Sunday, 24 March 2013

What I Learned During Earth Hour

A book and a wind-up torch.

During Earth Hour, I learned the following:
  1. The origin of apples;
  2. A little about the last few months of Leon Trotsky’s life before being exiled;
  3. That I can still read a book in the dark with a torch (like I did as a child, under the blanket after bed time);
  4. And, thanks to @glasgow_kat, that petrochemical candles have much higher emissions than an electric light.
Earth Hour is a fantastic way to highlight the problem of climate change in solidarity with people across the globe but it is not enough on its own. Switching the lights off on landmarks from Sidney Opera House to the Eiffel Tower to the Empire State Building for one hour is purely symbolic. Even switching them off permanently would be insignificant. The kind of reduction in fossil fuel use that we need to achieve would be more like everyone everywhere turning off the lights, heating, air conditioning, refrigeration, computers, televisions - everything for an hour. Not just once a year, a week or even a day but for four or five hours a day with all if the saved energy being from fossil fuels. And without increasing consumption in the periods in between. 

It is a huge challenge but it is the one we face if we are to have a hope of avoiding the worst consequences of climate change and we can't afford to wait until next year to face it.

And the apples? They originated in the area around present day Almaty in Kazakhstan.


  1. I totally agree with you ... we need much more than a one-hour effort once a year. For those who have never taken any kind of action, it's a great place to start. But, each one of us needs to make a bigger commitment. Thank you for this post!

  2. Yes, you're right. A real statement would be for a city or region to have a voluntary rolling blackout. Or perhaps a scheme where if you use less than a modest amount of power you pay the regular rate; above that you pay an overconsumption rate which increases steeply with the total kWh for the month. This is much simpler to implement (technically) than charging different night rates. Now for our leaders, who would be the ones to impose such a scheme, to grow a spine.

  3. Great post! Thanks for the reminder that making a difference takes a whole lot more than turning the lights off for one hour. We can use the symbol of Earth Hour as momentum for further conservation efforts, and as a way to reconnect people with one another without distractions of computers. I wasn't able to participate in Earth Hour the other day, but my family is going to participate tonight, and I plan on continuing to be conscious of my energy use and making decisions that use the least energy.