Thursday, 28 February 2008

Earth Hour 2008

I have signed up for Earth Hour 2008!

On March 31st, 2007, Sydney, Australia turned its lights off for one hour. Over two million Australians turned off their lights, along with 2100 businesses. The project had aimed for a 5% reduction in energy use during that hour - they got over a 10% reduction, the equivalent of taking 48000 cars off the road for a year!

It is often asked, What can just one person do in the face of global climate change to make a difference? Why bother trying when what I do isn't even a drop in the bucket? The thing is, drops add up into rivers, and snowflakes add up into avalanches. No, I can't do everything, but I can do something! The people in Sidney knew this, and their Earth Hour 2007 demonstrated that small actions done by many people can have a huge collective effect.

Earth Hour 2008 is a global event, being held on Saturday, March 29th, at 8 pm your local time. Particpants are asked to do just one thing: turn their lights off for sixty minutes. Imagine how much we could reduce global carbon emissions by just this one simple action! What if, this year, ten times as many people, 22 million, turned their lights off for an hour. That would mean that in the course of that hour, we would take the equvalent of nearly half a million cars off the road for one year. I can almost hear the planet sighing in relief at the prospect.

Now, imagine this: the people who turn their lights off for an hour on March 29th, decide to do the same once a week from now on. Then they figure they can turn the TV and computer off too, for an extra hour a week, and maybe don't need to leave the water on when they brush their teeth. Maybe a child or teenager will decide to make water and wildspace conservation their life's work, or an adult will stand up to the property "developer" trying to pave over the community green space. Imagine!

Events like Earth Hour and Earth Day could be seen as symbolic at best, or as gimmicky and shallow at worst. But I don't think so. As more and more of these kinds of events occur, it won't seem weird to be "green" anymore. Some people may not go beyond changing their behavior more than intermittently, but others could have a 'eureka' moment where their world view changes forever. If anyone had told me 5 years ago that I would be a vegetarian who flushes her toilet with greywater from the shower, I wouldn't have believed them. But it only takes something small to change your outlook forever. Who knows what big changes could come from some small action during Earth Hour 2008!

If you would like to join in this event, you can sign up here. Then, get ready to flick that switch to "off" at 8 pm on Saturday, March 29th!

Picture courtesy this guy's photo album.


kale for sale said...

Beautiful! Thank you.

DC said...

Every action we take to benefit the environment makes a difference. It makes a difference in the immediate direct impact it has, however great or small that may be. It makes a difference because it is a reminder to us of what is important. It makes a difference because it's just the right thing to do, regardless of any tangible benefit. Even if reversing the damage to the planet is a lost cause (and I don't believe it is), and even if there's not much we can do as individuals to help (and I don't believe this is true either), it's still the right thing to do what we can.

If you came across a critically injured person, it would be the right thing to do to assist that person even if you weren't a doctor and even if you were pretty sure he would die anyway. You would most certainly feel compelled to do everything possible to help if you had contributed to the person's injuries. Similarly, we have an obligation to do everything in our power to heal the damage we've inflicted on the planet, irrespective of the degree of "difference" it makes.

Theresa said...

kfs - thanks!

dc - I wholeheartedly agree: difference or no difference, some things are just the right thing to do.

Because we have a provincial election coming up here in a couple days, I'm thinking of an election-related example: I know the party I'm voting for isn't going to win, but I am voting for them anyway, because I believe in the deep ecological wisdom of their polices.

Hazel Nut said...

Greetings theresa! It's such a small world - I am a regular at the Red Roaster in London, ON. I see you are from the Edmonton area. I lived in Calgary for a year half a lifetime ago and just loved seeing the Rockies everyday on my drive to work.
Thanks for visiting our blog.
I plan to take part in Earth Hour 2008 also. I think that acting together is the ONLY way we are going to make a difference to our earth. An hour doesn't seem like much to start with, and families might actually spend the time doing something Together! It's a win-win as far as I'm concerned.

green with a gun said...

It's a meaningless gesture, and I won't be participating.

Some gestures are meaningful and productive, because they can be continued. If we have a day of biking to work or using public transport or staying at home and cooking or turning off the AC and using a fan instead, that may inspire some people to do it permanently.

But nobody's going to turn their lights off forever, or discard their computer, or whatever. In fact, this is worse than meaningless, it's counter-productive, because they make people feel they've done something useful, it gives them excuses. "What do you mean I should turn off my AC and use a fan? I already turned the lights off for an hour last week? Do you expect me to live in a cave?!"

I already use less than a quarter the fossil fuels and resources, and cause less than a quarter the greenhouse gas emissions, compared to the average Aussie, as I move towards the one tonne CO2 lifestyle. When even one-tenth of the country has done as I've done, then I'll join in such gestures as this.

These sorts of gestures are just a form of slacktivism.

Which gives me an extra reason not to do it - when people get angry and say, "why didn't you turn off your lights?!" I can talk about the way I live lower-impact than them - every single day, not just an hour or a day a year.

Theresa said...

Hello Hazel Nut! Yes, it is a small world indeed. I do fondly remember my visits to London, and actually found there to be some similarity between London and Edmonton, particularly the large number of trees in and around both cities.

Spending extra time with family during the Earth Hour is absolutely win-win!

Theresa said...

Gwag - I guess meaning is derived differently for different people. And not everyone is at the same point of activism or readiness, but for some it could be a start. I like the collective aspect of it, myself.

I hope that someone does ask you why you didn't turn your lights off, so you then get the opportunity to educate them about what they can start doing differently everyday, not just for one day, or one hour.

green with a gun said...

It's meaningless in that in itself its impact will be neglible, and in that it won't change future behaviour.

It's like unfaithful men getting together and having a "give our poor wives flowers day" - they'll go back to being unfaithful tomorrow. It'd be better to have a "be faithful to your wife day", since at least some of them might make the fidelity permanent.

Theresa said...

I think it could be a meaningful catalyst for change for some people, but I do take your point that what is needed is everyday, lasting change, not a one-hour feel-good gesture. But I do think things like this have a place, in so far as they raise the overall awareness that 'green' things are happening throughout the world. Just like when I participate in the Lymphoma-Leukemia walk this summer - I know doing so won't cure my friend's illness, but I am glad to be taking part in a collective action to support her, raise awareness of the illness and and help raise money for research.

Thank you for the engaging discussion!

Simply Authentic said...

thank you i needed to read this and be reminded......