Empty environmental promises overshadow Earth Day’s mission

Earth Hour, which took place Saturday, reminds me of New Year’s Eve.

Families sit around their TV sets anticipating that big moment when some city in the world becomes the first to turn off all of its lights to show solidarity in the global effort to save the planet from its environmental ills. The sense of awe and connection to other people is similar to when the ball descends upon Times Square.

You feel like you are a part of something bigger than yourself, something that doesn’t necessarily have anything to do with you, but at the same time does.

The problem is that behind all of the pomp and circumstance of global awareness are promises being made that will never be kept. Mark Twain once said, “New Year’s is a harmless annual institution, of no particular use to anybody save as a scapegoat for promiscuous drunks, and friendly calls and humbug resolutions.” While I don’t think anyone gets drunk on Earth Day, I think his stance on “humbug resolutions” is accurate.

Think of it this way: The world produces about 27 billion tons of carbon dioxide a year from transportation, use of electricity and one of the most difficult monsters to kill – deforestation.

Say it’s Earth Hour and you decided that your Earth Hour resolution is to stop producing so much carbon dioxide. You don’t have to stop producing all 20 tons of it – say, 10 tons of it. Even if you were to do this, your efforts would be rendered relatively ineffective because people in the world as a whole would continue to produce copious amounts of carbon dioxide. People in America will still drive cars to work and leave the air conditioner on while they are on vacation.

Perhaps I sound cynical. After all, if Earth Day was actually effective in producing a global movement of change, instead of a movement of awareness, then we could become less dependent on those conveniences that are slowly bringing the ship down. The problem is that we, as a nation, and as a world, are in the pain of global warming, and we need to make more drastic efforts to curb the problem.

The average individual will not be able to stop global warming. It will take a complete overhaul of the way the world functions politically and economically. For example, per person, air travel burns more fossil fuel than any other form of transportation.

In order to cut this major polluter out of the equation, we would have to stop relying on the speed and efficiency of air transportation. People would have to go back to times when it would take you much longer to receive postage, reach vacation destinations and transport vital resources of the world’s infrastructure. We are dependent politically on all of these things.

Don’t get me wrong, there are individuals in the world who are making a difference. But until the world is willing to put aside its rapid growth and industrialization, take a step back and start working toward a dramatic solution.

I remain convinced that this problem will go the same way as a New Year’s resolution to stop smoking.

Andrew Young is a junior radio-TV-film major from Overton, Kan.