Join 3,497 readers in helping fund MetaFilter (Hide)


I Need the Darkness Someone Please Cut the Lights
March 28, 2011 12:46 PM   Subscribe

At 830 pm local time on March 26 the world celebrated Earth Hour 2011 by turning off the lights.
posted by Glibpaxman (97 comments total) 6 users marked this as a favorite

 
I am apparently not of this world.
posted by longsleeves at 12:49 PM on March 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


The "click to turn off the lights" gimmick is pretty nifty, and those are some attractive, well chosen photos.
posted by straight at 12:51 PM on March 28, 2011 [2 favorites]


I noticed that Google put a 'lightswitch' on YouTube that day. Clicking it set the background to black. Alas, on almost all LCDs that actually uses slightly more electricity than a white background. The backlight is on regardless, and it takes electricity to make the liquid crystals block the light and produce black. I guess some LED backlit LCDs can do local dimming of the backlights for deeper blacks, but I think that's only done on newer HDTVs, not computer monitors.

It's basically the Blackle kerfuffle all over again.
posted by jedicus at 12:53 PM on March 28, 2011


The Empire State Building almost always turns off its lights at 2:00am. I just happened to be up very early the morning of the 26th in NYC. For whatever reason, the Empire State Building (as well as the Bank of America and Conde Nast Towers) still had all their lights on at around 5am. I found it very funny that on the night before the buildings are going to turn their lights off for ONE hour, someone left the lights on ALL night long.
posted by This_Will_Be_Good at 12:54 PM on March 28, 2011


My favorite is Piccadilly Circus, where the "on" image is a mass of adverts, then with the "off" image, you can see there are actually buildings by those signs! And they're nice buildings (compared to so much urban US architecture). Of all the things to hide behind adverts.
posted by filthy light thief at 12:56 PM on March 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


I was in Budapest when they turned the lights off at the Royal Palace and the Chain Bridge. There were fire dancers!
posted by rabbitbookworm at 12:59 PM on March 28, 2011


In most of those cases the environments look much better with the lights off. They should do that every day.
posted by JJ86 at 12:59 PM on March 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


I missed this and left my lights on.
Sorry about the glaciers and icecaps guys. :(
posted by Stagger Lee at 1:00 PM on March 28, 2011 [9 favorites]


Every year when I see all the pictures of the difference between every day and Earth Hour, I wonder why they can't just keep the lights off all the time.
posted by immlass at 1:00 PM on March 28, 2011 [3 favorites]


I completely forgot.
Do over?
posted by Thorzdad at 1:01 PM on March 28, 2011


And, in an article I can relate to from GOOD magazine: Why I Won't Be Turning Off Any Lights for Earth Hour.
posted by mikeh at 1:01 PM on March 28, 2011 [2 favorites]


One of my favorite comments ever on this site. Excerpted...

I shut the lights off at the Bromo Seltzer Arts Tower in Baltimore last night, but it's not so easy in a large landmark like the tower, where there are five completely separate timers and control mechanisms, spread out over twenty-two stories, so my Earth Hour started at 8:25, 8:29, 8:35, 8:38, and 8:42 and ended with a similar spread. The worst part was that the mechanical timer for the lights in the clock faces is a brutal heavy brass steampunk-looking thing that I taped up with eight layers of tightly-bound duct tape, and it still managed to break loose early and restart the clock lights at some undetermined time without my intervention.

Seeing as I was on the verge of fainting from climbing the last seven floors on steep ladder/stairs, I opted to stay on the roof of the tower, 288 feet over Lombard and Eutaw Streets, for the duration, and watched the city going on its way around me. No other large building killed their lights, alas (particularly the old Baltimore Trust Company tower/Bank of America building, our only real rival for pride of place on the skyline, the brightly-lit SOBs), making me wonder if people would just assume some kind of electrical failure was involved and blame the facility manager (me). The air was clean and brisk and the sky as full of stars as you can expect in Baltimore, so I put on my mp3 player and a nice playlist of mid-seventies funk and spent an hour dancing over the disco-ball tabletop of the city, surrounded by helicopter fireflies.

Fire trucks came and went, in one case racing to a fire in West Baltimore that I could see clearly from my vantage point, and the Shock Trauma helicopter lifted off from the hospital below to rescue someone, and the funk kept on keepin' on. Almost at the end, a single police helicopter buzzed the tower, catching me in the twitchy blue-white light of the perp-spotter beam, and a stern voice barked out of the beating cacophony of the churning blades—

"What are you doing?"

I shrugged and yelled back, "I'm dancing!"

--sonascope
posted by codacorolla at 1:01 PM on March 28, 2011 [10 favorites]


No, it didn't.
posted by timdicator at 1:02 PM on March 28, 2011


We did? Local time where? Here?
posted by maryr at 1:10 PM on March 28, 2011


At 830 pm local time on March 26 the world celebrated Earth Hour 2011 by turning off the lights.
...
And then, feeling sure of their own virtue, went about their lives exactly as they had before.


What I particularly like about Earth Hour is that it basically admits that modern environmentalism so hates modern life that its ideal is a world in which we all live in the dark. I look forward to Earth Day, in which all Earth Hour particpants resolve to unplug their freezers, climb the stairs to their offices, and do their work without the benefit of lighting or computers. That sounds like a truly sustainable economy.
posted by Dasein at 1:10 PM on March 28, 2011 [3 favorites]


I wonder why they can't just keep the lights off all the time.

Because then it would be dark.
posted by pwally at 1:11 PM on March 28, 2011 [6 favorites]


Yeah, well, I landscaped my yard to not need watering or fertilizing. And I drive a hybrid. And, oh yeah, most importantly -- I DIDN'T BREED.

There's my contribution to saving the goddamn planet. Lights: on. What a meaningless gesture of feel-good bullshit.
posted by BitterOldPunk at 1:12 PM on March 28, 2011 [5 favorites]


And, in an article I can relate to from GOOD magazine....

I read it -- and I disagree.

The thing that I think there is to be gained from shutting off the lights is the thing I see in all of these pictures -- "you know, it doesn't actually look like we need to have quite so many lights on in the first place." Do we NEED the Parthenon to be spotlit every night? Do we NEED the lights on the Empire State Building? Do we NEED the lights on at the Brandenberg Gate every night? Do we NEED all that advertising to be constantly on in Times Square or Piccidily Circus?

If you're reading at night, or working late in an office, then of course, you need light. But who's holed up in a corner of the Parthenon and reading at 2 am?
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 1:12 PM on March 28, 2011 [4 favorites]


I wonder why they can't just keep the lights off all the time.

pwally: Because then it would be dark.

And dark is the best friend of miscreants and ne'er-do-wells! Or you might trip on the sidewalk and break your teeth.
posted by filthy light thief at 1:13 PM on March 28, 2011


I think it's an excellent statement against light pollution, and against over-lighting in general. For all of the pictures referenced in this post? A worthwhile venture. For me, sitting at home reading? Silly and smacks of me-tooism. If anything, your lights should be out because you're outdoors checking out the lack of light.
posted by mikeh at 1:15 PM on March 28, 2011 [2 favorites]


I tried turning my lights out, but then the lights downstairs in the basement came back on. So I went to turn them out, and the living room and kitchen blinked on. Then the kitchen light switch turn the basement back on, but the kitchen off. I'm so confused...
posted by maryr at 1:15 PM on March 28, 2011


The Earth Hour power-down in Ontario and British Columbia was less than the previous 2 years.
posted by Kabanos at 1:17 PM on March 28, 2011


At 4:22 pm local time, I DONT CARE!
posted by Fizz at 1:22 PM on March 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


Meh. It's a small gesture.

If I had my way we'd turn all the lights in a city off once a month or once a year for an entire night just so people could see the night sky again without traveling 400 miles into the middle of nowhere. If I ever became malevolent dictator of a city monthly star watching parties would be mandatory.

Anyway, yeah. Much of our urban outdoor lighting is overkill and illogical. It doesn't actually reduce crime, it increases it.
posted by loquacious at 1:24 PM on March 28, 2011 [4 favorites]


EmpressCallipygos: "The thing that I think there is to be gained from shutting off the lights is the thing I see in all of these pictures -- "you know, it doesn't actually look like we need to have quite so many lights on in the first place." Do we NEED the Parthenon to be spotlit every night? Do we NEED the lights on the Empire State Building? Do we NEED the lights on at the Brandenberg Gate every night? Do we NEED all that advertising to be constantly on in Times Square or Piccidily Circus?

No. But like moths, we're attracted to light, and it stands to reason that bright advertisements and buildings will draw our attention when they're surrounded by darkness. The sense has always been that lighting up a city's streets would decrease crime. But evidence suggests otherwise.
posted by zarq at 1:27 PM on March 28, 2011 [2 favorites]


*bows in loq's direction* :)
posted by zarq at 1:27 PM on March 28, 2011


Life is a small, meaningless gesture. But in the aggregate, it beats the hell out of the alternative.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 1:28 PM on March 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


As the caretaker for Baltimore's signature novelty giant clocktower advertising a once-popular tranquilizer-laden stomach remedy, I took part, though turning off the lights isn't something you do with a single switch—there's a series of big old mechanical timers scattered throughout 22 stories, some of which manage to give me a mild shock as I'm trying to trip the tiny little lever mounted conveniently behind the terminals for the switch. Like last year, I started off in the basement, working my way up to the top, went down to the street for some pictures, then went back to the top (there are a lot of ladders and I am a lot out of shape, dang it) then listened to mp3s and danced on the roof like a happy little girl to Janelle Monae (I'm trying to get the shoulder action down, you know) until 9:29, when I raced back down all the ladders and stairs, turning the timers back on and shocking myself along the way.

Now, the downside is that the old Baltimore Trust Building (yeah, I'm calling you out, Bank of America) has not bothered to participate in this event either last year (my first year in the position) or this year, and it's hard to compete with, lit up as bright as a lighthouse, so I've no idea if anyone even noticed that the Bromo Seltzer Arts Tower had gone dark, or wondered why. I'll post the pictures I took on our facebook page and write about the evening, but sometimes, you just have to carry on and keep it all going until you build up a little awareness. City Hall went dark, though, I'm told, so we're representin' for Baltimore, a bit at a time.

Will it change the world, ultimately? Probably not.

That said, when I'm up there, bopping around as I'm watching the traffic coming and going at my feet, I do a little thinking about how I can save a bit of my energy budget and waste a little less. I went up again this morning and trimmed off a little lighting time at the end of each evening on all the timers, which is electricity that won't be burned. I've got hard limitations to how much energy I can save in a hundred year-old architectural folly with no insulation, but there's always room to be a little better and a little smarter. Maybe I'm the only one doing it in my building, but maybe someone who read my facebook posting will ask the managers of the buildings where they live and work about participating next year, and the word will get around.

You do what you can.
posted by sonascope at 1:28 PM on March 28, 2011 [8 favorites]


I was at one of my favourite local pubs where they combined Earth Hour with an all-day fundraiser for Red Cross Japan tsunami relief. Twelve hours of non-stop local music, acoustic only with no microphones (tests your vocalist's chops), and at 8:30 they shut down every light in the house and lit the place with candles. Useless stunt or not, the atmosphere was awesome!
posted by rocket88 at 1:38 PM on March 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


Right wing folks apparently celebrated "human acheivement hour" thus proving that our politics are utterly polarized and we can't have nice things because someone else has to be an utter dick about it.
posted by humanfont at 1:39 PM on March 28, 2011 [4 favorites]


I remember when Earth got its own day. Now we just give it an hour. Pretty sad.
posted by adamrice at 1:39 PM on March 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


it basically admits that modern environmentalism so hates modern life that its ideal is a world in which we all live in the dark

Yes, that is exactly what the modern environmental movement wants. You are so smart for figuring this out based on cryptic clues left on city skylines after we turn off the useless external decorative lighting on buildings.
posted by muddgirl at 1:49 PM on March 28, 2011 [4 favorites]


If we put our lights on strobe, would we consider it 1/2 off?
posted by stormpooper at 1:54 PM on March 28, 2011


Almost all the lights are on in almost all of those pictures. I mean, look at the last one of Sydney.
posted by tylerkaraszewski at 1:55 PM on March 28, 2011


Oh crap, I'm doing it wrong.
posted by tylerkaraszewski at 1:56 PM on March 28, 2011


"human acheivement hour" ?

You gotta be kidding me. Never ceases to amaze how infantile the right gets about reacting to everything that's remotely progressive/intelligent.
posted by Liquidwolf at 1:58 PM on March 28, 2011


I think it's neat and kind of pretty to see these very lit up places with the lights off.
posted by pointystick at 2:01 PM on March 28, 2011


Earth Hour is indeed counterproductive. It gives the impression that environmentalism is about doing without the things you need. People would be better off spending that hour with their lights on, writing their congressperson or local newspaper about the need for better regulation of emissions.
posted by East Manitoba Regional Junior Kabaddi Champion '94 at 2:05 PM on March 28, 2011 [5 favorites]


immlass: I wonder why they can't just keep the lights off all the time.

pwally: Because then it would be dark.


I don't know if you noticed but the building/bridge lights weren't for seeing where people were going, they were "look at my awesome building" lights. In short they didn't turn off the navigation or street lights.
posted by JJ86 at 2:05 PM on March 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


I celebrated by taking advantage of the slightly-lower-than-typical grid load and negotiating a discount with the utility for moving my panda-grinding facility operations one hour earlier.
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 2:13 PM on March 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


People would be better off spending that hour paralyzed in the realization that nothing they do will ever be good enough.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 2:23 PM on March 28, 2011


Never ceases to amaze how infantile the right gets about reacting to everything that's remotely progressive/intelligent.

Someone should start a PSA about how not burning tires in your living room will help the environment.
posted by dirigibleman at 2:25 PM on March 28, 2011 [2 favorites]


I'd take the sentiment in the GOOD article even farther. Rather than betokening a real intention to 'help the environment', symbolic spectacles like these serve to further entrench existing habits by creating a fake sense that something is being done.

Further, the energies of the people involved in coordinating this event are being wasted on what could, at most, be a 1/8760 (~0.0001%) reduction in yearly power consumption (assuming every power-consuming device in the world is outright unplugged and the use of battery-powered devices is similarly discouraged).

I would go so far as to say that this is not a sign of positive change in the world at all, and is not even a well-intentioned, if misguided attempt to help, but a carefully considered gambit to create the impression that there is a beneficent, effective, large scale agency at work where there is, in fact, not.

These types of events, where everyone knows that there will be no real effect, but act like there is still something terribly important going on, trouble me a lot in general, actually.
posted by Casimir at 2:26 PM on March 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


WHY DO THEY ALWAYS DO EARTH HOUR IN THE MIDDLE OF MARCH MADNESS??

Seriously people, I want to get behind your awareness campaign. But maybe organize it for some time other than one of the 3 weekends a year I would kill a puppy to be near a television.

The compromise in my house the last few years: watching college basketball in the dark.
posted by auto-correct at 2:27 PM on March 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


What I particularly like about Earth Hour is that it basically admits that modern environmentalism so hates modern life that its ideal is a world in which we all live in the dark.


My complaint about Earth Hour is similar; it's basically just a photo-op because having lights on when it's dark out is not something we can realistically expect people to do without regularly, and it's not something that's gong to encourage any long-term commitments. But I suppose "Only Have Lights On In the Room You're Currently In Day" or "Turn Off The TV When You're Not Watching It Day" or "Turn Down The Fucking Heat And Put On A Fucking Sweater Day" don't have the same ring to them. Maybe the last one.


And dark is the best friend of miscreants and ne'er-do-wells! Or you might trip on the sidewalk and break your teeth.

I get the impression you're joking, but both of these are legitimate reasons to have certain areas well-lit at night. You would not believe the number of lawsuits related to injuries supposedly caused by improper lighting that are pursued against governments.
posted by Hoopo at 2:28 PM on March 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


People would be better off spending that hour paralyzed in the realization that nothing they do will ever be good enough.

Are you talking about Earth Hour, or holiday dinner with my mother?
posted by hippybear at 2:32 PM on March 28, 2011 [2 favorites]


A friend who works as an analyst in the Alberta electricity market observed that according to the numbers she looked at this morning, it made zero difference in electricity consumption in Alberta.

Perhaps all electricity should be on a timer, and automatically turn itself off unless someone intercedes?
posted by blue_beetle at 2:35 PM on March 28, 2011


My anger toward this has cooled but it still pisses me off. I did a small Facebook protest - Enlightenment Hour - but how can one man bring light back to the world? Yes, let us go back to the darkness. Let us turn our back on civilization and it's comforts, on science and it's gains. Let us pay fealty to darkness and dumb Earth.
But not I. I still shine brighter than Creation's dark and I shall shine until I die.

On a less florid note, the pub I was in kept the lights and PA on. Earth Hour was concieved by two drunk Aussies at a pub I know well, The Courthouse. Good pinball, but it spawned a horrible thing.
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 2:55 PM on March 28, 2011


I'm a little amused that the cynical response is to sputter some variation of "but, but this is just a gesture! Just an empty gesture! It doesn't actually save any energy at all!"

Really? It's just a gesture? What a shocking announcement! I thought I was single-handedly saving the rainforest here! You mean trying to encourage people to think a little more about what they do in the world on their own personal scale by a semi-conspicuous annual public event isn't going to immediately turn everything into glorious sunshine forever?

Well, that's a hell of a thing. We should all commit suicide immediately.
posted by sonascope at 2:57 PM on March 28, 2011 [3 favorites]


You gotta be kidding me. Never ceases to amaze how infantile the right gets about reacting to everything that's remotely progressive/intelligent.

Nothing is more progressive than GOING BACKWARDS.

I'm very left-wing and Earth Hour TERRIFIES me. What happens when the eco-types decide my computer uses too much power?
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 3:02 PM on March 28, 2011


Other well-known empty gestures include Valentine's Day, weddings, babies, taking showers, voting, and your favorite band. Please avoid at all costs!
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 3:04 PM on March 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


What happens when the eco-types decide my computer uses too much power?

We design a computer that runs on less than 40 Watts, like my netbook? I don't much care for fearmongering of any stripe, but "Those guys want to take away everything I hold dear!!!" is probably my least favorite.
posted by muddgirl at 3:05 PM on March 28, 2011 [3 favorites]


Earth Hour TERRIFIES me. What happens when the eco-types decide my computer uses too much power?

An empty gesture terrifies you? Then you are easily terrified. The only thing with less power than green energy is eco-types. Unfortunately.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 3:06 PM on March 28, 2011


I moved to my current house partly to enjoy darker nights. The stars are gorgeous, more so when the neighbors turn off their big-ass security lights. The full moon is stunning. Dark skies are worth preserving. So, even if it's not the best gesture ever, turn off the lights, and enjoy the view.
posted by theora55 at 3:07 PM on March 28, 2011 [3 favorites]


You mean trying to encourage people to think a little more about what they do in the world on their own personal scale by a semi-conspicuous annual public event isn't going to immediately turn everything into glorious sunshine forever?

I humbly submit we could encourage an annual public event of something people might actually make a habit out of rather than something they will do for show once a year only when they're reminded.
posted by Hoopo at 3:14 PM on March 28, 2011


I humbly submit those are hardly mutually exclusive ideas.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 3:17 PM on March 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


People are going to make a habit of turning out all the lights when it's dark out dark out?
posted by Hoopo at 3:21 PM on March 28, 2011


I'm very left-wing and Earth Hour TERRIFIES me. What happens when the eco-types decide my computer uses too much power?

See LiB, the thing is, your posting history doesn't really indicate your personal ideology to be left-wing at all. And this comment above furthers the view. It's right-wing nut bollocks. "The eco-types" (as opposed to the ecotypes) a) don't exist, b) if they ever did exist would arise through a set of collective decisions of a society, which if you were left wing you would support, and c) they wouldn't be confiscating your computer, they'd just be regulating your emissions.
posted by wilful at 3:29 PM on March 28, 2011 [2 favorites]


From the link, picture 21, that Belarus National Library is really something isn't it (both lit and unlit)? And the Aldar headquarters (#24) too!

The last picture, in Sydney, it sure looks like a lot of regular residents were doing something as well.
posted by wilful at 3:32 PM on March 28, 2011


People are going to make a habit of turning out all the lights when it's dark out dark out?

People can make a symbolic gesture for an hour once a year and also do something they'll make a habit out of more than once a year only when they are reminded. Every holiday gets this same argument: Why do something just one day a year? If it's worth doing once, we should be doing more! To which I say: So do more! What's stopping you? Make a little gesture - and then make a big one, too.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 3:33 PM on March 28, 2011



See LiB, the thing is, your posting history doesn't really indicate your personal ideology to be left-wing at all.


I support unions, public healthcare, and the welfare state. I'm anti-death penalty. Its just that when it comes to the environment i'm somewhere to the right of Glenn Beck, who probably has a dog he loves. I was even doing that Glenn Beck crying thing during all the Earth Hour mania. I'm not proud of it, but that's how I am.

An empty gesture terrifies you? Then you are easily terrified.

It's what it represents. I turn out my lights when I leave the house because I'm worried about electricity costs and my stacks of cheap paperbacks burning down. But to pitch turning off the lights as a good and noble gesture is just disturbing symbolism. Light has represented scientific progress and humanity for thousands of years. Prometheus was punished for stealing fire from the Gods. Earth Hour recasts darkness as a noble thing, and not in some cool antihero way but in a 'it would be better if we returned to a more primitive state'. You may think I'm exaggerating but this was started by two Aussie activists in Newtown. I'm around these people constantly, and many of them do idealize a rural or more nature oriented life.

Again, think of the symbolism. TURN OFF the lights. Go backwards.
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 3:34 PM on March 28, 2011



The last picture, in Sydney, it sure looks like a lot of regular residents were doing something as well.


I'm only one man. And Facebook changed the settings so the old 'invite everyone to your event' script doesn't work.
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 3:35 PM on March 28, 2011


But to pitch turning off the lights as a good and noble gesture is just disturbing symbolism.

Who is doing this? Who else, besides you, is conflating a one-hour publicity stunt for the environment with a continued call to keep the lights off forever.

It's like Hands Across America. We never should have done this because clearly holding hands across a whole country forever is unsustainable and would make MORE people homeless rather than less.
posted by muddgirl at 3:37 PM on March 28, 2011


Anyone who can't think of something good to do by candlelight for an hour needs to make an appointment with their doctor.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 3:41 PM on March 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


Earth Hour recasts darkness as a noble thing

Earth Hour as seen in pictures mostly shows us how much light pollution we live with all the time. It's not like people are turning out the streetlights or the headlights on their cars so they can't get around; the lights that are getting turned out are massive advertising displays, whether literally like the ones in Picadilly or metaphorical like all the ones that show off cultural monuments. If it's demeaning to human achievement to turn off decorative lights, human achievement is pretty flimsy.
posted by immlass at 3:42 PM on March 28, 2011 [4 favorites]


I humbly submit we could encourage an annual public event of something people might actually make a habit out of rather than something they will do for show once a year only when they're reminded.

Something people might make a habit out of....like switching off unnecessary lights?
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 3:44 PM on March 28, 2011


I'm always surprised that people actually get angry about stuff like this. Don't like it? Don't participate.

I'm even more mystified by the constant contention that turning lights off is tantamount to DESTROYING THOUSANDS OF YEARS OF HUMAN PROGRESS!!! Really? So turning the lights off when I go to bed makes me a wannabe caveman? Hmmm, that's alarming.

Of course, I'm on a packed commuter train right now, writing this on a tiny computer that's beaming my words into the air before connecting into a giant communication network that's bringing down dictators on the other side of the world. This weekend, I'll sit in my cabin in the woods, read a book under an oil lamp while my mp3 player plays Debussy on an energy-efficient T-chip amp powered of a battery hooked to solar panels, then maybe lie back and watch Firefly on a netbook run on the same power before I fall asleep. Why do I have to choose only your vision of "enlightenment?"

All the environmentalists I know love this manifold future. We can screw 5 watt LED bulbs into 1920s lamps, use the magical internet to learn how to churn butter, fix our car, or program microcontrollers to do amazing things. Why should we surrender to your monolithic, one-way trip? Screw that--I live in the future, where it's possible to live well with AND without technology, determining usage by efficacy.

This is what gets me--this fear of environmentalists, fed by the fact the so many people really don't have a clue about what environmentalists actually think. But hey--why bother with facts when fear's so much more fun?
posted by sonascope at 3:47 PM on March 28, 2011 [4 favorites]


well, the Luna Park face is just as scary with the lights out so that's something, I guess?

and some of these photos are great because of the lights that are left on. those lights still look gorgeous.
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 3:48 PM on March 28, 2011


Yes, too bad there are only 100 of them instead of 1000. How will we ever progress without useless decorative lights to show the way?
posted by muddgirl at 3:50 PM on March 28, 2011


Something people might make a habit out of....like switching off unnecessary lights?

Maybe I'm misunderstanding how this holiday works. You're supposed to turn off ALL the lights, right? Sit in darkness for an hour? Lights are unnecessary at 8:30pm in Vancouver only if I don't want to see things. If it encourages people to turn off unnecessary lights, great, but for me sitting in darkness only reminds me how much I like the lights on. I'm already the type that doesn't leave lights on all over the apartment though, so if that's the intention I suppose I'm not the target.
posted by Hoopo at 4:01 PM on March 28, 2011 [2 favorites]


Actually, there's nothing in the official "rules" (such as they are) to Earth Hour that says you have to turn off all lights. I'd be curious to see if anyone can actually find a bit of copy on the website that says ALL lights, because pretty much everything I've seen says "non-essential" lights and appliances. If you're going to fall down the basement stairs, I think the environmentalists of the world aren't going to have your head on a pike if you leave that light on. This need to create an environmentalist straw man to validate this flaccid arguments about this just cracks me up--turning off your porch light is going to send you back to the dark ages, because of the scheming evil environmentalist? Find me one who takes the hard line that the skeptics here are claiming. I bet you can. Find me twenty, though.

What gets me is the arch, indignant overreaction of it all. Darkness is bad? Enjoying a dark night sky is counter-evolutionary? Funny--I think an absurd fear of darkness is about as atavistic and anti-modern as it gets. I can enjoy the night sky, the stars you'll never see in the grey wash of urban light pollution, and then settle down in a little pool of artificial light when I need to see better. Where's the conflict here? It's just a manufactured thing, conjured up to justify an irrational histrionic need to be the smartest guy in the room. See, there's a little word in English that let's you see beyond black-and-white, and beyond the rigid dualism of "OR," and it's "and."

I can see this as a bit of a theatrical gesture, with less import than it might imply, AND I can see this as a little nudge, a brain-opener that says, "hey, think about something else for a second." I can live with the simple tools, means, and pleasures of all of human history AND I can take all of that with me and still push forward into the future.

Does anyone ever actually read the linked articles in these things? Is it just easier to presume it says what you want it to say in order to make your point?
posted by sonascope at 4:19 PM on March 28, 2011


You are not, in fact, required to sit in the dark for an hour. Light some candles, or a flashlight, or a small lantern. If nothing else, this is a good occasion to check out your short term emergency preparedness. If you don't have any of these things - and you should - then leave on one light and read a book. It's a symbol, right? Make it your own.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 4:24 PM on March 28, 2011


The thing that I think there is to be gained from shutting off the lights is the thing I see in all of these pictures -- "you know, it doesn't actually look like we need to have quite so many lights on in the first place." Do we NEED the Parthenon to be spotlit every night?

Oh yes, we do. It looks gorgeous and it makes every part of the city from which it can be seen a little better, be it an alternative bar, a hill or someone's balcony. What we don't need is random buildings fully lit up and lights/electronic devices always on. Light pollution can be tiring.
posted by ersatz at 4:27 PM on March 28, 2011


sonascope, I don't know if you're lumping me in with the "environmentalist strawman" types, but don't. The only point I'm trying to make is that I wish there was more support for things like "wear a sweater day" instead, which is something people could do all winter long and it would be great. I'm lucky enough now to finally live in a building in a City where I don't need to turn the heat on at all anymore, but in the parts of the country where I grew up people will turn the heat up to 25 degrees C because it's cold outside and walk around indoors in t-shirts. Or in my parent's old house, the A/C would be at 18 or 19 degrees C in the summer and I'd need socks and a sweater in July to stay in my room in the basement.

In my building at least, they asked us to turn out our lights. I've done it the last 2 years. Last year we went out for a walk (we live downtown; businesses obviously did not participate and Robson and Granville were all lit up in neon as usual. This year we sat on the balcony for a bit, it was still very bright out there with all the bars and restaurants and office buildings.

Light some candles, or a flashlight, or a small lantern...then leave on one light and read a book

One light is enough to light my living room. That's all I would generally have on anyways, and from outside it would appear we were all lit up. They specifically ask you to not turn on lights unless it's for safety, and my understanding is that lights are more efficient and produce less emissions than candles and lanterns. So who is this show for? Anyways, it's not worth a fight. I think I'm getting tossed in with people I disagree with when I have completely different reasons for not thinking highly a symbolic gesture like this.
posted by Hoopo at 4:55 PM on March 28, 2011 [2 favorites]


I turned off the lights in my home in a Yaletown/Vancouver highrise, and sat by the window watching the city below me. My home was quiet, I thought at first of experiencing the Earth Hour with my iPhone and earbuds but then thought better of it. I listened to the streets several dozen floors below, watched some lights being turned off, and many more staying on. It was a pleasant Saturday night, early in the evening.

For me Earth Hour meant once again one hour of contemplation, during which I thought about where my mindfulness about using electricity - or any resource for that matter - had taken me in the past year.

I observed my first Earth Hour in 2008, and that little hour was the beginning of mindful consumption. Within a year I had reduced my energy usage by 50% and in the years after I reduced by 7% again every year. I never went cold - I just heated when heat was needed, turned off lights and appliances that were not in use. I also reduced the use of my car (I walk to work or use the Skytrain), and I am spending more mindfully as well (more experiences and less stuff). All this, started with one Earth Hour.

So that's my Earth Hour story. My commitment has little to do with saving electricity or saving money or saving the Earth - but has everything to do with mindfulness, and living a less automatic habit-addled life.
posted by seawallrunner at 5:20 PM on March 28, 2011 [2 favorites]


I'm always surprised that people actually get angry about stuff like this. Don't like it? Don't participate.

I do get angry with people who do this where I live. They turn off their 100% renewable, zero emission powered electric lights, and then sit around in the light of a bunch of candles - made from fossil fuel.

That's just idiotic.
posted by HiroProtagonist at 5:29 PM on March 28, 2011


Maybe I'm misunderstanding how this holiday works. You're supposed to turn off ALL the lights, right?

Well, that's up to you. This isn't a "Holiday". Just a reminder to think about "do you really need as many lights on as you think you do?" And only you can answer that question.

They turn off their 100% renewable, zero emission powered electric lights, and then sit around in the light of a bunch of candles - made from fossil fuel.

Since when are soy and beeswax fossil fuel? (...Not all candles are petroleum-based, you know.)
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 5:33 PM on March 28, 2011


In short they didn't turn off the navigation or street lights.

yeah, actually we have way too many navigation and street lights too. Ever notice how much better you can see on a rainy night when you don't have stupid streetlights refracting through all the water on your windshield? that's why cars have headlights and god made rain-x.
posted by toodleydoodley at 6:41 PM on March 28, 2011


I'm a little amused that the cynical response is to sputter some variation of "but, but this is just a gesture! Just an empty gesture! It doesn't actually save any energy at all!"

What I said was that it is the opposite of an empty gesture. It's not simply that Earth Hour is totally ineffectual as a means of power conservation. As a symbolic gesture it is in fact very powerful, and I don't mean that in the sense of conflating environmentalism with retrogression. This is a sham ritual that allows people to vent their frustration in a completely tame, unproductive way and then go back to 'regular hour', when it's business as usual, job well done, back pats all around, aren't we just good people, without having accomplished or learned anything.

Earth Hour paradoxically reinforces the status quo, rather than challenging it, is what I'm trying so poorly to say.
posted by Casimir at 6:53 PM on March 28, 2011


I'm always surprised that people actually get angry about stuff like this. Don't like it? Don't participate.


I'm not sure why I get so angry. It's a visceral reaction, straight from my gut. It has something to do with the fact that every outlet - from the left wing/centrist Herald to the right wing nuts at the Telegraph - all push Earth Hour. That friends and celebrities are talking about the oh so noble act of shutting off the lights and turning on the dark. But it's anger tinged with fear and sorrow - a fear of disconnection, a fear of retrogression, and a sorrow that people think these are good things.
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 6:58 PM on March 28, 2011


But it's anger tinged with fear and sorrow - a fear of disconnection, a fear of retrogression, and a sorrow that people think these are good things.


man you've got some issues.
posted by wilful at 7:48 PM on March 28, 2011 [2 favorites]


Earth Hour recasts darkness as a noble thing, and not in some cool antihero way but in a 'it would be better if we returned to a more primitive state'.

I wouldn't go around basing my personal philosophy on a straw man argument.

But it's anger tinged with fear and sorrow - a fear of disconnection, a fear of retrogression, and a sorrow that people think these are good things.

Or projection, for that matter.
posted by krinklyfig at 8:23 PM on March 28, 2011


Extra points for the post title. I <3 Regine.
posted by mike3k at 8:31 PM on March 28, 2011


I had a great Earth Hour celebration by turning on all the lights in my house, baking a few loaves of bread, and idling my truck in the driveway. Until such time as the eco-idiots understand that a candle burned for an hour creates more CO2 than the manufacture and operation of a standard 100 watt incandescent bulb, I'm going to do this.
posted by CountSpatula at 2:42 AM on March 29, 2011


Yeah, CountSpatula, you sure showed us eco-idiots the way! Of course we've all been suggesting candles are the solution to all our energy woes...I mean--aren't incandescent bulbs lit by eco-Satan dancing on the ashes of burning baby pandas? Please show us the way to the future with your amazing non-moving truck.


Seriously, though, do any of the histrionic ninnies on the right ever actually look into what real environmentalists have to say or do, or is it easiest just to assume that South Park and Glenn Beck present an accurate picture of the movement?
posted by sonascope at 3:12 AM on March 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


If it's only about turning off nonessential lights and appliances, then shouldn't every hour of every day be Earth Hour?

It's really about turning off decorative lighting for an hour, giving us a respite from light pollution in public areas, and then turning it back on for some unknown reason, rendering the darkness a novelty and not inessential light.

For every person who's said it's just a gesture, I'd agree. Unfortunately, jerks on the other end of things decided it's polarizing and have painted it as something it's not. I'd rather it actually be something more.
posted by mikeh at 7:55 AM on March 29, 2011


sonascope, CountSpatula is one of the trolls acting like this is a polarizing event. Don't feed the troll.
posted by mikeh at 7:56 AM on March 29, 2011


If it's only about turning off nonessential lights and appliances, then shouldn't every hour of every day be Earth Hour?

Earth Hour is not "only about turning off nonessential lights and appliances", in the strictest sense. The message of Earth Hour is that you should turn off nonessential electricity. The way this message is propogated is by trying to get people to turn off everything for a short period of time.

I don't know why this is so hard to understand.
posted by muddgirl at 8:10 AM on March 29, 2011


If it's only about turning off nonessential lights and appliances, then shouldn't every hour of every day be Earth Hour?

Now you're getting the point. (grin)

Look -- the point of pinning a rose on this and getting everyone on board is to reach out to the people who don't do this already. It's meant to nudge the person who routinely leaves all the lights on in the house out of force of habit and say, "try this for a while. Just see how it goes." And the person who routinely leaves all the lights on out of force of habit may start to finally realize, "You know...I don't need to leave as many lights on as I thought. This light level isn't bad after all." And they carry that new habit forward with them after Earth Hour.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:40 AM on March 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


I give up, I did create a strawman, but I think the baggage of the whole thing is that it's an event without any strong particular symbolism so there are too many strawmen to be had. It's a beautiful aesthetic thing, I'll leave it at that.
posted by mikeh at 8:47 AM on March 29, 2011


My reservation with the notion that this is an empty gesture is that all gestures are empty, or they'd be actions. Pinning a red ribbon on my label won't cure AIDS, sticking a yellow ribbon magnet on a car won't bring anyone home from a war. Setting aside a time for masses of people to perform a minor action to promote is an empty gesture, too, but as the Tao Te Ching says, it's often what's not there that's meaningful, in the same way that it's the emptiness in a bowl makes it useful, or that the emptiness in a room is what makes it a room. Sometimes, you have to just get the word out, and that word's just a word, just a thought, that can either trigger more action or fail to trigger more action. What's a better alternative to Earth Hour? Nothing? Waiting until the be-all-end-all fix for everything comes?

The other side of the coin, the one that says that this is a destructive gesture, just mystifies me. I think the reasoning is that this sort of thing gives people a reason to pat themselves on the back and then go about their regular business in the sense that they've accomplished something without actually accomplishing anything, but that's really not how it works. Most people who turn off their lights for EH will go right back to running every light in the house all the time. Some won't. Some of those who won't found a little thinking space in the novelty of the event and thought of other things they could do.

Years and years ago, someone wrote a book called 50 Simple Things You Can Do To Save the Earth. It gave people in the post-Reagan time of the early nineties a little glimmer that there's a way that we can do simple things to make life better, that we can be better. Of course, 50 simple things can't save the Earth. There's issues of where we fit in, as opposed to big industrial polluters, mechanizing agricultural regions, and the rest, that aren't simple, and won't be. But for all the people who just acted out a few of these feel-good narratives, some of them went further, and more went further every year. We've got a long way to go, but baby steps are backwards steps, or non-steps, they're just baby steps. It takes a lot to change a hundred year love affair with destructive consumption.

So, yeah, when I'm up on the roof of my clocktower, watching the lights twinkling below me, I'm not immune to a bit of skepticism about what it all means, but something is better than nothing, and nothing is all that's being proposed by the cynics. You want a voice? Say something, suggest something, make a plan, do some research. Just sitting there, smug in your little snit of turning on all your lights or conspicuously being the smartest kid in the room is worse than worthless. If you're so smart, do something.

Otherwise, it's all just sound and fury.
posted by sonascope at 9:09 AM on March 29, 2011 [2 favorites]


Pinning a red ribbon on my label won't cure AIDS

Oi, the ribbons. I can never keep straight what they mean. It was the same thing with those rubber bracelets everyone had a few years back. But correct me if I'm wrong, the ribbons and bracelets cost money, and that money goes to research or charity [for AIDS or what have you]--they're fundraisers, like the little red poppies on Remembrance Day. Even the yellow ribbon magnets go to veterans charities. So wearing a ribbon is less empty than this AFAIK.

I think of this as Christians going to church on Sunday. For some people, it reaffirms core values and guiding principles, but those people aren't really the ones who the "do unto others" message needs to reach. For other people, it's a boring thing you have to do to prove you're a good person, and they're not even listening anyway and have never read the Bible, and Monday to Saturday is me-first-got-mine business as usual.

I agree that doing the exact opposite during Earth Hour to prove some smug rhetorical point is pretty stupid though.
posted by Hoopo at 2:17 PM on March 29, 2011


Look -- the point of pinning a rose on this and getting everyone on board is to reach out to the people who don't do this already. It's meant to nudge the person who routinely leaves all the lights on in the house out of force of habit and say, "try this for a while. Just see how it goes." And the person who routinely leaves all the lights on out of force of habit may start to finally realize, "You know...I don't need to leave as many lights on as I thought. This light level isn't bad after all." And they carry that new habit forward with them after Earth Hour.

I already do this and I still object to the symbolism of Earth Hour.
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 5:31 PM on March 29, 2011


If you already do this, then....you're not one of the people they're pitching "Earth Hour" to in the first place.

But for the record - can you explain why you object to the symbolism of Earth Hour?
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:19 PM on March 29, 2011


But for the record - can you explain why you object to the symbolism of Earth Hour?

It's the idea of turning OFF the lights. Light has long been a symbol of technology and progress. Before electric light, fire was the symbol but it comes to the same thing. The light of knowledge contrasted to the darkness of ignorance. Turning off the lights feels like wanting us to go backward and thinking the world would be a better place if technology was removed, or at least curtailed.
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 7:58 PM on March 29, 2011


Okay, but you do understand that this is a symbology that you are bringing to the table yourself, yes? The people behind Earth Hour aren't Luddites saying "we must turn back the tide of technology and progress alas!" The only reason they picked turning off lights as their action point is, "you know, I've noticed a lot of people leave the light on in the bathroom all day when they don't need to. Maybe we should get people to think about that."

I'll grant that it's a symbology that can be read into it, but can you see that this is not a symbology that was INTENDED by the creators of the event?
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:39 PM on March 29, 2011


Tokyo Sees Its Lights Go Dim, And Lifestyles Change -- Japan lowers the lights to save electricity, not for Earth Hour.
"When you come to Shibuya it's always a party," she says through an interpreter. "The whole city is having fun. I like to come here because it makes me feel energetic."

But these days, the mood is more somber. Because of the power shortage, giant electronic billboards that normally make evenings in Shibuya as bright as day have all been turned off.

Hidetomo Takahashi, an office worker, scans the crowd, trying to find a friend.

"Usually Shibuya is so bright you can see everyone's face even if they're far away," he says in Japanese. "But today it's so dark, it's difficult to see people approaching you."
posted by filthy light thief at 8:54 AM on March 30, 2011


« Older An entire live recital with Skip Sempé and Pierre ...  |  Cover Song Archive... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments