It's the second annual Earth Hour this Saturday night and the wise cynics are once again gleefully reminding us how stupid we are to turn out our lights for one hour in the deluded belief that we're doing something about climate change.
Their triumphant, but I think misguided, crowing about how naive we all are kind of reminds me of a scene from the Simpsons:
Homer takes Lisa to the Springfield Museum and sees the sign, `Suggested donation: $4.50'.
Homer: Eh, what do you mean by `suggested donation'?
Clerk: Pay any amount you wish, sir.
Homer: And uh, what if I wish to pay ... zero?
Clerk: That is up to you.
Homer: Ooh, so it's up to me, is it?
Homer: I see. And you think that people are going to pay you $4.50 even though they don't have to? Just out of the... ha ha... goodness of their... [laughs] Well, anything you say! Good luck, lady, you're gonna need it!
Lisa's teacher arrives and goes to pay
Homer: No, no! It's a suggested donation. [whispers, smiling as if it's a great revelation] You don't have to pay!
Anyway, last year, before the first Earth Hour, I posted this list of reasons why I'd be turning my lights off for earth hour. It's why I'll be doing so again this year. For me it's not so much about emissions as about connections:
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).
They have had to put measures in place to achieve this and hopefully those measures will continue to bear fruit in terms of energy and emissions savings long after earth hour is over.
I had a great Earth Hour last year - it was quite cool to see lights go out in so many other apartments. For the people who go through with their oh-so-rebellious, witty and contrarian 'Illumination Hour', although I mock them and they mock me, I genuinely hope they enjoy that too - at least we share the recognition that the issue deserves attention and that symbolism can be important. There's nothing wrong with celebrating electricity - go for it! - but I'll be reflecting on simpler things this Saturday night. I'd encourage you to be part of Earth Hour too.