Something that has surprised me is the many negative responses that I’ve heard in response to this idea. The most puzzling to me is the response that I’ve seen a number of times: “This is such a stupid idea that I’m going to go home and turn on as many lights as possible just to show them!”.
Of course, it’s very easy to take pot shots at this idea. “What emissions will no lights for an hour save?”, “Sitting in the dark: that’s what the greenies want us to do permanently”, etc. At first blush, what will an hour without lights really achieve?
But these critics are really just unimaginative.
Here’s some reasons why I think Earth Hour is a great idea, and they’re not about emissions, they’re about connection:
Connection with community
I don’t know if it’s widespread, but I often feel a lack of community in Sydney. And I think a sense of community is wonderful. Events like this connect us. If tens of thousands of people turn off their lights and TVs and sit out on their verandahs, or go for a walk and talk to some of the other tens of thousands of people doing the same thing, I reckon that’s great. Just have a look at some of the events people are organising!
Connection with our own power
Climate change is often presented as a big problem with big solutions needed, to be provided by government and business. To a large extent it is. But there’s a lot that people can do about it themselves, in their households and as part of businesses and communities. When each of us does something personal about the issue, we’re reminded that this is something that we, personally, can influence. And I think that’s very positive and powerful. We don’t have to shake our heads and our fists at John Howard and George Bush, we can do a lot ourselves.
Connection with nature
Again, this might be an inner-city dweller neurosis, but I feel a disconnection with the real world living in the middle of Sydney. I get home, turn the lights on, turn the heater on in winter and have my own comfortable cocoon. We all rely on the environment for our health and wellbeing. But it’s easy to forget that. It will be nice to sit out on the balcony and look at the moon and listen to the breeze in the trees and watch the fruit bats fly past and think about the world. Maybe we’ll even be able to see the stars.
Connection with ourselves and each other
As much as I love Iron Chef, it will be nice to have some quiet time to think and talk to Cat. Maybe we’ll have a candlelit dinner at one of the restaurants which are turning their lights off for Earth Hour.
It’s easy for households to switch off lights and appliances during earth hour. It’s much harder for some businesses, despite the fact that at 7.30 on a Saturday night, many businesses aren’t open. This exercise has been a useful learning exercise for many businesses (including my workplace) that you can’t assume that everything is switched off on a Saturday night. (Have a look at office buildings in the city at night and be dazzled by all the empty offices with all their lights still on).
Good luck to the people who go home and bathe themselves in electric light as their own little protest against the stupidity of me and 50,000 other Sydney residents and businesses. I’ll be enjoying a refreshing change from my usual electricity-intensive routine and I'm looking forward to it!