Once again we have taken a stand to limit carbon dioxide emissions — a stand that only lasted one hour.
If you don’t know what I’m talking about, then we have failed. So to be sure you know what I’m blabbering about— and will continue to do so —I’ll tell you now.
Earth Hour was once again held on Saturday this weekend. It has been going on since 2007, on the last Saturday in March. Started by WWF Australia; backed by Fairfax and Sydney Lord Mayor Clover Moore its first year.
In 2008 it became an international event that has gathered a lot of traction. Always getting covered in the media and by social media with great enthusiasm.
Weirdly enough, as someone that reads the news daily, I didn’t notice any mention of it on Saturday. Usually when I eventually drag myself out of bed, eyes barely open and clutching a cup of coffee, Earth Hour would be one of the top stories I would encounter.
Not this year tho. I only got reminded about it by chance when someone I follow on Twitter mentioned it the day before. If I hadn’t read that tweet, I would be non the wiser about Earth Hour this year.
I think we should take that as a sign that it’s time to take a new approach— up the game a bit —and maybe accept that it has very little effect on carbon dioxide emissions.
During Earth Hour it seems to be popular to light a few candles so we don’t sit in complete darkness. The issue with using candles is that they are petroleum-based. In other words, not that environmentally friendly — nor are they energy efficient.
Environmentalist Bjørn Lomborg wrote in The Australian that, “candles are almost 100 times less efficient than incandescent light bulbs, and more than 300 times less efficient than fluorescent lights. Light one candle and it will emit as much CO2 as you were saving. Light a bunch of candles and you’ll have emitted much more CO2. So Earth Hour may actually increase CO2 emissions.”
Not forgetting that most light bulbs and electrical appliances uses an extra jolt of electricity when powered on.
His criticism doesn’t stop there. He also claims it mocks the poor.
“While more than a billion people across the globe make a symbol of forgoing non-essential electrical power for one hour a year, another 1.3 billion people across the developing world will continue to live without electricity as they do every other night of the year. Almost three billion people still burn dung, twigs and other traditional fuels indoors to cook and keep warm. These fuels give off noxious fumes that kill an estimated 3.5 million people each year, mostly women and children.”
I have to admit, that the first time I came across Earth Hour I did participate. But I also remember when that hour had past, the lights and the TV got turned on again, as if it had never happened — but I felt good about participating.
There lies the issue with Earth Hour. There is so much focus on participating one hour once a year that we think, as long as I participate that one hour I’ve made my contribution — my hands are clean and no-one can say I’m not doing my bit for the environment.
It is the perfect textbook example of [slacktivism]. We sit at home, turn off our lights and electrical appliances for an hour and stroke our egos raw online — I’ve done my bit, have you?
Completely oblivious to the fact that the majority of us actually turn of our lights and electrical appliances every night for at least six hours. In other words, we have six Earth Hours every night year after year. That one Earth Hour a year were we might burn petroleum-based candles do nothing, other than possibly create more carbon dioxide emissions.
There is of course no denying it when it comes to campaigning, Earth Hour is extremely successful. It hasn’t only engaged people online, but also governments around the world. But it seems to fail in keeping the engagement going for longer than that one hour a year.
As I mentioned earlier, it is prudent that we figure out how to keep people engaged more than that one hour a year if we want to have a positive impact on our climate.
Not only that. We need to figure out how to take more action than flicking a switch.
Switching off your lights for an hour, once a year, is too easy. We should be expected to do more than that.