Not Taking Part in Earth Hour? How About 'Human Achievement Hour'?

Not Taking Part in Earth Hour? How About 'Human Achievement Hour'?

If you were planning to celebrate "Earth Hour," on March 28 from 8:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. (local time wherever you live on Planet Earth) because you don't have anything else to do, just wait: there is now an alternative celebration that requires even less effort than turning off your lights for an hour!

Earth Hour, which started in Australia in 2007, is a rapidly growing worldwide phenomenon urging people around the world to turn off their lights for one hour to recognize the impact that humans have on the environment. In the words of the WWF, the event's founders, it is "a global call to action for every individual, every business, and every community. A call to stand up and take control over the future of our planet." For this year's celebration, the organizers are expecting 1 billion people to participate.

One group that will steadfastly not be participating is the Competitive Enterprise Institute, which yesterday announced its own, competitive (of course) celebration: the mind-blowingly strange "Human Achievement Hour."

The CEI, of course, is the free-market advocacy group and think tank that has long espoused market-based, non-solution solutions to environmental crises. Recent CEI efforts include a "Celebrate Coal!" rally last month and a study that aimed to "debunked myths" about bottled water.

But Human Achievement Hour is on an entirely new level of strangeness. As near as I can tell, the "holiday" involves going about your normal day to day (or night-to-night, or hour-to-hour) business. In the words of the press release:

"We are so proud that millions of people plan to show their appreciation for human achievement by doing things like eating diner [sic], watching television, going to the movies, and brushing their teeth," says Human Achievement Hour Founder and CEI Policy Analyst Michelle Minton. "Never before has a new holiday caught on so quickly."

In fact, this press release is so bizarre, and the wink-wink, nudge-nudge ridiculousness of the idea is buried only so shallowly under the surface, that it bears significant excerpting:

The new one-hour holiday, unknown prior to this press release, has already received overwhelming support from many of Washington, D.C.'s leading institutions. The Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority, for example, tells CEI that it does not plan to shut down all of the city's bus and rail lines for the "Earth Hour." The Kennedy Center, likewise, has scheduled a performance of the long-running play Sheer Madness, a jazz concert, and a dance performance to coincide with the Human Achievement Hour. Washington, D.C.'s Target store, furthermore, will remain open until 10:00pm on the evening of the 28th.  The Smithsonian Institution also plans a film showing that will extend into Human Achievement Hour.

Other organizations around the world and the nation have planned events in support of the new holiday. For example, The United State Marine Corps will continue its combat and humanitarian operations around the world during Human Achievement Hour. The New York Times confirms that it intends to put out a paper on March 29th, 2009 (preparation and printing for that issue will take place during Human Achievement Hour). At least 30,000 movies will also be screened in celebration of Human Achievement Hour. Hospital emergency and operating rooms, likewise, will remain open in Washington and in the rest of the country. Nearly all of the nation's Wal-Mart locations will also be open during Human Achievement Hour.

What's notably missing from these paragraphs is an asterisk, linking to the bottom of the press release, which says: "It goes without saying that, except for CEI itself, the institutions listed above have not actually endorsed 'Human Achievement Hour.'"

I tell you: this is just too befuddling a "news" announcement to have waiting for me on a Friday morning. I don't know if the Earth Hour organizers are including in their billion-participant expectations all the world's people who don't have electricity in their homes (and thus are de facto "celebrating" Earth Hour every night), but the CEI is rather explicitly shepherding everyone in the world who isn't turning out lights into their "Human Achievement Hour" campaign.

So I guess that's what it comes down to: are you going to turn out your lights for an hour, or are you going to side with the CEI? Thanks to the CEI, I now know which side I'm on...