The Earth Hour and a road death

Yesterday evening was Earth Hour, a campaign where people switch off electric lights for a period of time, to indicate their support for battle against man-made climate change.

I didn't participate as such; I dislike waste of energy and resources in any case, and I don't want to make a fuss about something that is fairly natural to me. Actually, I forgot about the whole thing.

But the town of Uusikaupunki participated in the campaign, by switching off not only decoratory lights in public buildings, but also the street lights.

Now, there are reasons why there are street lights. The main reason is that people are able to move about safely. Yesterday, when the lights were off, a man was walking on Levysepänkatu, on the street - presumably because it was impossible to walk on the light traffic route alongside. The hard winter has surprised most councils here, and the walking areas are generally very icy, and now with spring weather of great daily temperature variations, they thaw in the day, become very uneven, and then freeze in the evening. And walking on such an unlevel surface is just no good, at least in the dark.

As the man was walking on the street, he was hit by a motorbike and killed. He should have been wearing a reflector (cat's eye) as it is mandatory (though not enforceable by fines) when walking on unlighted roads in Finland - but he was walking on a road which is normally lighted; it is not known yet if he was aware of the Earth Hour.

The girl riding the motorbike was not hurt, nor was her passenger. She was sober, wasn't speeding, and the bike was in full working order. So it was an accident, except for the offense that the man was on the street and not on the sidewalk, and possibly not equipped to be visible on a dark road as required by law.

Now, it's an exaggeration to accuse that the man was killed by Earth Hour alone. There was some sheer bad luck around. But it seems like switching off the streetlights was a contributing factor.

I don't expect that a proper investigation will be made, because it would be politically inconvenient. The case will be signed off as a case which the Americans would call "an act of God", which in this case seems a somehow very suitable phrase, as the climate campaign has such strong resemblance to religion.

News in Finnish: Uudenkaupungin Sanomat, Helsingin Sanomat.

Perhaps we could learn something from this for the next year?


One thing that puzzles me is that when discussing climate change, people prefer candles instead of electric lights (as in the propaganda picnic in Zimbabwe; why Zimbabwe is being selected as a showcase example just beats me, as this is just supporting the seriously flawed regime of Robert Mugabe).

Candles are romantic, yes, but if you look at emissions, the manufacturing, distribution and waste management mean that they're most certainly a worse alternative than a modest electric lighting. I like much more this approach to a showcase about climate change: http://zi.fi/earthhour/


Also, I'm baffled that WWF praises on their campaign pages how Burj Khalifa, world's tallest skyscraper, participates in Earth Hour. As an engineer, I'm naturally fascinated by that tower, because it is such an impressive engineering feat in itself. But the wave of new construction Dubai is in my opinion a symbol of excessive waste of resources: massive artificial islands sprawl out to cover the coast - and corals underneath - in an attempt to create some kind of desert Disneyland where the wealthy can spend short or longer stretches of luxury (without alcoholic beverages). All this is funded by oil money, and laboured by Indian and other Asian workers who are exploited in slave-like conditions. If I were WWF, I'd be respectfully quiet about their participation. Unless -- possibly -- they paid me handsomely and I were prone to corruption, about which I don't know because nobody seriously tried to corrupt me yet.


As it is, Chatham Islands did not turn off any of their 12 streetlights, on safety grounds. I must congratulate the Chatham Islanders -- all 609 of them -- on retaining some common sense.

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