George Marshall on Earth Hour: Turning out the lights plays into the hands of our critics

Photograph: Daniel Berehulak/Getty Images

Photograph: Daniel Berehulak/Getty Images

[Via BBC Earth] George Marshall, writing in the Guardian, has a persuasive essay detailing why the messaging of Earth Hour is manna from heaven for the inactivists and deniers:

Light has a vast range of positive and aspirational associations: civilisation, truth, health, intelligence, safety, hope, life and salvation. Those opposing action on climate change understand this well and frequently use images of electric light at night in their publicity as a metaphor for excitement, civilisation, and progress.

So it is hard to think of any image more destructive to our cause than turning off lights. The metaphors of darkness are overwhelmingly negative: danger, decay, and death. We see the dark ages as a time of brutality. Poets such as Dylan Thomas call on us to “rage against the dying of the light”. Sir Edward Grey on the eve of the first world war said “the lamps are going out all over Europe”. Really the cultural resonance could hardly be worse.

Indeed.

3 responses to “George Marshall on Earth Hour: Turning out the lights plays into the hands of our critics

  1. Commented over there:

    https://thingsbreak.wordpress.com/2009/03/19/the-terrible-wrongheaded-optics-of-earth-hour/

    Shorter: the “in the dark” claim is bogus, and sadly familiar from prior corporate PR responses to science about lighting issues, cited.

  2. Marion Delgado

    AFTER THE FACT is no time to be a moral scold – this is already semi-spontaneously going to happen, right?

    So get in front of the parade and steer it.

    Besides, I think the Night Skies people would say this is a bunch of crap, anyway. Guess what, we’ve extincted virtually all the world’s predators. Nor are they turning out streetlights so that women will get raped or people with wallets will get mugged.

    We DO need more darkness. And more silence. Those are facts, medical facts, even.

  3. Whatever happened to fighting the notion that black should be associated with danger, decay and death? Considering who does the most damage to the environment, it might make more sense to associate whiteness with those things.

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