I don't get it.
Everywhere I look I'm bombarded by symbols.
Pink ribbons for breast cancer. Red ribbons for AIDS. White, for ending violence against women.
Bracelets of every hue for any number of causes.
Last week I received multiple Facebook messages encouraging me to wear purple for epilepsy. I also vaguely remember being urged to wear denim for some reason. That one was easy, I always wear denim.
And now, even as I type, Earth Hour is upon us.
I am starting to feel like the small child in the story of The Emperor's New Clothes.
I am not disputing the worthiness of any of these causes, and for the purposes of this argument, let's assume global warming is real.
My question is, how does any of this help?
I know that ribbon campaigns are part of fund raising. That's fair enough. But once I've given the donation, how does my wearing the ribbon or the bracelet or the colour scheme help any further? By "raising awareness"? By providing a positive example encouraging others to follow my lead and make a donation? Maybe.. but is that enough to justify the hype surrounding these symbols?
By now I suppose everyone knows what the pink ribbon means. A yellow ribbon means I have a family member serving in the armed forces. But beyond that, colour association becomes confusing. Unfortunately, there are a limited number of colours and an unlimited number of causes.
If I wear a purple ribbon I could be fighting any number of things including lupus, fibromyalgia, homelessness, pancreatic cancer and cruelty to animals.
A blue ribbon could mean that my calf won first prize at the county fair, or else that I am against prostate cancer, chronic fatigue syndrome, and/or child abuse.
Clearly the method is being overused, with likely diminishing returns.
I am even more confused by the "wear this colour!" campaigns. Who is to know if I'm wearing purple because I'm in the mood for it, or because I support epilepsy research? And tell me someone please, exactly HOW does my wearing purple help anybody?
In many cases I don't even have to make an actual donation in order to use the symbols. I can put pink ribbons all over my website and Facebook page for free. I can dye my twitter avatar green in support of the Iranian revolution. Then again, the greenery might end up confusing people who might think I'm an environmentalist. Or really not feeling well.
Which brings us back to Earth Hour.
Last year I spent Earth Hour sitting alone in the dark. I felt ridiculous and promptly forgot about the whole ordeal to the extent that I had to re-learn what the whole thing was about this time around.
So much for "awareness".
I do believe that global warming, climate change or whatever they call it now is real, because any arguments to the contrary seem to come from those with vested economic interests in keeping things running full steam ahead. (If only we still ran on steam.)
But making a festival over turning lights off for an hour? On a Saturday night? Even the promoters acknowledge that the effect is symbolic.
Symbolic, and certainly nothing new. Turning off unnecessary lights, turning down the heat and air conditioning, and avoiding unnecessary driving are lifestyle changes I made decades ago. Besides, my personal carbon footprint is nothing compared to that of industry so why place the guilt on me, for leaving my lights (actually, only one light) and computer on during Earth Hour?
Let's have earth hour at 2 PM on a weekday and close all the mines and factories. Let's have public education about the consequences of our culture of acquisition not just in financial terms but with regard to the environmental impact it creates. Let's have people insist that governments enact appropriate legislation to protect both the environment and the economy, so that these vital imperatives are not working at cross purposes. Let's not have people think that turning off their lights for an hour once a year absolves them of any further responsibility towards the environment.
Oh and if you're lighting a candle to replace your electric lamp, do make sure it's made of soy or beeswax. Normal candles are made of paraffin, which is made from...
wait for it...