Sunday, March 30, 2008


People don't make sense.

We need to begin there. We need to be mindful of this.

It's 7:50 last night. Earth hour was looming. We knew it wouldn't mean much to us here in the country where it still gets dark at night, where we only can see two houses from our windows, where there are no street lights, no businesses, and few cars that travel past. Even so, we were 'in' to the idea of Earth hour. And have been for years.

We started recycling in the early '70's after being introduced to the concept by a fellow student at UVic, Judy Belton. Judy was (and is) a remarkable woman who was far ahead of her time. She volunteered at the recycling center and brought us there to show us huge bins of tin cans, bottles, and paper. She explained how this would all be reused, she had a passion that was contagious and we became recyclers.

Both Joe's parents and mine were furious when we returned home from university with 'bizarre' practices. We would go to the grocery store with paper bags we'd saved from previous visits. This threw off the clerks and caused embarrassment for our families. They didn't understand what we were doing, the fact that Campbell River made it's money from paper mills made the whole thing seem almost traitorous. There were several spats about this, and an actual demand that we stop doing what we were doing. We didn't.

We got on the composting bandwagon just after we purchased our first home. We were both astonished at how the compost pile just never seemed to grow. The compost heap produced the most incredible soil and made our plants at home very, very happy indeed. Around the same time we became vegetarians and were conscious of how our choices in shopping and eating affected the planet.

Energy conservation was more of a 'Joe' thing. He was very aware of lights left on and would turn them off. I'd leave my office for five minutes to go to the washroom or to get a soda and I'd return to a room left darkened by Joe. He'd face me down in arguments about lights, I caved and became aware of any lights left on. My awareness, to be honest, was more "I'd better shut off the light or I'll get shit from Joe" than "I'm turning off the light to save the planet." But we are familiar, in our home, with darkness.

My choice to use a manuel wheelchair was made for similar reasons. I wanted to use my own energy to get myself around. I was unsure of batteries and worried about losing 'power' and thus losing movement. It seemed to me that my own energy was renewable and portable and while I was able, that's what I should use.

So to us 'Earth Hour' was cute, a good idea, but would not effect much change in our lives. That being said, seeing Joe rush around the house at ten minutes to eight turning on lights around us, such that we were in a blaze of lights, seemed odd. Then there he was lighting candles ... on the piano, on the table by the couch, and even, Heaven Forfend, on the window sill.

I asked him why he was turning the lights on. He replied, as if it made sense, "So we have things to turn off at 8."

There are times in a relationship where you just nod and keep silent. This was one of those times. I nodded. At 8 o'clock, on the dot, Joe rushed about shutting the lights all off. Suddenly we were lit by candle glow. It was nice. The candles. So for an hour we lived, noticing how we lived, and reminding ourselves all these years later of Judy Belton and her passions.

We didn't think that we'd notice, Earth hour, out here in the country. But we did. Both houses across from us plunged into darkness. The glow on the horizon from the lights in Barrie disappeared. It was a spectacular dark.

At 7:50, it didn't make sense to me that Joe was turning on lights. But it did to him. He wanted to symbolically join in with the movement. To make a statement.

I don't get where he gets that. But cool. I kept my mouth shut and sat in the dark.

This is the secret of any good relationship.


Anonymous said...

Alas, energy conservation still seems to be viewed as a somewhat bizarre practice. Store clerks STILL get confused when I bring my own bag. At least today they understand better what my partner and I are trying to do, but sometimes seem slow to catch on that we're actually serious about not wanting one of the store bags.

Off the point, but given your interest in disability rights, I thought you might enjoy reading the RatifyNow blog swarm entries about the international disability rights treaty at:

One of the entries is about how the treaty may offer new hope to people with mental disabilities in India; another talks about its relation to issues of sexuality education and sexual expression. And a number of the other entries I think might be of interest to you also, for example tourism and travel for people with disabilities under the treaty (since I know you travel so much).

Shan said...


I hadn't really thought it through, and my kids were a bit scared when all the lights were out. So I put on "Ratatouille" to light the family worked out fine.

Anonymous said...

We had a blast in the bark last night! With all the candles, it was like having a campfire in our living room. We sang campfire songs (Down by the Bay was Adam's favourite) and played charades. My little boy may not be the best talker, but boy can he act out characters from the Wizard of Oz. He does a perfect Tin Man, and his Scarecrow isn't too bad either. I think we'll make this turning off the lights hour a regular thing in our house. It turned into some really quality family time.

Anjie (mom to Adam, 5, & his big sisters)

Anonymous said...

Ooops, I meant blast in the Dark last night. Of course, there was some barking going on when Adam was playing Toto :)


Heike Fabig said...

I love it!
As you may know, Earth Hour was started here in Sydney, Australia last year. Many people thought it was all a bit stupid. This year, it was much bigger, and went world-wide. And, lo and behold, here i read about people from the disability blogging community at the other end of the globe joining in Eath Hour.
I love it!