Thursday, March 25, 2010

Turn Out The Lights, The Party's Over

So it's almost time for cities around the world to engage in the annual Earth Hour. For those not up on Earth Hour, it's a thing where you go and turn off all the lights in your house for a specific hour.

That's pretty much it.

And it's the kind of thing that, even though I'm a Green, keeps me from actually voting that way. It's an empty gesture. It isn't thought through at all.

First off, last year, the actual switching-off doesn't really have much of an effect, even in what is arguably Earth Hour's marquee city of Sydney, Australia. The aim, of course, is to reduce a carbon footprint, but the actual reduction in the inaugural 2007 edition was judged to be "statistically indistinguishable from zero".

But the thing that really chafes: there's no follow-through. You just turn off the lights for an hour and then go about your lives. There's no follow-through, which is the crucial part of something like this. If you're going to participate, there needs to be some homework done in the process.

*When that hour's up, don't just flick all the lights back on. If it turns out you're going along fine with them off, you can always keep them off.
*Note in a more general fashion what it is you don't need to have on as much. For example, it's 11:37 PM right now here; I'm just fine using the light from the computer and TV. I don't need a light on.
*Don't think of it, however, as living totally in the dark all the time. Nobody is suggesting, or at least should be suggesting, that you live in the dark with candles all the time. (Unfortunately, one of the big ideas of coping with Earth Hour is candlelight dinners and candlelight parties. Turns off a lot of potential participants.)
*Don't stop at lightbulbs. Think about all the other stuff you could be doing, and believe me, there is no shortage of suggestions floating around out there. Pore through a gob of them every so often and make a note of anything that seems doable. Just looking at your roof, you could put lighter-colored shingles up there, solar panels, grass, seeds to put into the grass, raincatchers, whatever will work on your particular roof.
*And for God's sake, don't cap off Earth Hour with a motherloving fireworks display that puts back a whole bunch of the carbon you just took out.

You know. Like Sydney did.

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