In this series I’m adopting the language used by the global warming enthusiasts in an attempt to communicate on level ground.
This Saturday, we’re supposed to turn off all our lights for an hour to “join [WWF] in taking a step towards living more sustainably”.
But what is the real effect on the environment of switching off our lights and burning candles instead?
Modern candles are generally made from parrafin wax – ie, oil. They burn inefficiently, putting out most of their energy as heat, while producing a little bit of light as well. On the other hand, most of New Zealand’s electricity generation is from renewable sources (hydro), so produces very low carbon emissions.
So what are you doing if you huddle over candles this Saturday?
- Depending on how many candles & lights you use, you may actually increase your carbon emissions (unless you make your own candles from tallow of course (a renewable biofuel), so the die-hard hippies are ok. But they probably have earth hour every night anyway).
- Inhaling smoke, damaging your lungs (again no change for the die-hard hippies if they’re on the weed anyway). Smoke inhalation is a major health problem in the third world, and is one of the reasons we use electric light.
- Wasting money. Electricity is far cheaper than candles – because it is more efficient.
- Damaging local industry, sending money to China. Electricity is made by Kiwis, for Kiwis. Most of our candles are made in China (check your packet). Buy NZ made – use electricity this Earth Hour.
- Creating a fire hazard. Candles are a major source of house fires. This week it could be you.
I’m sure there are more problems I’ve missed. If you don’t want your cemetary to be flooded by rising seawater in a hundred years, Buy NZ Made this earth hour, and use electric lights.
Although the Fire Service suggests torches as safer than candles, they’re at least as bad for the environment. Batteries are toxic and take a large amount of energy to produce relative to the amount of light you get out of them. And they’re probably made in China too. Don’t go there.
Rather than candles or torches, it would be far more sustainable to use some of New Zealand’s clean, eco-friendly renewable electricity, crank out the outdoor Christmas lights, and join MandM’s Earth Hour protest.