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Earth Hour: Waste of time? 8

earth-hour-logo Earth Hour 2009 takes place this Saturday from 8:30PM to 9:30PM. Is Earth Hour a great way to save energy and promote sustainable living? Or is it perhaps just a waste of time and causing an unnecessary spike on our electricity circuits?

Earth Hour originated in Australia in 2007 but quickly expanded to 35 countries in 2008. In 2009 there are already 82 countries committed to Earth Hour. Google will feature a “dark” homepage on the day of Earth Hour, and last year The Weather Network (Canada’s leading source of weather information) moved its studio outdoors and filmed the show under LED lighting for the hour.

Earth Hour is not without controversy. A colleague of mine warned me not to “mislead people” about Earth Hour. His position is that power generation has a certain point in which it is most efficient and having a large amount of people turn off their lights and then turn them on at the same time will create a massive spike in the system and cause more trouble than it’s worth. He also noted that having millions of people burn candles will just end up emitting more carbon dioxide into the air anyway.

Perhaps it is true that Earth Hour will not make a dramatic savings in energy. But I look at it differently. To me, Earth Hour is not about saving electricity. It’s about creating awareness by getting people to talk about our energy consumption and how we can reduce the harm we’re causing on the earth.

Shutting our lights off for an hour and dealing with a mass spike in electricity circuits is a small sacrifice to make to get billions of people around the world to become more aware of the harm our lifestyles are causing to the earth. Even the Toronto company that has to deal with the spike in electricity is a “proud sponsor of Earth Hour”.

I’m planning to spend my entire Saturday night without electricity, and I invite my readers to do the same, (or join me). Instead of using candles though I’ll be utilizing my Freeplay Indigo Lantern which is powered by human energy using a wind-up crank.

To me, the very fact that so many people are talking about Earth Day already makes it a success.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/04170152877824201743 boyan

    I did some research. Apparently Toronto’s consumption dropped 8.7% last year during Earth Hour. And on a funny note, Calgary’s consumption increased by 3.6% during that hour.
    Either way, just because consumption decreased doesn’t mean that a savings was actually made (just as your colleague points out). But in the end, it’s more about the symbolism of the event.

  • http://web.mac.com/bbergie iBrett

    I agree with your assessment, Jim. Earth Hour probably saves little energy (and may even leave a larger carbon footprint than would be the case if everyone just let their lights burn), but the hour does raise awareness, and it gets people talking about how they spent the hour sans burning energy. If nothing else, there is the exchange of ideas and opportunities to learn more on environmentally sustainable activities to adopt into one’s routine. The notion of force-multiplier tells us that broader adoption can have a significant impact, and perhaps that’s what this hour is all about. Good luck with your evening-long event.

  • http://www.georgepechtol.com/ george

    definitely, this event, and the similarly questioable “waterworld hour” (sorry, world water day), are for raising awareness rather than manifesting destabilizing short-term and temporary change. one hour out of 8,700 or whatever is not a huge impact to energy consumption, but all of the thought leading up to and after the events can really change people’s sensibilities.
    definitely not a waste of time. stop it with the “misleading” headlines!!! ;)
    - g

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/17948774650181520591 Crankyputz

    I’m participating,

    Mainly beacuse there’s a glass of wine and munchies in it for me…

  • Nariman

    Saw an interesting piece over the weekend – it’s an 8 part series:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F-QA2rkpBSY

    You can skip to part 8:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VoiiVnQadwE

    The conclusion is there is no sustainability until we lower the birth rate.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/04170152877824201743 boyan

    Thanks for ruining it for me Nariman!

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/04170152877824201743 boyan

    When I was a young kid in Bulgaria, there used to be a shortage of power, so for 4 months in a row one side of the street would have a scheduled power outage from 5-9pm. The following 4 months, the other side of the street would have that power cut.

    I don’t see what’s the big deal in turning off the lights for 1 hour, when … people in other countries (like me) used to live with that (and many still do in other countries) and it was just normal routine.

    [Part of the routine also included me going across the street to the neighbours' so that I could watch the nightly cartoons]

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/07404394409400413255 Yen

    Well I agree with you. Earth hour has mislead so many people. This is what I feel that is happening in my country, Malaysia.
    Do drop by my blog and give some comments bout earth hour:)
    http://innit.nuffnang.com/view.php?id=197821