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Ear to the Ground

Turning Off the Lights Gives Activists a Charge

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Posted on Mar 29, 2009
Flickr / Earth Hour Global

A before-and-after collage of Shanghai and the Great Pyramids of Giza. For more photos, check out Earth Hour on Flickr.

In just three years, Earth Hour has spread from Australia to more than 4,000 cities around the world, and environmentalists are thrilled with the results. Participants in 88 countries killed the lights for an hour on Saturday to call attention to the dangers of climate change.

AP via Google:

From an Antarctic research base and the Great Pyramids of Egypt, from the Colosseum in Rome to the Empire State building in New York, illuminated patches of the globe went dark Saturday night to highlight the threat of climate change. Time zone by time zone, nearly 4,000 cities and towns in 88 countries dimmed nonessential lights from 8:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m.

WWF called the event, which began in Australia in 2007 and grew last year to 400 cities worldwide, “the world’s first-ever global vote about the future of our planet.”

The United Nations’ top climate official, Yvo de Boer, called the event a clear sign that the world wants negotiators seeking a climate change agreement to set an ambitious course to fight global warming.

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By Mbadger, July 8, 2009 at 4:35 am Link to this comment

it’s a great symbol and a great idea, but is it really doing enough to cut global warming and light emissions? Its good to see that the notion has spread to cities across teh world, its an encouraging sign of global cooperation.

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By Spiritgirl, March 30, 2009 at 3:30 pm Link to this comment

Ok, I really appreciate that 88 countries decided for 1 whole hour to shut off the lights.  But for real, maybe if more lights were shut off at night we the world could just start there, and who knows where that might just lead.  People using less electricity to keep every light in their homes on, who knows.  After certain hours (while I love the NYC/Parisian skyline), no one is looking because they’re sleeping anyway - so you can turn off the lights!!!

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By Virginia777, March 30, 2009 at 10:33 am Link to this comment

“Hour of Darkness”?

We’ve lived with YEARS of darkness.

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By ben, March 30, 2009 at 10:25 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

aussie-

while i’m thinking about it, read this: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/comment/columnists/christopherbooker/5067351/Rise-of-sea-levels-is-the-greatest-lie-ever-told.html

so, now that I know our “science” is not necessarily going to align, I can say this: I understand that there has been much change over the past century with our Earth (I don’t think I ever postured that the climate wasn’t changing). And I know that we humans can be incredibly destructive. I aim to make it my life’s passion to try and change how we interact with the natural world. There is so much disconnect and people literally forget how to do things for themselves. Many don’t even know how to grow food. It is destructive.

I just returned from a two-month-long stay on the island of St. Croix where I saw the once beautiful and colorful reefs now breaking apart, a fraction of the size, losing its color. I saw the garbage and erosion that was flowing into the sea from irresponsible quarry digging, land developments, and simple litter that was effecting the reefs in such an awful way. I saw the unlined landfill on the island that is currently being shut down for not meeting regulations. I saw the alternative to dumping in the landfill was literally dumping into the middle of the ocean. I UNDERSTAND that humans can have a huge negative impact on the environment.

You will never convince me that I should think global warming/climate change is a reality because it compels people to change their actions. That is what the government does. They scare us into action. I think action should be taken due to an individual understanding that things are not the way they are supposed to be.

And for those people that will never reach that conclusion, there are people like you and me, aussie, who need to figure out ways to make the right ways economically viable, logistically sensible, and all-around practical.

Turning off our lights for a year is not practical, as I’m sure you understand. And trying to convince the people of this country to do so would probably cause a second Civil War. We have to be smart about this.

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By Anarcissie, March 30, 2009 at 9:27 am Link to this comment

I thought Earth Hour was more posturing in front of the mirror.

The promoters claimed to be spreading the word, rather than directly saving energy, but everyone who wants to know anything about energy use, pollution, global warming, climate change and so forth already knows it.  The purpose of events like these seem to quell anxieties about the issues by deflecting them into inconsequential performances.  For some reason ecological and environmental concerns particularly seem to attract this sort of thing.

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By voice of truth, March 30, 2009 at 5:46 am Link to this comment

This whole thing was crap.  My kids all came home from school brainwashed that they had to turn off all the lights for an hour on Saturday night, which they did (except for the room I was watching a fantastic Pitt - Villanova regional final game!).

Yet every morning after they leave for school I am walking around the house turning off lights in their rooms.  It’s ridiculous.

Also, the photos above in the article, to me, look as if they are the same photo, with the one on the right taken with a filter.  Another load of crap.

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By Aussie, March 30, 2009 at 1:53 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Ben—whatever name you give to it, the science does not agree with your assertion that there is no change in the climate or the pattern of the seasons all over the planet.  Even anecdotal evidence disproves your assertion that the planet is cooling.  This belief is based on localised short-term data, not the trend of a century or more of daily weather observations.  It is a morally bankrupt position to take, and one that obstructs the realisation of your desire for *real* action.  It effectively denies that there is a problem compelling enough to require action.  It is a fallacy pushed by those with a vested interest in the entrenchment of the status quo with no regard to the emerging consequences.

Melbourne, Victoria, Australia, is where I come from.  In early February we had the hottest days on record (all above 40Cel), followed by the most devastating bush fires in the history of the European presence on this continent.  The fires started in Gippsland, the eastern part of the state.  This was the wettest area in the state until recently, notwithstanding the long drought (now in its 14th year); that it was the first part of the state to start burning is evidence that something new is going on in the climate.  20 years ago, this part of Victoria was so green it made your eyes hurt.

In those bushfires, no fewer than 3 major towns were effectively wiped off the map in a matter of hours.  Marysville, St Andrews and Kinglake are places I remember very well from my childhood.  The bush surroundings for all of these locations was rainforest.  It used to be constantly damp, and enjoyed a high natural rainfall.

The rainfall that used to make Victoria the Garden State is now falling to our south, over Bass Strait.  The tropical climate zone—which used to include Sydney, but which did not extend much further south—has now expanded to take in what used to be the most temperate state in the country, with the highest proportion of food farming and the oldest temperate rainforest areas in the mainland.  The Murray-Darling basin, one of the great river systems of the world, is in a state of acute distress.  It is also one of the most irrigated river systems in the world; water is stored in lakes and reservoirs in vast quantities high up in the rivers, and very little has been released for proper restoration of natural flows.  Blue-green algae is killing fish life.  Tell me that isn’t a man-made disaster.

Australia will be first continent to experience the harshest effects of global warming, climate change—whatever you want to call it.  In our region are the majority of the first small island nations that will be engulfed by rising sea levels, with the consequent displacement of population.  Our great cities are likely to be among the first in the world to require a planned withdrawal further inland.

Events like Earth Hour do help to raise awareness that the science is unanimous in one respect: there is a difference in the climate compared to a century ago that is in some measure attributable to human activity.  The only way to improve it is to make it a year-long, darkness-hours, universal event.

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By ben, March 29, 2009 at 10:16 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

I think it is an admirable thing to try to raise awareness, promote education, and make personal changes in consumption habits. And I think Earth Hour may very well do these things to a small extent.

But what are they trying to fix? Climate change? When did the phraseology switch from “global warming” to “climate change”? Was is maybe when people started realizing that a consensus had not been reached in the scientific community about global warming being a reality? Maybe when studies that showed that the earth is actually cooling started to finally see the light of day. Or maybe it was when people started thinking that the earth can go through some changes on its own, outside of the sphere of human influence.

I’m all for responsibility and stewardship of the environment. I think people should take the UTMOST care for this earth, in every way. And just because I’m not convinced that “climate change” is anthropogenic, doesn’t mean that I don’t think there are some serious problems with the way we consume.

Our country currently produces more energy than we know what to do with. Our facilities produce to meet our needs at peak usage - during the day when we are awake and everything is turned on. But at night, when we all go to bed, we are STILL producing at peak power because it is not economical to halt production, or even slow it down. So we literally heat up rivers with the excess energy. So turning off your lights will simply lower your energy bill, not human consumption.

We NEED to produce energy more efficiently, and we have the means to do so. An electrical engineer friend of mine once suggested that if we all had electric cars, we could easily charge them all each night with the excess energy.

I need some real change. Not this hot air.

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By Marge Currey, March 29, 2009 at 9:39 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

The turning off of lights did not do much to my town, I think that maybe if it is done once a month or once every two months might do more for global warming.  At least if the lights are turned off those of us who live in cities might see the stars at night, like are distant ancestors did.

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By Papá Kokopelli, March 29, 2009 at 7:34 pm Link to this comment

Not to be a curmudgeon or anything, but let’s not confuse marketing with reality. 

It’s great that this effort is growing, but don’t forget that we have to WALK THE WALK, individually and collectively.

That means more than turning off your lights one hour a year to show that you get it.

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