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Let's Make a Commitment to Human Ingenuity

Tomorrow, between 8:30 and 9:30 PM, environmental activists will show their commitment to Mother Nature by sitting in the dark for so-called “Earth Hour.” But paying homage to the Earth for an hour a year, isn’t going to change anything. It only showcases the fact that green activists choose to ignore what really makes the world a safer and better place to live: human ingenuity. 

That is why, as the greens bump around in the dark, CEI urges individuals to turn on the lights and celebrate Human Achievement Hour. We turn on the lights and acknowledge that human creativity, fostered by free markets and free minds, is the source of improving people’s quality of life.

And these achievements are not exclusive to those who live in wealthy nations. Expanding economic activity and technological development is increasingly lifting people up out of poverty around the world. 

For example, a recent World Health Organization (WHO) report lists some positive global health trends. It reports that between 1990 and 2015:

  • Child mortality dropped by 50 percent with 12.7 million fewer deaths among children under five; The number of underweight children during that period declined by 25 percent;
  • Substantially more people gained access to clean drinking water; and
  • 2.1 billion more people gained access to improved sanitation.

Between 2000 and 2015, diarrheal disease-caused deaths among children under five years old have also declined from 1.2 million to 526,000.

These strides are the result of economic growth, which grants access to technologies that have long benefited people in developed nations. For example, greater wealth means access to pesticides and to increased agricultural productivity and for mosquito control, chlorination and development of water supply systems to eliminate deadly pathogens, fossil fuels and the introduction of modern of heating and cooling systems, better housing, and many other benefits.

But you won’t read that in the headlines covering the WHO report, because the authors downplayed these findings and instead chose to peddle the green movement’s regressive anti-technology worldview. They wrongly blame fossil fuels and other modern technology for public health problems that are actually related to poverty and the lack of economic development. 

For example, in developing nations, air quality—particularly indoors—is an enormous problem because people cannot afford electricity or other modern home heating systems. Instead, many people still cook and heat their homes by burning biomass (animal dung, wood, coal, or other solid fuels)—often in homes without proper ventilation, or even a chimney in many cases. It’s not surprising that respiratory illnesses are high among people living in these smoke-filled enclosures.

These populations desperately need economic development and increased access to modern energy delivery systems—such as electricity and natural gas—along with modern appliances and HVAC systems that run on energy from fossil fuels. This type of development will come when developing nations transition to modern, free-market economies that protect private property and free trade. Yet, the Inheriting a Stainable World repeatedly mentions fossil fuels as part of the problem and calls for “shift from fossil fuels to sustainable and cleaner energy sources,” which will only contribute to continued misery.

It’s time that green groups stop hiding in the dark and open their eyes to the real problems facing people around the world. With “Earth Hour” and similar stunts they push a dangerous and regressive ideology, and that’s the real threat to human well-being.