EDITORIAL: ‘World Earth Hour’ exemplifies passive activism

by | Mar 24, 2017 | Editorial, Opinion

ETC Staff

The World Wildlife Foundation is holding its annual “Earth Hour” this Saturday. In its 10th year, Earth Hour is meant to raise awareness for the amount of power unnecessarily used every day and steps that could be taken to lower the carbon impact.

When first introduced, people nodded accordingly. Many pointed to board games and, gasp, spent time with family, as an alternative to using electricity in some capacity.

“Put down your phones and pick up a book!” You could argue this hour made people appreciate the world and would have lasting effects.

But that doesn’t happen. Earth Hour has become another example of passive activism that encapsulates the stereotypes of Millennials. An irony waves over twentysomethings every time they share a photo of what they did for Earth Hour.

Millennials are completely aware of the lazy tags that stick to the reputation of today’s young adults. But considering we’re in the midst of the greatest technological revolution in history, which in turn becomes some of humanity’s greatest accomplishments, those associations are sometimes without merit.

Yet, these stereotypes become real when people fall into certain patterns. Rounding out the first quarter of the 21st century, this crop of young adults has become known as the “raising awareness generation”: the first to raise our voice and click the share button to “help spread the cause,” but often short of doing anything.

The poster-child of our generation’s awareness-raising ways was five years ago, when a slickly produced 28-minute film was released online: Kony 2012.

A charity known as Invisible Children made it, detailing the plight of youth in Uganda facing Lords Resistance Army warlord leader Joseph Kony. Murder, child-sex slavery and justification of child soldiers were just a few of the major human rights concerns in this situation.

The video, loaded with misleading statistics and images of war-torn Africa, was shared millions of times and millions more tweeted out the hashtag #StopKony, creating a dialogue around conflict within Uganda. Eventually, it became a race to raise awareness quicker than the person beside you.

Five years later, Kony is still at large, Invisible Children has become an example of failed advocation, and the world has moved onto its next humanitarian crisis. While this comes across as active pessimism, the routine of manufactured activism accomplishes just as much.

It’s this routine where something like saving electricity gets lumped with a National Donut Day or International Free Hugs Day or National Paper Airplane Day (yes, those are all real occasions) and disrupts its intended purpose. The days and weeks pass like sand through the hourglass and the awareness that was so heavily shared becomes so easily forgotten.

The image of “activism” from generations past were millions marching in unison for a common goal; today, it’s a catchy slogan that can become a meme in under a week.

At one point, there weren’t more than a few days on the calendar that people made a point to celebrate. Christmas, New Year’s, Easter, Canada Day, and…Halloween? St. Patrick’s Day? Labour Day was a struggle to get in there, too.

Now in a world where connectivity makes any human interaction possible, we’ve resorted to these synthetic “National _____ Day” one-offs that accomplish nothing past an Instagram post which garners far too many likes.

Just this week, millions shared photos of the cutest canines on March 23 in “honour” of National Puppy Day – an unofficially recognized day in the United States. One couldn’t scroll through their Facebook or Twitter timeline without being bombarded with images of puppies, with or without their owners. It almost seemed like a one-day takeover of Instagram.

And the world moved on the following day. How long, or how quick, will the world move on past Earth Hour?