Just a few years ago in March 2008, I was in the back seat of a beat up sedan that my world-traveler friends had purchased upon their landing in New Zealand. See, it was cheaper to buy a crappy little car for a couple hundred bucks to use for a month and sell it to the next backpackers before we left the country than it was to rent a car for a month. It was dark and warm outside and it was the tail-end of our trip around the south island. I can’t remember exactly where we were but it was somewhere beautiful and remote, as most places are in New Zealand….but not too remote, as the radio was tuned to the local news. There was a report about something called Earth Hour, happening right then, and we were driving right through it, spewing our car’s emissions everywhere!
Earth Hour began the year before in Sydney, Australia in 2007 by several groups of creative thinkers. In the first Earth Hour event in Australia, more than 2.2 million individuals and over 2,000 businesses turned off their lights for one hour. The next year, they had hoped to expand to even more people and cities in Australia, but then the city of Toronto jumped on board by turning off their city lights and encouraging their residents to turn the switch. It was suddenly global! Word spread quickly and catapulted Earth Hour into a larger participatory audience.
What’s the point?
The point of Earth Hour is less about carbon numbers and more about the power of vision and action. From www.earthhour.org: “Earth Hour does not purport to be an energy/carbon reduction exercise, it is a symbolic event. Earth Hour is a global movement uniting people to protect the planet. On the last Saturday of March every year, Earth Hour brings together communities from across the world celebrating a commitment to the planet by switching off lights for one designated hour.”
However, the social movement statistics of Earth Hour is quite impressive. This Saturday 3.31.12 at 8:30pm, Earth Hour organizers are expecting 135 countries and territories, over 5,000 towns and cities, and over 18 billion people to turn off the lights.
That’s a whole lot of people who want a healthier, cleaner, wildlife-abundant world. Imagine if 18 billion people in just 5 years endorsed WILD’s vision of Nature Needs Half. Wow! 18 billion people endorse and are working together to protect and sustain ourselves and our animals, our water, our wild spaces, our trees, and everything else that supports our lives everyday?! By logging on to www.natureneedshalf.org, you too can become a part of this important conservation movement by signing the pledge. Then be sure to share it with your friends…that’s the important part.
What happens during Earth Hour?
The Earth Hour organizers timed the event to be the last weekend of March, which is around the time of the Spring and Autumn equinoxes in the northern and southern hemispheres respectively. This allows for near coincidental sunset times in both hemispheres, ensuring the greatest visual impact for a global ‘lights out’ event.
However, Earth Hour is not a black out. For many businesses in city skyscrapers or for many government buildings, the lights are turned off at the end of the business day the Friday before Earth Hour. There is usually no instant dramatic difference, but rather a gradual dimming of lights starting the day prior. Many major city icons and neon signs are switched off for the hour and they are extremely noticeable. You may be able to see dramatic changes in large business districts or at iconic landmarks and buildings around the world and in your city. Be sure to keep an eye out to notice the difference in your landscape or cityscape.
60 minutes in the dark
So what the heck do you do in the dark for an hour? Candles will play a major role in your Earth Hour experience so be to sure to have plenty of soy or beeswax candles ready to be lit. These candles are better for your health and for the environment. Here are some fun and creative ideas:
- Have a party! Invite some friends over and play a game…sure you can go the Apples to Apples gaming route but Hide and Seek games are fun too!
- Take a bath…with a friend
- Give a massage
- Go outside and check out the stars
- Take a night hike at your local park or in your neighborhood
- Think of three things you can do to change your carbon impact and share with a friend
- Turn off the computer and relax
- Sit and talk to your partner or roommate or friend
- Call your family
- Do yoga
- Eat some already prepared local and organic foods
- If you’re out at a restaurant or business, ask them to participate!
Beyond the Hour
Earth Hour works because turning off the lights for 60 minutes on a Saturday night is something that everybody can do. Earth Hour is positive change. It’s something different in our weekend routines and it opens communication to encourage engagement on ecological resource issues. Doing this one thing, turning off the lights, turns people on to do more things that positively affect the growing global pursuit of a healthier world.
I can do more. I already recycle everything I possibly can (including the remaining cardboard toilet paper rolls, old tv’s, and all my old cell phones), I compost, I buy organic foods and ecologically-sensitive products, I’ve dedicated my life to the earth through my academic studies, my career, and my volunteerism. I need to do more.
I pledge to ride my bike to work at least 4 times a month (it’s a long ride – I’m nervous!)
I pledge to get 5 people signed on to Earth Hour. Earth Hour will be my main focus of conversation on Saturday at a family party in Denver and then at a ladies night in Boulder.
I pledge to get 5 people to endorse Nature Needs Half on Saturday. Can my birth city of Buffalo, NY endorse Nature Needs Half? How about Tucson, AZ or Boulder, CO? Will Nature Needs Half have 18 million supporters in 5 years? We will figure out a way to engage people on supporting Nature Needs Half. It starts with talking to people about it.
Do you have ideas? Contact me Alyson@wild.org.