Monday 26 March 2012

Earth Hour: 60 minutes to make a difference

This coming Saturday, March 31, 2012, from 8:30pm to 9:30pm, we will be showing our support for Mother Earth by turning off our lights. This now global event was humbly started in Sydney, Australia in 2007 with 2.2 million residents of that city switching off all non-essential lights. This idea, initiated by the WWF Australia and the Sydney Morning Herald newspaper, has now grown into an annual event of an international scale to raise awareness about the need to do something about climate change.

The official Earth Hour web site reports that more than 5,200 cities and towns in 135 countries participated in 2011. They offer an interactive map where you can explore not only what's happening in your corner of the globe but what everybody else is doing to make their contribution to this global cause. Yes, we are truly in this together. (Aside: Last year I read that even the Antarctica was joining in but found no mention this year. In any case, you can use the map to try to find out who's being bad this year!)

Campaign 2012: I Will If You Will
In February, Earth Hour launched its 2012 campaign, “I Will If You Will”, with the intention of engaging its growing global community to go beyond the hour. Using a dedicated YouTube platform, IWIYW asks Earth Hour's digital community to inspire people from all corners of the globe to take sustainability actions, and to share their commitment to the environment with their own social media networks.

Executive Director and Co-Founder Andy Ridley said, "Earth Hour’s challenge is no longer to connect people; the challenge is to offer a reason to connect. Any movement of change begins with symbolism - it’s a needed step to prove enough people care about an issue. Earth Hour is past the beginning now, and lots of people are switching their lights off every year in March. We’re now at the stage of taking it beyond the hour." (Wikipedia: Earth Hour: 2012)

official YouTube channel
The Earth Hour YouTube platform hosts a global library of “I Will If You Will” challenges, and encourages people to share their dare publically through Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and email. Friends can be invited to participate and accept each challenge using these popular social networks.

The official web site contains a wealth of information about not only the event, but climate change and the need to do something. I notice a handy countdown clock reminding us of our duty this Saturday. On the home page, you can also find a locator to find country specific sites. Click here for Canada, the Great White North and "Join Team Earth Hour" and click here for the good ol' U.S. of A. and "Dare the World to Save the Planet".

In the 2009 publication The New Climate Deal, there is this telling quote from Yvo de Boer, Executive Secretary of the United Nations Climate Convention: "The financial crisis is a result of our living beyond our financial means. The climate crisis is a result of our living beyond our planet's means." Are people listening or is it business as usual?

I read a statement I have heard elsewhere:

As a result of warming, with more heat energy and water vapour in the atmosphere, climate and weather of all kinds will become more extreme. Storms, including hurricanes, may become more intense and more frequent. Wet areas will generally become wetter and dry areas drier. Droughts, which are already more frequent, will get longer and more intense, and extend to new areas – including the Mediterranean, Middle East, Central Asia and southern Africa, which can all expect substantially less rain.

The sceptics always say that things don't feel warmer and I guess that in general, maybe that "feels" true. However, if I think over some of the headlines I've read in the past few years, is the first sign of global warming not more heat but more extreme weather? I can certainly think of a number of extreme weather reports.

True Story
When I was a kid, I always remember building forts in the piles of snow beside the driveway in front of the family home. By the beginning of December, we had certainly shovelled a lot of snow onto each side and the mounds provided excellent cover for snowball fights or even hollowing out a mound as a sort of igloo. That was during the 1950s. Today, it is rare that I see that amount of snow. Something has certainly changed and I only have to bring out the old family photos to see proof that our climate has different. Winters are milder than they were. Yes, I know there are a lot of doubting Thomas's who say global warming is a myth but it seems pretty hard to explain what I have experienced first-hand. Whatever you want to call it, something is going on.

Energy Saved
Wikipedia rattles off some stats about how much was saved in energy sometimes translating that into an equivalent in carbon dioxide. (numbers for the year 2008)

According to WWF Thailand, Bangkok decreased electricity usage by 73.34 megawatts, which, over one hour, is equivalent to 41.6 tonnes of carbon dioxide.

Ireland, as a whole, had a reduction in electricity use of about 1.5% for the evening. In the three-hour period between 18:30 and 21:30, there was a reduction of 50 megawatts, saving 150 megawatt-hours, or approximately 60 tonnes of carbon dioxide.

Ontario used approximately 900 megawatt-hours less electrical energy during Earth Hour. At one point, Toronto, Ontario saw an 8.7% reduction in consumption as compared to a typical March Saturday night.

What doesn't have criticism? Too little, maybe too late? What about Earth Day? Or Earth Week? Do we really have what it takes to do something truly meaningful?

The Ayn Rand Institute wrote, "Participants spend an enjoyable sixty minutes in the dark, safe in the knowledge that the life-saving benefits of industrial civilization are just a light switch away... Forget one measly hour with just the lights off. How about Earth Month... Try spending a month shivering in the dark without heating, electricity, refrigeration; without power plants or generators; without any of the labor-saving, time-saving, and therefore life-saving products that industrial energy makes possible." (The Real Meaning of Earth Hour By Keith Lockitch - March 23, 2009)

In my blog Let's go green... er, black?, I talk about our need for electricity, how much coal we all may be burning to produce electricity and just what we collectively are doing and should be doing. I wrote:

A couple of years ago, I was reading an analysis in the editorial pages of the Toronto Star where the author [looked] at our green efforts. He listed off our various initiatives in North America like changing traditional light bulbs to more energy efficient ones, getting more green appliances, turning off unnecessary lights and dimming others, etc. Then he said that these types of efforts, while laudable were laughable when one took into account that at that moment, China was constructing a new coal-fired electrical power generating station every week. All of our light bulbs were dwarfed by the new developments elsewhere in the world which were leading to even higher levels of pollution.

Good question. The Kyoto Protocol aims to fight global warming. It sets out targets in the reduction of various pollutants known to contribute to this phenomenon. As of October 2010, 191 countries have ratified the agreement with one very notable exception: the United States, a country ranked by several reports as the biggest polluter on the planet.

In saying that, I don't mean the rest of us should do nothing, but it seems obvious that only with everyone doing their part will the entire planet be a better place. In the meantime, I can switch off on Saturday and even if it's only symbolic as opposed to making a measurable, substantial difference, it can be a start that will hopefully be seen by those who are in a position to make a decision hopefully for the better.


Wikipedia: Earth Hour
Earth Hour is a global event organized by WWF (World Wide Fund for Nature, also known as World Wildlife Fund) and is held on the last Saturday of March annually, asking households and businesses to turn off their non-essential lights for one hour to raise awareness towards the need to take action on climate change. Earth Hour was conceived by WWF and The Sydney Morning Herald in 2007, when 2.2 million residents of Sydney participated by turning off all non-essential lights. Following Sydney's lead, many other cities around the world adopted the event in 2008. Earth Hour 2012 will take place on March 31, 2012 from 8:30p.m. to 9:30p.m., at participant's local time.

official YouTube channel

Facebook: Earth Hour

Twitter: Earth Hour

official web site: Earth Hour

Google Images: Earth Hour
[Lots of great pictures, some before and after photos]

Wikipedia: Earth Day
Earth Day is a day that is intended to inspire awareness and appreciation for the Earth's natural environment. The name and concept of Earth Day was allegedly pioneered by John McConnell in 1969 at a UNESCO Conference in San Francisco. The first Proclamation of Earth Day was by San Francisco, the City of Saint Francis, patron saint of ecology. Earth Day was first observed in San Francisco and other cities on March 21, 1970, the first day of Spring. This day of nature's equipoise was later sanctioned in a Proclamation signed by Secretary General U Thant at the United Nations where it is observed each year. About the same time a separate Earth Day was founded by United States Senator Gaylord Nelson as an environmental teach-in first held on April 22, 1970. While this April 22 Earth Day was focused on the United States, an organization launched by Denis Hayes, who was the original national coordinator in 1970, took it international in 1990 and organized events in 141 nations. Earth Day is now coordinated globally by the Earth Day Network, and is celebrated in more than 175 countries every year. Numerous communities celebrate Earth Week, an entire week of activities focused on environmental issues. In 2009, the United Nations designated April 22 International Mother Earth Day.

Wikipedia: Flick Off
FLICK OFF (flick off) is a Canadian advertising campaign launched by Key Gordon Communications. It is a movement to fight climate change by getting Canadians to use less energy.

The choice of the campaign's name is intended both as a reference to a light switch (reflecting the energy-conservation theme) and the exhortation "f**k off". This deliberate ambiguity is reflected in the design of the "Flick Off" logo, in which the L and I in "flick" are designed to resemble a U, in the branded promotional items for sale as part of the campaign, and in the website which features phrases like "are we flicked?". The power symbol used as an "o" in "off" may also represent a raised middle finger.


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