Why Earth Hour matters

The short answer: it doesn’t.

The longer answer: it sort of does, depending on how you look at it.

First, there’s the basic principle: as a species, we need to stop burning fossil fuels and emitting greenhouse gases, in order to avoid the worst case climate change scenarios.  There’s very little doubt about that anymore, and if you leave a comment disputing this, it will be ignored.

So, on a very basic level, if lights that would otherwise have been turned on for an hour are turned off, I think we’ve done something.  Even if that something is very little.  That something is smaller in places like Ontario where much more of the electricity (especially at night) comes from hydro, and bigger in places like here in New South Wales where most of the electricity comes from coal.

But the lesson that needs to be taken away from Earth Hour, which is almost always lost, is that we waste so much electricity.  CBD office towers leave their lights on all night – some have developed systems where they auto-shut-off but many have not.  They turn them off for an hour at Earth Hour as a symbolic gesture, but what their owners/operators forget is that they didn’t need to be on in the first place – they should just be off.  I’ve worked in those kinds of building before, and while there are occasionally people in them Saturday nights at 8:30, usually there are not.  So shut off the lights! It’s easy.

More than this, though, is that individuals use electricity wastefully too – I can’t begin to count the amount of times I’ve had to explain to someone why there is no need to leave their computer on all day while they’re at work.  Or leave lights on while they’re asleep.  At the very least, here in Australia the electrical outlets have individual switches so it’s easy to kill phantom load, and many (but certainly not all) do.

The intent, I believe, is for Earth Hour to remind us of these things.  There are so many things, big and little, that we could do in our daily lives to minimize fossil fuel consumption, which is the only way we’ll really be able to deal with climate change.  For all the naysayers – and you’re all very loud about it – just remember this: people are talking about it.  And the fact that people are talking about an issue that has been repeatedly ignored and put to the side is at least a beginning.  It keeps things fresh in our minds, and the minds of those who are less concerned, and that’s important.  Let’s talk about climate change.  Let’s deal with it productively – starting with the little things but not stopping there.


2 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by offshore bank account on 2011/04/04 at 9:44 am

    it helps convey that there are other changes in addition to rising temperatures. .. If greenhouse gases continue to increase climate models predict that the average temperature. Scientists are certain that human activities are changing the composition of the atmosphere and that increasing the concentration of greenhouse gases will change the planets climate.


  2. […] the end of the month I got to experience Earth Hour in Sydney… Earth Hour’s become less significant these days but it’s still pretty […]


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