North America recently celebrated a pseudo-holiday called Earth Hour. Because when you care about something as deeply as we all do about the planet, it gets a whole hour of your time. Sure, Earth Day exists, but like you know what day that is without Googling it.
Each year, I make fun of Earth Hour on the Twitter, because I’m more predictable than your early morning piss. This year was no exception.
I just kept my engine idling for two hours just to cancel out your meaningless Earth Day light dimming.
— Nelson! (@financialuproar) March 20, 2016
I couldn’t even get the meaningless “holiday” right that’s how much I care about it.
Here’s my beef with Earth Hour. Dimming the lights is literally the least you could do to help the planet. The same people who dim the lights drive to work even though it’s a five minute walk (in their car with a V-6 or V-8 engine), or they travel excessively, or they keep power sucking electronics plugged in.
According to some website I found while Googling (so it MUST be true!), a dryer uses 3,000 watts of electricity. A CFL light bulb uses 14 watts. Making the simple decision to line dry your clothes is far more helpful to the environment than shutting off all your light bulbs and living life lit by candles all the damn time.
Let’s face it. People don’t participate in things like Earth Hour to really make a difference. They’re active in it to make themselves feel better and to point out to the right people that they feel the right way about issues du jour. Any small contribution they might make towards the goal is secondary, at best.
How this relates to PF blogging
Many personal finance blogs exist because somebody got into student loan debt.
You all know the story by now, since it’s been repeated approximately 2.9 million times. Person goes to university, incurs student loan debt, gets job, and then begins journey to repay said debt. Most end up succeeding because the system works despite the many flaws it has. For the most part, people who go to school end up doing okay for themselves.
Naturally, the people who paid off large amounts of student loans are the most vocal about how the system is broken. The struggle is very real to them. So included in their periodic debt updates down to the penny is plenty of bitching about whatever the Canadian equivalent of Sallie Mae is.
But then, something interesting happens. They end up paying off their loans, and they pretty much move on. They focus their attention on traveling, or buying a house, or investing, or even quitting their job to do something more freeing. The student loan problem gets forgotten, mostly because it’s no longer a problem.
It’s human nature to move onto the new thing. If we didn’t, we’d still be worried about little Timmy pushing us down the slide when we were seven. It’s okay, that little bastard probably ended up in prison.
Like with Earth Hour, complaining about student loan debt on your blog is a pretty meaningless thing to do. You’ll likely only reach similar people who have a similar amount of debt. They’re the ones sympathetic to your plight. The 40-year old who has moved onto investing isn’t.
And like with pollution, people are very well aware that tuition, student loans, and everything else associated with education is going up at a faster rate than inflation. They don’t need your reminder.
How to make a real difference
My challenge to everyone who really feels passionately about this issue is simple. Shut up and show us the money.
There is one very easy way for you to lessen the cost of education for everyone. You can give them money.
I’m not talking about doing something stupid, like Michael Scott’s Scott’s Tots program. I mean you could because that episode was hilarious, but there’s no need to promise to pay for the education of a whole 3rd grade class. Start with $500 per year awarded to one student. It will make a difference, I promise.
It’s doubtful even a concentrated effort by a whole bunch of people will do anything towards getting tuition down. Costs are going up at schools, and the easy way to deal with that is to just bill the students. Every business on the planet does the same thing. It’s really hard to fight that momentum.
The point is simple. It’s easy to complain. It’s hard to actually do something. Turning off the lights one hour a year means absolutely nothing. Walking to work, not using the dryer, and growing many of your own vegetables might be uncomfortable, but it shows you’re actually serious about cutting down your carbon footprint.
It’s the same thing with student loans. If everyone who legitimately thinks student loans are a problem gave $500 annually to a university kid, it would go a long way towards actually making a difference in the amount of interest paid. Even if only a small percentage participated, it would sure be a hell of a lot more effective than complaining to their like-minded friends.