Last night, like many around the globe, we shut off our lights in solidarity with Earth Hour. Now, it’s easy for me to get really cynical about these kinds of things. The event is, after all, a symbolic and licensed subversion which rather than producing the effect it desires, produces only a spectacle of that effect without any meaningful change (which is a kind of fascism, but I digress more on that here, sans the fascism bender).
I also tend to wallow in the various ironies an event like this produces. For example, faced with the decision of which “non-essential” lights to darken, Rio chose to shut off the iconic Christ the Redeemer statue, bathing the “light that shines in the darkness” in darkness. (One irony, among many for me here, is that we judge essentials and non-essentials by a single factorâ€”the market economy, despite the event’s focus that it is the market economy that is partially–if not wholly–responsible for the need for the event).
And I really despise the ceaseless bickering of the “global warming: hoax or not?” variety. (and before you say “who doesn’t” just check the big news site and count the ceaseless comments–apparently a great many of us are quite enamored with ceaseless bickering).
And yet, last night, sitting in the dark, I recalled something Paul Hawken said at the close of a talk I heard him give: that we tend to eat our young; we shoot them down with our cynicism and dismantle them with our irony. And then he read this Pablo Neruda poem, which seems fitting for a night like this.
Now we will count to twelve
and we will all keep still.
For once on the face of the earth,
let’s not speak in any language,
let’s stop for a second,
and not move our arms so much.
It would be an exotic moment
without rush, without engines;
we would all be together
in a sudden strangeness!
If we were not so single-minded
about keeping our lives moving,
and for once could do nothing,
perhaps a huge silence
might interrupt this sadness
of never understanding ourselves
and of threatening ourselves
Perhaps the earth can teach us
as when everything seems dead in winter
and later proves to be alive.
Now I’ll count up to twelve
and you keep quiet and I will go.
~ Pablo Neruda, Extravagaria, translated by Alastair Reid