Canadian journalist Donna Laframboise. Former National Post & Toronto Star columnist, past vice president of the Canadian Civil Liberties Association. New posts: Mondays & Wednesdays.
Canadian students are so jazzed about Earth Hour they need to be bribed to do volunteer work.
In less than three weeks, the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) will hold its annual Earth Hour event. That event will be promoted aggressively by the lapdog – as opposed to the watchdog – media. (The largest circulation newspaper here in Canada, the Toronto Star, is once again an official Earth Hour sponsor.)
All sorts of preachy Earth Hour messages will soon be yammering in your ears and burrowing into your brain. But don’t be bamboozled. Rather than being a grassroots initiative, organized by the earnest and sincere, this is a slick, international campaign partly devised and owned by Fairfax Media Limited – a publicly-traded Australian conglomerate.
Rather than being an organic outpouring of concern for Mother Earth to which masses of people willingly donate their time, Earth Hour is highly orchestrated. For example, see this volunteer job posting at Simon Fraser University (SFU) in beautiful British Columbia.
Each full-time student at that institution pays $2 per semester to fund an organization called Sustainable SFU. What does Sustainable SFU do? For one thing, it’s in the business of recruiting Earth Hour project managers.
The three people on staff at Sustainable SFU are apparently so preoccupied with “lobbying decision makers” and “eliminating campus waste” they couldn’t possibly tack up a few Earth Hour posters on bulletin boards. Moreover, the student population is apparently so disinterested in Sustainable SFU’s goals that young people willing to donate a few hours to the Earth Hour cause are hard to come by.
Instead, the group needs to advertise. It needs to find someone who’ll formally agree to perform designated Earth Hour tasks.
Between March 1st and March 31st, this year’s project manager is expected to spend 20-28 hours “raising awareness at SFU around the Earth Hour event.” In exchange for a “letter of recommendation from the Executive Director upon completion of assigned duties.”
As a university student, I joined campus groups because I believed in certain causes. I donated my time to the activities of those groups out of a sense of community spirit. I wasn’t politically active because someone promised to reward me afterward with a letter that would help me climb the corporate ladder.
There’s a big clue here regarding Earth Hour’s essential nature. This isn’t about genuine, authentic, spontaneous expression. Instead, Earth Hour is a media event. One that is being deliberately and cynically manufactured.
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