Earth Hour Isn’t As Good An Hour As You Think

For most people Earth Hour is an environmental awareness event in which people all over the world turn off their lights at 2030 hours wherever they are for an hour only. The idea is simple, it promotes awareness for the consumption and waste of our electricity as well as give rise to the idea of light pollution which most of us are unaware off and ignore.

Being somewhat of a conservationist, I’ve been following the movement since it started a couple of years ago. It’s just recently, I’ve come across some information that renders Earth Hour pointless to begin with. As a result, this year, I won’t be joining in on what has become a hype in turning off all electrical equipment for 60 minutes in respect of Earth hour. I will explain my reason and it all depends on your perspective whether it makes the same sense to you or not.

For everyone else to join in on Earth Hour, all they have to do is to turn off all electrical equipment, especially the lights off for an hour, thus showing that you can save the environment together right? Not exactly. You see, even if 100 million homes turn off everything remotely electrical in their homes, the power plants that power these homes are still running. Whether it may be clean renewable energy like hydroelelectric or the old coal power plants, that energy generated will be wasted for an hour, never stored, and never to come back.

People seem to have the idea that power plants too shut off the generators at the same time as every one else. Truthfully, if they did do dark for an hour, it would take another few hours to turn the generators up again from cold start. Earth Hour might as very well be Earth Hours. Seeing as well how places like hospitals need power 24/7 to keep people alive, it’s more a hassle that it’s worth to plunge the city into darkness by turning off the power stations.

Also, assuming that everyone around your neighborhood joins in on you too. To have people suddenly turn on their electrical goods at about the same time leaves the small chance of blowing an electrical substation sending the neighborhood to a prolonged darkness. True, it’s a small chance which would mean that everyone has to turn everything on at the exact moment which is impossible, but it’s a possibility nevertheless. I swear if my neighborhood blows a main fuse which needs several hours to repair that night, I’m going to be very cross indeed.

Next up, while I know people are going to either go out, use emergency battery torches or even make out in the dark (which was what I used to do), a lot of people are going to opt for the usual “burn-a-candle-for-light” method. Assuming 3/4 of all participants are going to burn candles, 3/4 of 100 million people burning 2-3 candles in their homes is still a huge number indeed. Remember, even if you say a candle burning is insignificant, it’s still the burning of fossil fuels releasing carbon dioxide into the air. You put this all together and you have a crapload being released into the air at the same time. This is of course in addition to whatever fossil fuel is being used to generate electricity in the power plants too. It’s not even efficient to boot, it actually makes things worse.

By now of course, a lot of you for Earth Hour would be saying I’m using a lot of assumptions here, which is true. In truth, Earth Hour is a social movement which is meant to educate people on the effect we have on the environment. It’s just that now, the media and a lot of people think that it’s things like this that help save the environment from ourselves, which is not true, but a perversion of the day itself and science in general.

It may very well be that we need events like this are meant to wake us up from being the wasteful destructive hogs we are to the planet. At the same time, what’s stopping each and every one of you from going back to the same wasteful habits after the hour is up? Sure it’s cool and all to shut off your lights with everyone else and plunge into darkness for the environment, but if you don’t follow through with it every day, does it make an iota of a difference? No.

If you’re really serious about saving the environment then at least follow through with it as some of us do. Turn off the lights in areas which you don’t need. Recycle your garbage, whether it be in a dedicated recycle pile or even reuse them in other ways around the house. Start switching your light bulbs and electrical goods to the energy saving kind. Use water when you really need it. Invest in a more self sufficient lifestyle. Don’t cook more than you can eat if you’re going to throw it away.

There are a lot of small little things you can do to save the environment just a little bit at a time. The idea is about being consistent. The idea is about sharing that consistency with the people in your life, friends and family and the like. If going social is the better way at it, then go social about the environment every day and show that it isn’t a pain in the ass to develop such a habit. Because at the end of the day, a single hour isn’t enough to show the world that what we’ve doing to it is really bad. We have to commit to it every hour, every day, for as long as we are here on God’s green Earth.

That’s what I’ve always been doing even though my lights are going to be alight on March 28th. The question is, with your lights off, are you going to go back to your ways? Or are you going to join me in saving this planet, ridding yourself of one wasteful habit at a time?

20 thoughts on “Earth Hour Isn’t As Good An Hour As You Think

  1. IMO, Earth Hour is targeted to teens, tweens and people who are generally disinterested in anything environmental except for it being too hot or too cold. In just getting the target group to talk and desire to do something, I think it has achieved wonders. The trouble is, as you pointed out, that by turning it into a fad, it will become just that – a fad which will probably be forgotten 3 months from Saturday. I don’t think anyone at WWF seriously believes that throwing a street party to commemorate Earth Hour will cause people to develop long term conservationist habits.

    So I suspect this activity is being done to seed the population with an idea. Perhaps only 1 out of 10,000 seeds will develop into something significant. If there’s any truth in the butterfly effect, maybe that’s all that’s needed to turn a gust into a hurricane.

    Whatever it is, it does seem that some serious money has gone into pomoting Earth Hour.

  2. You just gave me a fantastic idea! Since I still have my bike with the dynamo light, I might get my bro to join me on a cycle/walk around the neighbourhood. 😀

  3. I always find it silly when people believe that small things will make a bigger difference than they do. Like by buying “free trade” Bridgehead coffee, or driving a hybrid, they’re saving the world, and entitled to such smug satisfaction that they’re better than you. There’s a bigger picture that involves doing so much more. I’m glad you were able to so eloquently explain what Earth Hour really means.

  4. As long as you are environmentally conscious of yourself, you did alright regardless of these whole Earth Hour thing and whatever other campaign that we might across. 🙂

  5. turning off lights for 1 hour & then burning candles is kinda useless, it should be better if we stop driving for 1 hour. That would be definitely be more beneficial!

  6. interesting write up. it really makes sense. currently the media coverage for this event is so massive but it only last for an hour. yeah, it’s for a good cause but still, if the intention of saving the earth is just focused on that one hour, it can’t bring us far. it’ll be the same, it’s just 1 hour of 24 hours of 365 days.

    anyhow, i support this event. at least it’s something rather than nothing. but still, more practical ways of education needs to be implemented. humans need understand the importance of recycling, saving water and electricity etc.

    once again, great writeup! =)

  7. Hear hear! You’ve hit the nail on the head. I think it’s a gimmick, and retail stores and restaurants are cashing in on this, by saying that they’re observing Earth Hour AND they’re doing sales, or introducing romantic candlelight dinners just for the day, etc. I too shall be very cross if the sudden overload of power causes power failure if every household starts turning on their lights, etc again.

  8. Damien Tan: The problem with going social is that the real message gets lost among people who are too lazy to change their lifestyle habits. It won’t make a difference to the population if that message is lost in the first place because that renders whe whole point moot. That money would have been better spent on trying to give us more cost effective environmental friendly like better hydrogen storage for hydrogen run cars (which I think is far more effective than electrical or hybrid cars).

    Naoko: Now try do that every day rather than just a single day. Consistency for being environmentally friendly is the key. One hour out of the year it pointless.

    Jeff: The pretentiousness sickens me yes. People start doing it because they think it’s cool without actually understand the reasons and motives behind it, aside from “it’s for the environment”. That’s why for me, starting small isn’t in events like this but in the simple education of your peers to pick up habits we all take for granted and hope in turn they will teach others to do the same thing. After all, big things come from the collective action of the little things. Earth hour has that idea, but it’s become twisted with its real message lost.

    Chapree: And what of the other people? What of the millions of other people who may just be in this for the one time thing cause everyone else is doing it? Are they really conscious of the environment?

    Boringest: Anyone can not drive for an hour. But can you not drive when you need to drive, like for instance, during rush hour, when every one is out driving? That’s where the real impact is.

    Kenwooi: Something with the right motive is still better than something with the wrong message. As long as you understand and teach others what the day is truly for, then that’s good. Remember, the original Earth Hour in Sydney was just to turn off all the electrical stuff we don’t need for an hour. I have no idea how it became turning off all lights and electrical equipment for an hour. It was about reducing waste, not complete blackout.

    Tine: The power of human gullibility and greed. It sickens me that it’s become completely out of control. More reason that I believe the message is lost. We’ve deviated from the original message and it’s time now to educate people on the right way at it.

  9. Actually I did want to do it every day, but the prob is my the area from my office to home is too quiet and it’s not exactly known for being crime-free. :S

  10. What people fail to see (including yourself here) is that Earth Hour isn’t an act to SAVE POWER.. its a global AWARENESS campaign. Even if it’s something as trivial as shutting off your lights for one hour cause everyone else is doing it – it gets the ball rolling for everyone else who doesn’t give a shit.

    We all start somewhere, especially the younger ones. If conservation activities like this are portrayed as ‘cool’, its only one small step for them to find out what other things are important and put them into action. Earth Hour may make no difference in the short term, but on a psychological level, it makes a WORLD of a difference in the long run. Better Earth Hour than no Earth Hour at all.

    Now don’t get me wrong. Sometimes I feel that the people who are against these things are a little cynical & self centered. I mean, I know you are trying to put things in perspective, but to say that you won’t participate is just saying “I know better than all of you” (which you probably do) but you ain’t helping anyone really with that arrogance.

  11. Naoko: Solutions are better than stating the problems. 🙂 It’s best to do what you can do rather than wish on what you want to do.

    FoOie: The real arrogance in the idea that Earth Hour is doing something for the world, that’s a lot of who don’t believe in it are trying to put into perspective. It’s the same kind of elitist idea that Jeff puts it on how people drive hybrids or free trade coffee and think they are saving the world, which they aren’t, not by a long shot. Being “cool” about it never does anything good for the environment because it tends to send the wrong message on what conservation really is about, like it is now. Did you know that the original Sydney Earth Hour was meant for people to turn off the electrical equipment that’s not needed rather than all lights and electrical equipment? Now it’s become a skewed message which will be forgotten until the next Earth Hour. If you want to save the environment, practice what you preach and preach what you practice. Not just one hour of the year but every day of every year. You aren’t helping the world with the idea that one hour is going to make a difference. That’s pretentiousness for you. The real effort take more than that.

  12. i support earth hour.
    i just don’t support how it’s being carried out.

    i don’t support the big concerts, the huge corporations coming out in groups to pledge support and getting reporters to interview their ceos, i don’t support the masses of press releases by these power guzzling corporations, i don’t support the unnecessary printing of T-shirts to commemorate the event, and I don’t support the money spent on those videos.

    I support educating our youth about this thing called global warming. but you know, I get newsletters every month from the WWF because I once donated 30 USD at one of their counters. EVERYMONTH without fail I get a two page, colour printed on ‘recycled’ paper plea, telling me about trees being cut down for paper, animals losing their homes, telling me they need my money to save more trees, asking me to pledge more. I’ve sworn I would donate elsewhere but not to the WWF. Because I don’t believe in people sending paper to me, lots and lots of it, and then telling me that I need to save paper in those very same coloured print outs.

    That’s why I think, I know better. I don’t think that’s arrogance.

  13. I definitely agree with what everyone has said so far about us needing to pursue a more practical educational approach towards conservation. I also agree that its in what we do AFTER participating in such events that matters. But I think the one thing we are doing wrong is generalizing.

    I have seen what such a publicity stunt has done to educate people whom otherwise do not really care about it otherwise. It’s a seed that’s planted in their minds (not just because its cool), but because they suddenly see that the world is taking part in it. We are all media centric people, we do what our idols do, our leaders, our companies. Earth Hour is a GREAT thing in that regard, especially since its so publicized.

    We shouldn’t generalize organizations or people who participate in it as people who will just forget about it after. We shouldn’t assume those who drive hybrids as people who don’t also recycle or consciously attempt to minimize their eco footprint. Just because we know better now, doesn’t mean the others wouldn’t one day do as well. Somewhere, someone, thanks to Earth Hour, will start implementing more rules in their company, set up departments and policies, or personally take more individual action. Changes happen in small stages. My point being it all has to start somewhere, even if from a superficial blown up marketing approach.

    My mum heads the Environmental, Health and Safety department in her company and she is integrating Earth Hour into her efforts. On top of that, she is currently educating the staff on a zero plastic bag / zero paper approach to the business. If our problem is in what is done AFTER Earth Hour, shouldn’t we focus on that rather than just blame it on Earth Hour or choosing not to participate?

  14. Minishorts: The concert part surprised me because I didn’t think people would miss the point of energy conservation that badly. That’s the sad thing about environmental charities these days. They aren’t always helping their case.

    FoOie: At the end of the day, what I understand from what you’re saying is that we have to spend more money to make a very small impact, which is essential the gist of your argument seeing how much people spend on things like Earth Hour for the sake of a handful of people who may change their lifestyle because of it. That to me and to plenty of other people who take conservation seriously, is pretty wasteful to begin with. We’re not blaming Earth Hour at all, we’re pointing out the problem that Earth Hour poses to the actual environment. The loss of the real message, the perversion of the spirit of it, all for the sake of some elitist idea that saving the planet can be cool. You can argue however you want that Earth Hour is a good idea, but for those of us not joining it, we have our reasons and I have explained mine as well as the steps I take to show there is a better way than a single hour. I know where I’m headed with my actions, but where you go from here on the other hand is completely up to you.

  15. No, I wasn’t trying to say that we need to spend a lot of money for minimal impact. What I’m trying to say is that the money IS already spent. I’m not against anything you’ve said – in fact I feel your article was worded very well, especially on the actions that you are taking.

    What I feel strongly about is how people decide to boycott the event simply because they think they know better. THAT is what is elitist. Conservationists are now like “I’m a true blood, you’re just a wannabe *insert derisive scorn*”. Oh WWF sends me paper newsletters! but fail to see how those handouts were how we got educated on this whole thing to begin with (or how WWF really does do a lot – more than what they are spending on the recycled paper – cut down a tree to save the forest). Or how some of these ‘power guzzling corporations’ DO attempt their very best at reducing wastage. You think you know better, but DO YOU REALLY?

    Worse of all are, most of these people who act all high and mighty, happen to be those who contribute very little if at all (I’m not accusing you here). Earth Hour may be cool, but boycotting somehow seems cooler now. Suddenly, being a conservationist is just all about being different. I do MORE, I’m COOLER or I think I KNOW better, I’m cooler.

    I already have a near zero eco footprint – taking public transport everyday, no airconditioning, recycling almost everything – and heck, I’m still gonna go enjoy Earth Hour regardless. You’re a very intelligent guy, but please don’t let that isolate you from the rest of us. Peace.

  16. Yes a lot of people don’t understand that energy plants produce energy according to supply and demand. The only way this would have worked is if the power plants took part in earth hour and you and I know that is not going to happen.

    Nice try tho.

  17. Meh. I didn’t join the cool kids either this time. I figured I do enough for the environment the rest of the time. Oh and my laptop was on Hibernate 😛

  18. hey, my name is Erica and I’m doing this assignment in school for commerce on earth hour. reading this gave me a great more insight into earth hour its self. and even though this thing is like a week late and my marks will be craptacualr to the max because of mark deduction i have to thankyou for writing this. it helped me out so much!!

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