Helen Whalen Cohen
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Tonight, from 8:30 to 9:30, environmentalists will observe Earth Hour, turning off all their lights for an hour. For those who don't want to spend an hour in the dark, the Competitive Enterprise Institute is offering an alternative: Human Achievement Hour. They are encouraging everyone to turn on the lights in honor of human accomplishments.

Technology and innovation have made our lives immeasurably better. We can fly to other countries in hours. Medical achievements have made formerly deadly diseases curable. The poorest people in the United States have what would have, until recently, been considered luxury items. There are seven billion people living on this planet, and lives have never been so long and so prosperous. Talk about a cause worth celebrating.

This point comes up (albeit hyperbolically) in Atlas Shrugged, when Dagny Taggart and Hank Rearden shared the following exchange:

"I keep thinking of what they told us in school about the sun losing energy, growing colder each year. I remember wondering, then, what it would be like in the last days of the world. I think it would be...like this. Growing colder and things stopping."

"I never believed that story. I thought by the time the sun was exhausted, men would find a substitute."

Human beings have made untold achievements until now. Who knows what will be accomplished in the future. In honor of that, I plan to spend Human Achievement Hour reading Atlas Shrugged, with all my lights turned on and Aaron Copland's "Fanfare For the Common Man" playing in the background.

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Helen Whalen Cohen

Helen Whalen Cohen is Associate Editor and Community Manager at Townhall.com.