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April 25, 2007

The Green Police

LightbulbI'm surprised nobody blogged about this week's Earth Day events. I heard an amusing "Save the Planet" story from my older son, who is attending a college I'd prefer not to name because I don't want to subject him to Green wrath.

A group called the Green Campus Initiative hosted a campus-wide event called "Battle of the Bulb." The idea was to encourage students to turn off lights and other power sources for an entire month in order to save the planet. Whichever dorm saved the most power would win an environmentally friendly lamp.

My son had recently taken an earth science class in which he learned that over millions of years, the earth has regularly warmed and cooled. The professor who taught this class is skeptical that human activity is likely to have much effect on the global temperature. (Obviously, other experts feel differently.) So my son's enthusiasm for the bulb event was lukewarm, to put it mildly.

Students "who actually thought we were saving the earth by doing this would make announcements at house meetings and remind us to turn off our room lights, our computers, and our TVs when we weren't using them," my son reported. It wasn't long before they began rigorously enforcing their agenda on  unenthusiastic dorm-mates. "It got to the point that if you went to the bathroom, when you came back to your room, you'd find that somebody had been in there turning off the lights. People started locking their doors even if they were leaving their rooms for just a few minutes."

Next, the Greens went after the common areas, including the lounges. "If you turned the lights back on, they would yell at you and question your commitment to the house," my son said. "It was ridiculous because people were sitting there trying to study or socialize in the dark."

It didn't take long for a rebel alliance to form.

"A friend and I were very skeptical of the worth of the whole idea, and found it a great imposition, not only to have people to force this on us, but to also invade our rooms and impose darkness even in the common areas--so we decided that if they didn't stop harrassing us, we were going to make sure our house lost. Plus, we thought it would be fun to fight back."

The two began sneaking down to the basement at midnight to turn on all the lights. Since few students ventured down there, it usually took a long time for anyone to notice. "Of course, there'd be frantic emails and house meetings about it. They'd be foaming at the mouth--which totally encouraged us to start doing it elsewhere," my son gleefully related. "Before leaving for classes in the morning, we'd turn on all the lights, TVs, and computers in our rooms and leave them on until we got back in the late afternoon. At night, we'd turn on the hall lights and run for it. We very nearly got caught a couple of times. People started leaving their doors open to keep an eye on the halls and come shooting out if they noticed lights turned on."

In the end, a substantial number of their house-mates became fed up with living their lives in darkness. "We began openly, boldly, turning on lights." In the laundry room one evening, a bulb rebel--coming face to face with a grim-visaged environmental watchdog--defiantly flipped the light switch on and off dozens of times (which uses more electricity than simply leaving the light on).

Faced with all-out war, the resident heads eventually decreed that common area lights would remain on during the evenings. By the competition's end, my son's dorm came in, not dead last, but near it.   

I'm not sure there's any real point to this story, except that my son is obviously having a lot of fun at college. But the story is a reminder (if we needed one) that the folks "imposing their morality" on the nation's college campuses are not the Christians. I'm glad my son is doing his own thinking on this issue, and is willing to stand up to the Green Police when they attempt to impose their politics on him.

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Andy Anderson

I keep wondering about the global warming skeptics. Isn't it just common sense to turn off lights, tvs, etc. when they're not in use? Dont' we want to be honest brokers with the world, not to mention good stewards of GOD's (not Americans') resources? My parents and grandparents instilled that in us at an early age; back when saving money was important. Perhaps the Religious Right is so in bed with unbridled capitalism that one must be skeptical of global warming. But why would one hedge their bets, even if global warming isn't is bad as the majority of scientists, as well as many level-headed evangelical moderates, seem to think? Wouldn't it be just good PR for the US to show the rest of our world that we are indeed concerned for the plight of others just as much as our creature comforts? How ironic that some Christians need to feel so comfortable in life that they can't make any sacrifices. Probably many of the same people who applaud the Iraqi War and can't say anything bad about Republicans or anything good about Democrats. Makes many of us evangelical moderates so fed up by the hot air of the Religious Right.

Gina Dalfonzo

Andy, I think you missed Anne's point. How is it good PR for the environmental movement to have students going into rooms that don't belong to them to turn off lights? Or to try to make people study in the dark in a room set aside for studying? Moderation in all things would seem to be the operative phrase here. With stuff like this going on, no wonder the trespassers and bullies involved in this competition got a backlash. They earned one.


I would suggest that tripping people up for amusement is not a Christian virtue.

Gina, I'm surprised you would rationalize this type of behavior. Doesn’t it damage our witness?

Gina Dalfonzo

In the immortal words of Bugs Bunny, "He don't know me very well, do he?" :-)

Levity aside, I confess that sometimes I let my sense of humor run away with me, and that I've been on the giving end as well as the receiving end of the occasional college prank. But it's a great temptation in the face of the kind of bullying that went on here, and I really don't think I'm rationalizing anything when I say that. Inflicting real and/or permanent damage, I'd have a major problem with. Leaving on a few lights is another story. Frankly, if someone were trespassing uninvited in my dorm room, I'd want to take steps in the matter, too. (But "tripping people up"? Not sure where Anne said anything about that. If anyone was "tripping people up" here, I would think it would be those who were trying to make their fellow students stumble around in the dark.)


'Tripping people up' is meant in this sense: joyfully ensuring their house loses the competition. A month of inconvenience seems like a small price to pay for keeping the peace.

Chris Cole

Ahh...so the anti-Green rebels are to be instantly equated with pro-Iraq war mongers and (horrors!) rabid, evil partisan political conservatives. Such an association should thoroughly and forevermore invalidate anything they might have to say and silence their irrelevant ideas. So there.
Heck, even God tolerates questioning, whether it's sincere or not. (Symantec note: tolerance does not equal approval and support; by definition, one tolerates -- allows to exist -- that which one would not otherwise personally embrace, else it's not "tolerance.")
Although God is the One truly deserving of obedience and the only One Who can rightly demand and expect it, He is not the least bit insecure or threatened by opposition (instead He sits in the heavens and laughs). The unfolding of His purposes will sift out the wheat from the chaff.
I find it interesting to observe that often the folks who so passionately appeal for voluntary compliance to some kind of moral behavior as an example for the sake of others are themselves the most eager to mandate absolute obedience by imperial fiat. What kind of an example to others is that? Surely behavior borne of iron-fisted compulsion testifies less to the selfless righteousness of the obedient ones and more to the coercive power of the enforcers. The Hebrews under Pharaoh could hardly boast in their industrious service; the taskmaster's lash provided plenty of incentive.
Please, don't take any personal offense here; I'm making a broader worldview observation coming from my 57 years including USAF veteran, pastor and IT professional.
And, for a full-orbed perspective, yes, as ones to whom God has given "dominion" over the Earth, we will absolutely be held accountable for our stewardship of His creation. When the Ultimate Landowner one day returns He will require the books to be opened and a full accounting to be made by His servants. How we have taken care of -- as well as utilized -- the earthly resources we've been given will be judged.
With that in mind, let's be sure we're first and foremost seeking His will and calling for us, individually and corporately, and try as best we can to avoid getting caught up in the other attractive swirls and eddies that compete for our allegiance.
The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing. It's all too easy to become distracted from the primary mission to which we have been called as the Body of Christ, a body with many members and a variety of individual callings and perspectives.
With our gaze firmly fixed upon Jesus and His Word we will display to the world not a cookie-cutter uniformity, but a paradoxically diverse unity in the Spirit as we jointly keep our primary focus the advancing of His kingdom and His righteousness.
Now that's a cause to which we can enthusiastically give our lives.
May all who read this be lavishly drenched by His extravagant grace and, via commitment to a local body of Christ, be thoroughly equipped for every good work that He has prepared in advance for us to do.


Unfortunately this has something of the whole anti-rational worldview of the green religion. CFLs are far more environmentally harmful than incandescent bulbs. They have a lot of mercury in them. If one breaks, it may cost you $2,000 or more to have it cleaned up by an environmental clean-up squad.

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