March 29 2009

Why Earth Hour Is A Bunch Of Hot Air

earth hourCould we all just drop this “Earth Hour” junk now?

Last night, for one hour, people around the world turned off their lights as show of support against global climate change.  The trend started in 2007 when Sydney, Australia went dark for one hour, and by 2008 it expanded across the world as more people joing in the movement.  This year it returned with places such as the Las Vegas strip going completely dark, much to the awe of people that work and live there. Cities all over the planet went dark from 8:30 to 9:30 local time in honor of making a statement against climate change.

-golf clap-

Do you all feel better about yourselves now? Boy, that whole one hour out of the 8,760 a year… whew… I am blown away by the sacrifice.  I mean, seriously, choosing an hour of the one night of the week most people are out of their houses anyway… out having dinner… at a movie… maybe a sporting event or a concert, I mean you couldn’t have picked an hour that inconvenienced people less could ya?  How about instead of once a year you try this once a month, or even once a week?  But, no, one hour out of every year, on a night that inconveniences the smallest number of people possible while still being during a “prime time” hour, that’s your brilliant plan for spreading the word.

What are you doing to educate people through out the rest of the year?  What are you doing to make sure the people turn off unnecessary appliances?  Turning off the lights when they are out of the room?  People, by nature, have short attention spans, and doing something like this once a year isn’t going to be having the impact you think it will.  Sure there were all sorts of articles after last year’s Earth Hour where we saved X amount of energy, and stopped Y amount of carbon gases from being produced, but that’s one hour out of one night.  Whoopee.

You want to make a real impact?  Ponder the hard economic times people are facing right now.  Now, show them how much money that hour cost them with normal lighting, TVs, computers and so on turned on.  Now, show them how much that hour cost them with all of those appliances on.  You want impact?  There’s your impact.  Multiply that times the number of nights in a year, even if they do it once a month, once a week or every night, show them the cold hard facts of how this impacts their wallet.

Then, go to cities that have lights turned on tourist sites for hours on end, show them how much they could cut from their budget if they turned off the lights earlier in the night for different time increments.  Do the same for businesses and tell them how much money they can save  if they turn off more lights in their office buildings at night.  You have to make things tangible for people to get it and understand it, and nothing is more tangible then showing them in black and white how much money they can save.  Talking to them about how many tonnes of gases you prevented from being released means nothing to 99% of the people you say it to, but tell them they saved $X, they’ll get it.

I am all for people turning off lights to reduce their carbon footprint, and even if it is just to save money, but to promote it only once a year seems like a whole lot of back patting about nothing.

And, by the way, their promotion for this event leaves a lot to be desired.  As someone who is online from the time he gets up until the time he goes to bed, how is it I heard nothing about this year’s event until yesterday morning?  You know, the morning of the event?  Good promotion there folks.  I appreciate the sentiment, but it feels awfully hollow to me for some reason.

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  • It's symbolic of the potential for conservation, as well as an example that it is possible to do without the comforts of the modern age for an hour a day. Perhaps eventually people will get the idea that they can do this on their own. Your kind of cynicism will get us no where. Give people something fun to do, something with a feeling of community and they will embrace it as their own. Scold them, and.. well, we've seen where scolding has got us.

    • I’m not suggesting anyone get scolded, I’m saying improve the implementation. Put this into terms anyone can understand and you will get much further with it. You can say all day long “this prevented x metric tonnes of greenhouse gases from being released”, but how many people have a clue what that means? Say, instead, “You saved $X in one hour, now multiply that…” and you’ll get it through to them a lot quicker.

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  • But Earth Hour wasn't supposed to be about saving energy for one hour. According to their website (and you do have to read the website quite carefully to actually find out what their aims were), they were doing it to make politicians listen for their conference in Copenhagen in December. Again, you do have to dig quite deep to even get that information about them.

    I've blogged about what is so wrong with Earth Hour here –

    Basically the problem is that they were asking people to make a statement without making sure they understood what that statement was. They were supposedly asking politicians to take "urgent and unified action", but don't actually ask for anything specific or concrete from them. Which makes the politicians' jobs an awful lot easier – just nod, smile nicely and say a few of the right things. And then do absolutely nothing.