When we forget to switch off a light as we leave a room, sometimes it’s simply because the light itself seems so harmless. The damage being done to the environment isn’t being done right there in my living room, it was done somewhere far away as the coal burned to generate the electricity, and then further way still as that coal was mined from the ground. We’re often better with our care for the environment when we can see the cause and effect together, but with so many of the problems of climate change and energy resources for the planet, the product that we have to treat more carefully is far removed from the process that brought it to us, and the environmental cost of producing it.
Someone said to me a while ago that if we really do end up, through economic and environmental disaster, with a new Dark Age, this time there will be no coming back from it. If we reach a point when our post-industrial-revolution life is no longer possible (rather than just no longer sustainable) then there can be no easy industrial revolution to enable us to begin again, because all the coal that was easily reachable by pre-industrial means has already been mined. The question was put to me, “Do we yet understand enough about how to generate power, and live more simply, so that we could begin again, but this time not destroy the earth in the process?”
Turning off a few lights may not, in itself, make the difference between the planet healing or the planet dying, but it’s a really good start, and more than that, it’s a way for us to get realistic about the connectedness between the lifestyle comforts that we enjoy and the cost of having them. It may make us value those comforts more, but also value more the raw materials involved in producing them and the planet that provided it all.