Not to be confused with Earth Day, which comes to us on April 22nd: today we have Earth Hour. It happens at 8:30 PM local time, so it's kind of a rolling thing around the world. Like New Year.
What is it? Well, a few years ago, some folks in Sydney turned off their lights & other electric stuff "to take a stand against climate change". Five years later, it's gone global and for some has become a family tradition-- they turn the lights off, light some candles, and play games or whatnot for an hour. Which I think is brilliant.
I've ranted and muttered against Earth Hour in the past, but I've mostly come round. I still have a hard time seeing past the downside: that people might feel they've done their part and will spend the rest of the year not considering the impact of their actions. I think Earth Hour is great, but please don't stop at 9:30 and think that's all there is to it!
But my real gripe, if you will, is with businesses. So many businesses make a big production out of shutting their lights off for an hour today, when I must admit I'd be more impressed if they'd commit to shutting off the lights for an hour every day. Or two hours, or four. I always think of that scene in the movie That Thing You Do when the main character (Guy) is always forgetting to turn off the neon lights on the front of his father's store at the close of business, much to his father's annoyance. What a change from 1964 to today, when not only the neon, but also the indoor lights, are on 24/7 in most shops. (I understand the need for the indoor lights-- security cameras and all that-- but the neon signs? Give them a break!)
The TV networks are the worst, though. They'll often have a special broadcast for Earth Hour, including a few brief minutes when they shut off the lights in the studio, only to turn them back on after the commercial break to finish the broadcast. Doesn't having the broadcast send the wrong message? I mean, mightn't people decide to turn off the lights but leave on the TV to see what Brian Williams or Diane Sawyer have to say about the importance of turning off the lights? Don't get me wrong, I first heard about Earth Hour in 2008 because of a segment on the news-- but does it have to be during the actual time frame? I'd love to see a TV station who is brave enough to forgo programming during Earth Hour and instead truly turns off the lights and runs a test pattern with an Earth Hour PSA on it. That network would have my loyal viewing for life, I can assure you.
So! All that to say: Earth Hour. Tonight. 8:30. What will you do with your light-free hour?