“Earth Hour?”, he says with a muffle as he tries to pry some candy from a sticky wrapper with his lips, “what’s that all about?” He seems almost interested, but then he sticks his hand out the window and drops the candy wrapper and I know he’s only being polite.
“Do you know what planet you’re on?”, I ask with a tone in my voice akin to that you would use to address a dog who just puddled on the carpet.
“Well,” I continue, “this planet is unable to deal with the rubbish that we are discarding into the environment.” He chews his candy with his mouth half open and loud smacking noises. A piece of candy is stuck to his bottom lip.
“We’ve been clogging the environment for years, and”, I pause for dramatic effect which goes unnoticed, “we might already be unable to reverse the damage.” He looks at me and blinks, then chokes, not because of what I’ve said, but because the tangy candy unwittingly created more saliva than he realised and that ran down his windpipe.
“But,” I continue while tears stream down his cheeks, “we have to do whatever we can. And Earth Hour is a tiny step in the right direction.”
But I know it’s like talking to a stack of rice bags. It will make no difference to him. He grew up without direction; without education of what consequence his actions carry. Dropping his paper out the window is as natural to him as burning plastic together with dry leaves in his back yard. Fire. Smoke. And the rubbish is gone. Never mind that it fogs up the entire neighbourhood for hours.
He doesn’t think twice about chucking a bag full of rubbish into the nearby gutter, or pouring the oil he just drained from his 20 year old car’s engine into the storm water pipe. He buys something wrapped in plastic at the store and puts it into a small plastic bag before putting a lot of small plastic bags into several bigger plastic bags, which he will later throw in the gutter or burn in his back yard.
There’s seems to be little incentive from the government to recycle. In fact, there seems to be little incentive to discard rubbish properly at all. In the meantime rubbish wash into the sea and tourists have to wade through it when they participate in water sports, or the ferry to the island has to stop to clear plastic from the engine, or when they see it while snorkelling on the chocking reefs.
He doesn’t realise that when he drops that wrapper out the window he’s adding to the destruction of the tourism industry that is the lifeblood of his tour company.
He’ll go home tonight and switch on every air-con unit in his house. The fancy array of 100w back-lights sets the mood in his living room, the 2000w halogen spotlights on the exterior of his house ensures that his shiny burglar-bars are visible to criminals in nearby countries. Adding CO2 to the atmosphere? He paid for the electricity, he doesn’t care.
“So how long will this Earth Hour last?”, he says picking at the piece of candy stuck to his lip. I hum Heal The World in my head.
A Small Step in the Right Direction
Kota Kinabalu took one of those small steps on Saturday when Earth Hour was observed for the first time here. The Loft in KK’s Waterfront played host to this event that started in Sydney last year.
There they managed to get 2.2 million people and 2,100 business involved and figured out that if that amount of people participated for only one hour every day for a year by switching off their lights, it would be like removing nearly 49,000 cars from the roads for a whole year.
KK’s Earth Hour was a little smaller than that, but considering that only a few days of organisation went into the event, the turn-out was quite astounding. The Loft was literally packed from the front right through and out the back.
Guys were strumming their guitars to hundreds of candles, every seat was occupied for the entire duration of the ‘black out’ from 8am to 9pm. Simon dressed up as a Roman Candle and conducted an environment centric quiz and Helle and Becky, the organisers, handed out of bags of prizes, some sponsored by WWF who provided materials and information on environmental issues.
Small effort, but a big impact. If only everybody would realise how desperately our planet needs these small gestures on a regular basis. Governments won’t do it, hell, it costs too much. Rather milk the Earth for what it’s worth until it’s gone. Most people in top government positions will be dead before the Earth becomes unliveable, so they don’t care much; it seems.
But for the rest of us, if we don’t do something ourselves, we will have nobody else to blame.