Happy Earth Hour! Lights out for an hour. But not me. Surprising to hear? Let me explain my thinking.
On the surface it may seem an admirable energy saving idea, and a way to bring home the importance of energy conservation, of valuing the earth. But does it not also deliver a bad message? That in order to help, or save the planet, we must be deprived of something? We must do without, go cold turkey, turn our backs on technology for that one symbolic hour a year. And be made to feel guilty if we don’t. That somehow if we dare to have a light on during Earth Hour, we must not care about our world? Wouldn’t it be better, and save far more energy, if we focused more on developing less harmful energy technologies? And so much better to cut back every hour, than cut out for one?
It sounds impressive to hear the massive amounts of energy saved when so many shun the lights for that hour tonight, but doesn’t that instead just drive home the point of how much energy we use the remaining 8,759 hours a year? With the best of intentions, that hour saved is really not doing anything for the planet. Especially when you take into account the alternate sources of energy used, be it candles or flashlights, the ‘patting ourselves on the back’ Earth Hour parties and concerts, and that most of the remaining ‘saved’ energy will simply be used before or after those sixty minutes.
And even if there is small net savings, we’re back to that deprivation/suffering problem. And isn’t it human nature that if something is unpleasant, a sacrifice to keep on doing, that we seldom maintain such behaviour? Easier to say, ‘well at least I turned off the lights for Earth Hour, I did my part’. We won’t feel so guilty that way the rest of the time.
While not mutually exclusive, one can obviously observe both Earth Hour and reduce the rest of the time, there just seems so much focus on Earth Hour, and the recruitment that goes on for it. I’m all for anything that increases awareness for the environment and gets people thinking, but this one appears a bit misleading, making it seem like it helps more than it does, and all in a rather coercive way as well.
Rather than turn everything off for one hour tonight, why not use less all the time, whether through better and more efficient technologies, or simply by being more cognizant of what energy we’re are using and why. Live that way for every hour, every day, every year. Turn off that unused porch light. Put on that extra sweater. Turn off whatever you’re not using. Let that become habit, not a one-off. And save so much more energy, and without feeling so deprived, maybe without even noticing the change in behaviour after a while. For isn’t that what a habit becomes? Something you do without even thinking about it? Every hour. Happy Earth Lifetime!