Edward Norton Compares 'Symbolic' Global Warming Event to Selma's 'Bloody Sunday'

You too can save the planet from the effects of carbon emissions by participating in the symbolic gesture of turning off one light switch at a time for Earth Hour on March 28.

That’s the message from actor Edward Norton, the official U.S. ambassador for Earth Hour 2009, who appeared on CNN’s “Larry King Live” on March 25. As Norton explained, this is a symbolic event for which everyone turns out their lights from 8:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. local time on March 29. And this act will encourage world political leaders to cap or tax carbon emissions through the legislative process by demonstrating “global unity.”

“You’re right. The act of turning out the lights for an hour – is, it’s not an act of conservation,” Norton said. “It’s not, um, meant to say that, ‘By doing this, we’re going to solve the problem.’ I think it’s a symbolic act of global unity, of highlighting the number of people who do think this is one of the central issues of our time and motivating our leaders to take, um, purposeful and aggressive action on this issue.”

Norton even compared the symbolic act to a famous civil rights march.

“If you think about things in our national history, the march on Selma in the Civil Rights Movement, the march itself, unlike some of the boycotts they did was not a, was not an act in itself meant to change the problem. It was a symbolic act and I think this is for my generation, for many people around the world who care about this issue, I think we’re looking for those kind of symbolic acts that show how many people are, are concerned about this.”

As the official U.S. ambassador for Earth Hour 2009, Norton might want to review his history. Participants and historians would likely disagree that the Selma marches were little more than “symbolic events.”

On March 7, 1965, 500 people were set to march from Selma, Ala. to Montgomery, Ala. to protest the death of Jimmie Lee Jackson, an individual protesting the incarceration of a local civil rights leader. The march made it six blocks, across the Edmond Pettus Bridge before 200 police officers confronted the protestors, and unleashed an attack of tear gas, whips and sticks, which sent 17 people to the hospital. The confrontation was covered heavily by the national media and left a lasting impact in the court of public opinion. The March 7 march earned the name “Bloody Sunday.”

Two other marches occurred and it wasn’t until the third attempt, after one death that the march was successful, which occurred under the protection of 2,000 soldiers of the U.S. Army, members of the F.B.I. and members of the Alabama National Guard serving under federal command.

The marches were viewed as the peak of emotional tension during the Civil Rights Movement and the publicity generated from them are credited for making it possible for President Lyndon Johnson to sign the Voting Rights Act of 1965 months later.

Larry King did remind Norton that the “symbolic” Earth Hour event has its limits. The CNN host wanted Norton to tell people not to turn off their car lights if they were driving.

“This is about turning off your non-essential lighting at home, making the urban landscape go a little darker,” Norton said. “The Empire State Building will be turning off and as you said, many, many symbols of um – national symbols in the urban setting will be going dark and we’re asking individuals to participate as well.”