What’s The Point Of Earth Hour?

Written by erik


Part of me thinks the point of Earth Hour (Saturday, March 27, at 8:30pm) is to raise the question What’s the Point? But for whatever reason, the idea of turning off the lights and non-essential electronics for an hour brings out strong emotions.

In one corner are those who believe that Earth Hour is an important communal statement: up to a billion people flicking their switches to signal their commitment to energy efficiency as a way to lower our collective environmental footprint.

In the other are those who can’t believe so many suckers fall for the idea that Earth Hour is important, because a) turning off the lights for an hour doesn’t make any difference; b) it sends the signal that the only way out of our environmental mess is extreme deprivation; or c) by making efficiency seem easy it distracts everyone from the work involved with really lowering our energy use. Yeesh.

Look, the thing about Earth Hour is – it’s fun. You have dinner or a drink in the candlelight, or get to a viewpoint where you can watch your city’s lights go out, then blink back on 60 minutes later, or give your kids an excuse to run around the house with a flashlight. If you’re more ambitious, you go to an event in your home town. (For those in San Francisco, it looks like the Golden Gate Bridge will go dark this year.) And if you don’t like any of those options, I’m sure you can come up with some other fun stuff to do in the dark.

So let’s all lighten up and have some fun with Earth Hour this year. If you’d like to spread the word, join up at https://www.myearthhour.org/community. If you’d like to let us know what you got up to, feel free to drop us a line in the comments.

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  1. Tom Harrison

    Rock on! I have done Earth Hour for the last few years, and it’s kind of something that makes an impression, especially on the kids.
    We monitor our electrical use with a TED 5000, so rather than flicking the main breaker in the house (you don’t have to do this, I’m just a nut job) we went around the house finding all of the little things that were plugged in or turned on and one-by one unplugged them and turned them off. At each step we saw a few more watts come off our base load power usage.
    And through this exercise we had fun, and learned a few things about what uses electricity in our house. Yep, those “phantom loads” (a.k.a. vampire power) were all over the place — transformer plugs, little lights on the stove, the cable box, and everything.
    The only thing we couldn’t unplug in the end was the Internet stuff — modem and router … and the TED Gateway. Happily, these turned out to use less than 13 watts total.
    So make Earth Hour whatever you like.
    Some consenting adults might have some other options.

  2. Dave

    I’m one of those who finds this arbitrary “hour” exercise (March 27? Who picked that date?) less than enlightening. In fact, it’s very silly.
    I prefer the “Candle Night” observance with the same basic intent, but which is imbued with a valuable sense of global connectedness and meaning, which also coincides with the solstice summer and winter — times when we could naturally slow down and pay attention to the earth some more, as the sun “stops” its day–length-changing behavior momentarily.
    Making these events on a weekend also seems to emphasize just how optional it all is, detracting from any deep meaning. There seems to be zero essence of protest or statement if you are just doing some light-dimming at non-peak times. In short, Earth Hour is a passing fad at best. Earth Day at least has continued relevance because people are actively engaging in service projects where I live, doing something to improve our local (and global) environment.
    I also appreciate the Candle Night graphical web linking approach that takes a dark earth globe and you plot your own small point of light on it, along with some message of hope for sustainability to be displayed there as well.
    Earth Hour seems shallow and disconnected, temporary– while Candle Night seems connected and deeper into the practice of sustainability which is necessarily a yearlong thing.
    Check out Candle-Night.org and bonus points for anyone who knows or has a friend who reads Japanese. [Surprise! The US is not the center of global eco efforts.]

  3. Ralph Bennett

    This story is 3 weeks old, as are the comments. Monthly newmagazines are faster.
    How about letting us know the results of Earch Hour? For those who participated, it would be interesting. Power use go down? Rising birthrates at Christmas, etc., etc.

  4. Robena Topete

    Hmm, there are some trouble with the first link, as it gives me a 404 error.