Monday, March 25, 2013

Earth Hour in Retrospect

Earth Hour 7.0 has come and gone.  With it, more than 7000 cities participated, making it the most so far in its 7-year history.  A big jump from its inception in 2007 in just one city:  Sydney, Australia.

In my world, we had an adult-only Chili & Cornbread Cookoff at Eagle Cove School.  Being a Maryland "green" school, we also participated in a condensed version of Lights Out for Earth Hour Saturday night.  It really looked pretty cool in the darkened gym with the green string of tube lights weaving in and out of the chili crock pots!  

At school this past week, my 3rd graders wrote about Earth Hour for their weekly composition.  The overriding comment that we talked about was well-written in one student's paragraph:
"Mark your calendar!  Earth Hour is coming.... You might wonder why would we want to do this? Well, it saves a little bit of electricity, but it is a symbol that shows that little actions can become big things when put together.  Added up, it can make a big difference."
My brother (knowing I crave all things green) sent me an interesting semi-rebuttal article from Huffington post entitled: "Earth Hour Is A Big Waste Of Time! Or, How Do You Solve A Problem Like Bjorn Lomborg?" by Tom Zeller, Jr.  Despite it's turn-off title, it actually is a good article. As I started reading it, it reminded me of last year's "Human Achievement Hour" where the anti-Earth-Hour-ian's countered Earth Hour by proposing "Let's turn ON the lights during Earth Hour's 8:30--9:30 to celebrate all the world has accomplished due to technology."
Of course, it leads me begging the question:  Why does it have to be mutually exclusive?

(Which is not much different from "Why can't we all just get along?"  But, I digress.)

Zeller goes on to say that Bjorn Lomborg (who wrote the 2001 book The Skeptical Environmentalist  and who is a part of Copenhagen Consensus) counters ideas such as Earth Hour by saying it is "exactly what is wrong with today's feel-good environmentalism."  Copenhagen Consensus released this video this weekend as a counter:

But, after watching this video, I think there is a good message here. As in ALSO! Lomborg counters that Earth Hour over-simplifies climate change. But I disagree. It becomes something easy that everyone can take part in... and then it helps people analyze their way of living and invites them to decide, "Gee, what other changes can I make to help our planet?" Yes, it will take visionaries to see that their are other methods of change needed to be made on huge energy levels to change the current situation. But it also takes "the average Joe" to reconsider daily decisions that could lead to a less-wasteful lifestyle. The "average Joe" can't necessarily tackle green research and development. Additionally, you can't tell me that inventors, scientist, and environmental or political leaders don't turn off their tech for an hour every now and then to regroup or recharge!

Likewise too, we need videos such as the one above to see that the world is not in balance...that there ARE over a billion people world-wide who don't have the same luxuries that some of us are used to. So we need that message to be heard as well. And I bet, most Americans (and perhaps many other global citizens), may not even realize that statistic. In some ways, by turning of the light for an hour, we can get a slight understanding of what it might be like to be in "energy poverty" like these 1.3 billion people world-wide who already are. This map does an excellent job of showing the "haves versus the have nots."

I truly don't believe you should take multiple sides of the same goal and put them against each other. It is counter-productive. Additionally, it would seem that all groups involved, based on Zeller's article,want awareness. Awareness! Enlightenment!! Let's fight for the common good and bring about the necessary "light" to protect our resources, fight climate change, and make the world a better place! Sometimes "bringing the light" comes by way of Earth Hour candles in a darkened room. (Earth Hour, by the way, has been reported as "the single largest symbolic mass participation event in the world.") Sometimes "illumination" does comes in other ways--in making technological advances, writing books and articles, inventing new power sources, and sharing information! Bright ideas sometimes do indeed need brightly lit rooms. Again I say: Why does it have to be mutually exclusive?
Yes, many advancements have come from electricity. It has taken us to entirely new levels of thought, connection, imagination, ability, and innovation. No one here is countering that. Yet, we are a global society that (on average) is using the resources of 1.5 planets, when we only have ONE. Third graders get that. By having even the youngest of children be able to vote with a light switch, we will begin to create thinkers who will grow up one day. These children have the potential to become future green research and development leaders. This can only come through awareness. THIS is why we need both--and this is why we need to NOT be objectifying people who have the same ultimate end-goal (= reducing greenhouse gasses and the effects of climate change, while building a more sustainable and healthy planet).

We have ONE planet. Let's fight for it together!

Earth Hour Banner from, 60 vs 60 pic from, Video from, world map, Number of planets needed chart from

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