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What happens after Earth Hour? Cookie Boy might shift to the void deck.

Cookie Boy waxes on Earth Hour-not, and Starbucks

Echoing the words of Madonna’s song You Must Love Me, Cookie Boy wonders, “Where do we go from here?”… 48 hours after the lights dimmed out and the curtain fell on Earth Hour.  

By Cookie Boy

In an ironical twist on Monday 30 March, Sydney, the place where Earth Hour began, had another reason to celebrate Earth Hour when parts of the CBD and Eastern Suburbs were hit by a power failure which sent the city into a blackout. 

That same night at 8.30pm, I observed my own Earth Hour of sorts.  I switched off my lights and all other electrical products in my room except for the fan.  I left the lights in the living room on for my mother who was watching television as it would be unreasonable to demand an elderly woman suffering from glaucoma to watch television under candlelight.   

The first ten to fifteen minutes were fine.  But as the clock slowly ticked away, I got fidgety and restless.  There was nothing I could do with the lights switched off in my room.  I could sleep…but I wasn’t tired.  I couldn’t read.  I couldn’t write.  I couldn’t get onto the internet to do some research.  I couldn’t get any work done.  I couldn’t get productive…  

And if you had watched the series Californication or the movie Confessions of a Shopaholic, you’ll understand perfectly the difficulty of weaning off certain things.  In this case I’m a ‘light-up-aholic’.  Just as Rebecca Bloomwood the protagonist in Confessions could hear store mannequins urging her to buy, buy and buy, I could hear my room light telling me: “Turn me on.  Turn me on.  You know that you need me!”

After 20 minutes, I finally surrendered.  I didn’t turn on the lights.  I simply fled with a book into the living room but not without first turning off the fan.  At that moment I understood how Hank Moody (David Duchony’s character in Californication) and Bloomwood felt.  Meanwhile, the lights to my room and the other parts of the house sans living room remained off at least until 930pm. 

It was a failed experiment on my part.  And for those who turned off the lights during that one hour on Saturday 28 March, I must say: “Good for you!”        

I was chatting over MSN to a fellow Singaporean D who is studying at the University at Sydney and the conversation veered towards Earth Hour.       

“Nobody cared about Earth Hour except me,” D said. 

“What did you do?” I asked. 

“I did the whole hour exercise and everybody was still partying away.  I just stayed in perpetual darkness with a friend who joined me, and we played Scrabble in candle light,” D replied.

“Why did you do that for?” I continued. 

“To show my support for Earth Hour,” she said.  “You know how much we can save if everyone on earth actually does it?  Tons of fuel.”

I don’t have any exact statistics to support D’s claim.  But as Carine Seror, Corporate Responsibility, World Wildlife Fund (WWF) Singapore and the campaign manager had in an earlier article pointed out, Earth Hour was just a “symbolic gesture” and that the world could not be saved just by turning out the lights for just that one hour a year en masse. 

What happens after 2130: 59 then?  Do our efforts to fight climate change end here?  Where do we go from here?

As Rove McManus, host of the Australian variety show Rove, stated on his Sunday 29 March show: 

“I think…I happen to think Earth Hour is a great idea cause it can help the environment because you switch off the lights for an hour and I think that cataracts three days of burning rubber and Formula One exhaust fumes.”

That’s some food for thought. 

While we let scientists and researchers figure out new means to harness alternative energy resources such as solar or wind power which would help cut down on carbon emissions, perhaps we could consider some of the suggestions Seror had given, or continue to follow your own energy conservation methods at your home or office.  I’m not a die-hard environmentalist, but I try to do my tiny wee bit for the environment by re-using paper and printing on two sides.   

On another front, corporations too have joined in the bandwagon to help fight climate change as part of their Corporate Social Responsibility efforts.  One of TOC’s reporters, Teng Jingwei, noted that corporations such as Singtel, Philips, Nokia, Starbucks Coffee and Coca Cola were present at the Green Carnival. 

Starbucks Coffee?  Wait a minute!  Weren’t Starbucks accused of wasting water by leaving their taps running to wash utensils in a method known as a dipper well?  The Straits Times report on 8 October 2008 highlighted that Starbucks Coffee Singapore had admitted that they had indeed employed this system to meet health standards.  To be fair to Starbucks Coffee Singapore, they did clean up their act by discontinuing this practice.   

Then again, how could a company who claims to be committed to the environment engage in such a wasteful act of resources?  This is Starbucks’ commitment:

“By taking steps to reduce waste from our operations and recycle, we can preserve the earth’s natural resources and enhance the quality of lives around the globe.  Starbucks actively seeks opportunities to minimise our environmental impact and help create a healthy planet.”

And in another surprising discovery, Nadine Well of Heart of Green found out that the Starbucks cups aren’t recyclable.  According to the author, the cups are made up of paper fibre and low density polyethylene plastic for the liner which renders the cup unrecyclable.    

In a form of indirect admission, Starbucks Coffees in its FAQ on Starbucks Shared Planet states:

“Our ability to recycle varies among neighborhoods and communities.  Every town or city has different requirements for what is recyclable or compostable.  That is why we need to find cups that work for everyone to meet our goal of having our cups be 100% reusable or recyclable by 2015.  In the meantime, you can help by using reusable cups.”

Let us examine our own green practices before we quickly accuse Starbucks of ‘greenwash’.  Notice how the company shifts the duty of care back to the consumer!  What’s our responsibility then?  A complete consumer boycott of Starbucks isn’t realistic.  Bringing our own mugs which we will later have to wash is perhaps a lesser evil compared to the unrecyclable Starbucks cups if we don’t use too much water to clean them.    

Meanwhile, in an interview with TOC, Doctor Brendan Mackey of the Climate Change Institute, Australia National University, warns of the grave situation of runaway climate change and its threat to people living in low lying areas due to rising sea levels.     

Anyway, I don’t think a return to a primitive lifestyle would help arrest the problem of climate change since we have become over-reliant on the conveniences brought about by electricity thirsty modern technologies.  However, the few minutes of sacrifice in darkness has taught me something – to appreciate lights even more. 

Although I’m a ‘light-up-aholic’, I guess I’ll try to make some changes to my lifestyle…maybe I’ll shift my activities to the void deck!

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