Earth Hour 2012

It’s been celebrated for some years now: started in Australia in 2003, Earth Hour is now a worldwide happening. The event is simple: for one hour, at 8:30 local time, non-essential lights are turned off and power-consuming devices are unplugged (or at least switched off). It is a symbolic action that shows unity in the stand for our world and our enviornment. I don’t think it was ever intended to have much “effect” on either electricity use or carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. Indeed, as has been pointed out before: burning a candle for an hour is worse for the environment than using a 25W bulb (Luke Weston).

There have been some studies to determine the effect of Earth Hour on the electricty generations system. Apparently the drop is usually about 1% of production, at least where it’s monitored in B.C. and Ontario. That’s hardly enough to do much in any sense except the most symbolic. It will neither save much energy nor cause any hiccups in the energy production system. But it does bring unity, and focus, on our world’s environmental problems. Hopefully this awareness will eventually help us to solve the issues.

It is unfortunate that Environment Minister Jim Prentice is on record as saying: “Simple actions such as turning off the lights can help improve our environment and tackle climate change…” (Toronto Sun) Our difficulties with the environment and our abuse of our home planet are not about to be solved by anything as simple as this. Simple actions are not about to improve our enviornment, except as token gestures. I believe it is going to take a lot more effort: if not a wholesale reorganization of our way of life.

“Billed as the largest environmental event in history, Earth Hour began in Sydney in 2007, aiming to send a powerful message for action on climate change and to celebrate the planet.The event now involves up to six-thousand cities and towns across a record 150 countries.” (Sky News, Australia) It has acheived its aim, and more. I just hope that the people who are participating recognize that in itself, the action of turning off lights for a single hour is not going to do much.

All about Earth Hour is not bright and rosy, however. Criticisms come from all sides: mostly from those who receive some benefit from the oil industry, or from those who misunderstand the purpose of this hour.

I actually agree with most of the criticisms. Earth Hour is not a time to celebrate darkness or to demonize electricity. And as a recognition that we are deeply in debt to our environment and our need for an easy lifestyle, it is only a beginning. We need to go further: much further. For most people, I will acknowledge that Earth Hour is nothing more than a token gesture that does little to solve the problem: but it does get people talking. At least it recognizes that a problem exists. I don’t think most people understand how significant the problem is, nor what it will take to solve it: but it is a first step in the right direction.

As we have for other years, Tim and I will be observing Earth Hour this year. One of the things that I enjoy is that it’s a time when the computer and the television are off, as well as the lights. One year he just went to bed: Tim normally does go to bed early, and following the sun with regard to our rising and going to sleep is probably something that could decrease our personal energy use. But I don’t think many people are willing to change their lives that much.

But tonight, we probably will be using the kerosene lamps; we’ll probably play a game or go for a walk. It will be a reminder of simpler times… when energy use wasn’t quite so intense.

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