CRITICS of the Earth Hour movement like to point out that it’s ceremonial and doesn’t really accomplish much beyond briefly making people feel good about themselves.
Of course, it’s ceremonial and symbolic. At no time in the 11 years since the movement began as a lights-out ceremony in Sydney did organizers say that Earth Hour was meant to be an end point. It has always been intended as a symbol of what people promised to do for the planet, as well as the annual renewal or expansion of that promise.
In 2017, when Earth Hour activities took place in 187 countries, some 3,100 landmarks and monuments went dark. Yet organizers from World Wildlife Fund have not measured how much energy usage was reduced, because Earth Hour wasn’t meant to be a carbon-reduction activity. “Participation in Earth Hour symbolizes a commitment to change beyond the hour,” the campaign website (www.earthhour.org) pointed out.
This year, Earth Hour will be from 8:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. on March 24, the eve of Palm Sunday. As always, households and businesses are urged to switch off non-essential lights during this hour, including decorative lights, televisions, billboards and neon signs. Essential lights like traffic lights will remain on. More importantly, participants are urged to examine what we consume and how some of our habits (like using disposable plastic straws) harm the environment.
How else can we #Connect2Earth beyond tonight’s event? The ways are varied and sensible. Drinking water from a reusable water bottle, instead of buying bottled water every day, is one change. Printing less paper is another. Companies and schools that allow telecommuting (working or studying from home) not only trim their carbon footprint and their utilities bills, but also help workers and students minimize stress.
Some habits we take for granted as consumers will need rethinking. The widespread use of sachets, containing anything from shampoo and conditioner to toothpaste and condiments, clogs up drains and sends trash inside our homes during floods. At the rate we’re buying and disposing of these single-use packets of aluminum and plastic, the Asian Development Bank and Department of Environment and Natural Resources have projected that the country will need 200 new landfills by 2020.
True, there are other bigger choices we can also make, such as voting for climate-savvy political leaders and challenging those who mock calls for bringing more renewable power into our communities as naïve or impractical. But every effort counts, including efforts to educate ourselves so we cease to be in the dark on climate change.