then... where are they? What led them to the spot where they're standing, and why do they keep standing there? I know for a fact that some people believe, just as I theorized, that it's "arrogant" to suggest that humans can influence the climate, but that comes down to the nature of how well one understands the effect that human civilization has on Earth. But that can't be all of it. So what is it, then? Is it fear? Are some people really so terrified of shadows that something like this is enough to set them off, that something as innocuous as Earth Hour means that the black helicopters will soon be landing?

It's difficult, it really is. Sometimes I feel like it's 1983 and I'm arguing with people who think that TTAPS is full of shit and the idea of nuclear winter is a Communist hoax meant to make the West eliminate its nuclear stockpile so that the Reds can roll over us. I mean, it's no less ridiculous than the idea that that climate change is a hoax set up by scientists to get grant money, or that it's not anthropogenic so we don't need to give a shit about what happens. These are fundamentally stupid ideas that have as much backing as the notion that our prominent political and cultural leaders are actually twelve-foot-tall blood-drinking reptilian aliens in disguise.

Maybe it would be better if they were aliens, after all--that, at least, would mean that they've probably dealt with this sort of situation before, and have some idea of how to address it.

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