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“One of the illusions of life is that the present hour is not the critical, decisive hour.” - Ralph Waldo Emerson
February 18, 2008 3:14 PM   Subscribe

On Saturday, March 29, 2008, at 8 pm in each time zone cities around the world will go dark: Sydney will follow Melbourne, Brisbane and Canberra; In the Philippines, in Manila the lights will go out; Bangkok in Thailand; Tel Aviv in Israel; Suva in Fiji; Copenhagen in Denmark; In North America, Atlanta followed by Chicago, Toronto, Phoenix and San Francisco will be black. It’s Earth Hour.

This year’s global initiative was announced at the Bali Climate Convention with twelve flagship cities participating and many more joining.
In the U.S. Earth Hour this year is lead by Chicago joined by ComEd and the Chicago Chamber of Commerce.
Earth Hour aims to reduce carbon emissions for an hour to the equivalent of taking 480,000 cars off the road and heighten awareness of climate change and energy consumption.

Last year on March 31st about 2.2 million people participated in Sydney, Australia. While there is criticism as to how much this actually helped to cut energy consumption (PDF file), the difference was certainly visually striking. (More photos here and odder ones here)
posted by HVAC Guerilla (36 comments total) 4 users marked this as a favorite

 
/I’m not sure if anything was posted on this last year. I searched for “earth hour” and various web addresses, but didn’t find anything. I may have missed something however. I’m sorry if this is so.
posted by HVAC Guerilla at 3:16 PM on February 18, 2008


I think that's a great idea. Even if it doesn't reduce overall consumption, having a city turn off non-necessary lighting (obviously leaving safety in mind) would serve as a great reminder. I hope Vancouver gets involved; we hate being trumped by Toronto.
posted by Salmonberry at 3:21 PM on February 18, 2008


These "heightening awareness" stunts are really starting to wear on me. So and so swam in the arctic to heighten awareness. SWEET. NBC changed their logo to green for a month to heighten awareness. GOOD JOB GUYS!

Heightening awareness is not going to reverse climate change. It has become this ridiculous substitute for actually doing something.

Look, we turned the lights off! See how that works? No lights for a day = halfway to solving global warming!

How aware do people have to be before we can implement programs that force people to curb their habits.

All this awareness heightening and patting on the backs just makes those not participating more inclined to stay away.
posted by pwally at 3:30 PM on February 18, 2008 [6 favorites]


It is also strongly recommended to use flashlights instead of candles during Earth Hour.
posted by smackfu at 3:54 PM on February 18, 2008 [1 favorite]


"It is also strongly recommended to use Fleshlights instead of candles during Earth Hour."
posted by mr_crash_davis at 4:18 PM on February 18, 2008 [2 favorites]


how quaint...here in Liberia we "celebrate" earth hour every single day...but not by choice.
posted by tarvuz at 4:18 PM on February 18, 2008 [2 favorites]


#71 - Turning off the Lights for an Hour

Earth Hour is a part of a larger theme of stuff white people like: saving the earth without having to do that much.

Earth Hour is fantastic! You can still buy all the stuff you like (bottled water, beer, wine, organic iced tea, and cans of all varieties) and then for one hour of the year, switch the lights off. And boom! Environment saved! Everyone feels great, it’s so easy!
posted by UbuRoivas at 4:53 PM on February 18, 2008 [4 favorites]


“How aware do people have to be before we can implement programs that force people to curb their habits.”

Given there is little impetus now to implement such programs and that people are not currently curbing their habits or being encouraged to do so as a mainstream movement: More.

Many people use vast quantities of energy in a very unthinking manner. This is a way to bring attention to that.

I can see how it can be off putting. But if you’re already aware of the matter and advocating on behalf of alternative and clean energy, the message isn’t aimed at you.
If business sees this is something people desire they will begin investing in meeting that.
posted by HVAC Guerilla at 4:53 PM on February 18, 2008


Will this be as successful as Live Aid was in ending famine in Africa?
posted by sien at 5:08 PM on February 18, 2008


The end of the world has now officially been offset by one hour.
posted by Anything at 5:22 PM on February 18, 2008 [5 favorites]


All of these complaints above are just more of the bullshit I see on here every damn time someone posts a solution or a stunt or a new technology or a paper. "This won't help this is just whiteliberalguilt this is pointless when are we going to do something blah blah fucking blah."

HEY. This *is* doing something. It's *all* doing something and every small, stupid, asinine bit does make a difference. Stop fucking complaining that everyone else's idea is stupid and JOIN IN. Then VOTE. Then write to your congresspersono. Then volunteer for a trash clean up. Then learn about what you can do in your own community to improve education and reduce poverty. How about this-- turn out your own lights and reduce your own consumption.

What you all need to *stop* doing is coming onto the blue to point out how fucking smart you are because look at the stupid idea someone's come up with now.

Going somewhere soundproof to scream now, and then take my medicine. omg.
posted by nax at 5:30 PM on February 18, 2008 [7 favorites]


Congressperson. Can't type when you make me so mad. sob.
posted by nax at 5:31 PM on February 18, 2008


and HVAC Guerilla, thanks for a cool post. I'm in Chicago and I'm proud that our city is leading this.
posted by nax at 5:33 PM on February 18, 2008


UbuRoivas, perhaps that comment should replace all those pesky front page links delineating what the objectives and goals of Earth Hour are such as: individual small actions, as simple as replacing lightbulbs, and lifestyle changes taken collectively to make a difference.

Clearly the government and businesses will address environmental issues without a social environmental movement.
Why attempt to convince individuals to do anything themselves when President Bush was so gung ho to sign that Kyoto protocol?

Oh, wait, he didn’t.

Perhaps that was because of the uselessness of taking small steps to set precedent for bigger and more effective changes in the future?

We might as well not make any personal changes or advocate for social change at all if vast, sweeping, drastic measures are not taken, and, importantly, by somebody else. Or perhaps because they are white, they will be ineffective.

The fact that cities and chambers of commerce have some vested interest in this is critical. If businesses can be persuaded of the need to factor environmental measures into their calculations, it can be a potent force for limiting or repairing ecological damage.
Commonwealth Edison is a major power company...

Actually, I seem to have lost traction here. I can’t find any reasonable argument to put to someone who takes issue with a message as simple as: turn off the lights in a room when you’re not using them and replace less energy efficient bulbs.

How, exactly, will anything change if we do not work change it ourselves?

Perhaps next time you speak to the president you can bring to bear the massive wealth and influence you wield to radically alter the direction of government policies and multinational corporate agendas world wide.
The rest of us will have to suck on it here at the grassroots level teaching dullards that doing a small individual something is better than doing nothing at all.
posted by HVAC Guerilla at 5:37 PM on February 18, 2008 [2 favorites]


Thanks, HVAC Guerilla. I had no idea there was such a thing as Earth Hour until now.

To all the snarkers that complain it won't save the planet, so what? I completely disagree with the idea that people will do even less because of "feel good" projects like this. Someone, somewhere, who hasn't given much thought to the environment, may very well come up with the start to a real solution simply because, for that one hour, he focused on the importance of conserving energy. That works for me.
posted by misha at 5:43 PM on February 18, 2008


Or he was inside watching TV and didn't even notice.
posted by smackfu at 6:05 PM on February 18, 2008


HEY. This *is* doing something. It's *all* doing something and every small, stupid, asinine bit does make a difference.

No. It is every bit as meaningless and self-serving as other comments are claiming. Art projects aren't going to help ease us into the extensive macro level changes we are going to be forced into during the coming decades. Projects like this allow us to feel good about ourselves while continuing to engage in the exact destructive behavior being railed against in the first place.

We need government mandated controls on energy consumption, mandates on fuel economy that get us to about 3x the fleet MPG we have now within 20 years, multi-trillion dollar investments to redo our energy and transport infrastructure that gets us off fossil fuels, trillions in investment to retrofit / redo our housing stock (most of which is inefficiently designed due to assumptions surrounding energy availability at the time of construction). Most of all, we need to retreat to a near zero growth economy.

Most of this has to be done by law because few of us are willing to get rid of our class conscious lifestyles. The free market gives us the Prius, that people aren't buying the equivalent of a 1990 Geo Metro, which gets better mileage than a Prius, tells us all we need to know about our priorities.

This isn't snarky I'm-smarter-than-you-plebes commentary - there is ample evidence of past civilizations collapsing due to resource misuse.
posted by MillMan at 6:17 PM on February 18, 2008 [1 favorite]


Most of this has to be done by law because few of us are willing to get rid of our class conscious lifestyles. The free market gives us the Prius, that people aren't buying the equivalent of a 1990 Geo Metro, which gets better mileage than a Prius, tells us all we need to know about our priorities.

I used to drive a Geo Metro before I moved somewhere I didn't have to drive. The Metro was an amazing car. It was efficiently designed and never felt lacking for space, it was light and nimble, it could park anywhere, it looked sleek and awesome and it had pretty good acceleration. Oh yeah, and it got about 40 miles per gallon on a really bad day when it's full of things and people with the air conditioner going. No shit.

Sadly, my Metro was completely destroyed when some bitch in a giant SUV ran a red light and plowed in to me. The car was destroyed, but I guess it had good safety engineering because I was perfectly able to get out and walk around unharmed and swear while SUV-lady drove away.

The point of this story is that I really miss my Geo Metro. Sorry I wasted everyone's time.

(cries)
posted by fuq at 7:12 PM on February 18, 2008


> there is ample evidence of past civilizations collapsing due to resource misuse.

You say "collapsing" like it's a bad thing.
posted by jfuller at 7:16 PM on February 18, 2008


Chicago doesnt even recycle. I vote publicity stunt.
posted by damn dirty ape at 8:06 PM on February 18, 2008


You say "collapsing" like it's a bad thing.

It's all fun and snark until you don't have anything to eat.
posted by MillMan at 8:49 PM on February 18, 2008 [2 favorites]


You made a difference to me, thanks for posting.

I have been trying to focus on doing small things. The idea of turning off the lights for an hour is symbolic, and meaningful to those that are inspired to participate, such as myself. I've been trying to incorporate big and small changes into my lifestyle that will benefit myself, others, and the environment. Having a fixed goal, such as Earth Hour, reminds me of where I'm at on this personal journey, which is especially important when so much of life's daily events pull me in directions and distract me from simple decisions that can have such a positive effect. Something as simple as a worry about a bill to pay, or an important conversation with somebody, is enough to change my course of action in the single moment where I leave a room without noticing the light switch, or tossing a paper cup into the wrong bin. Having reminders that other people care about these choices helps to ensure that I stay present and conscious about the effect I have on the world—which gets noticed, even subconsciously, by others in my presence, as I take the time to recycle, pick up a piece of trash while walking and talking, or unplug appliances and turn off lights. These small things add up.

For the complainers, what good is the negativity and pessimism you're putting out in the world doing? Seriously, what is the point of your dissension on this?

I personally welcome an hour without lights or the hum of computers or fans or stereos, and the last thing I want to hear is your piercing, whiny little voice pissing in my peace and quiet. For just one goddamn hour. I don't think it'll save the world, or reverse global warming, or even have the clout of any one of our national holidays that we so passionately celebrate...but it just might change one mind. And that can be infinitely more powerful, don't you think?

Or maybe I'm not jaded enough yet to see the folly of this silly, stupid fucking idea, amirite now?
posted by iamkimiam at 9:14 PM on February 18, 2008


Not to nitpick but Sydney, Melbourne and Canberra will follow Brisbane (no DLST). I enjoyed this last year. At first the the teenager moaned about the television being off but we hung out in the backyard for an hour and chatted (about the environment, naturally, it was on our minds) and ended up with some great conversation.
posted by tellurian at 9:23 PM on February 18, 2008


We need government mandated controls on energy consumption, mandates on fuel economy that get us to about 3x the fleet MPG we have now within 20 years, multi-trillion dollar investments to redo our energy and transport infrastructure that gets us off fossil fuels, trillions in investment to retrofit / redo our housing stock (most of which is inefficiently designed due to assumptions surrounding energy availability at the time of construction). Most of all, we need to retreat to a near zero growth economy.

Why aren't these things happening now? There are lot of people with the same ideas that you have (I certainly agree with a lot of it and know others who do), but those ideas haven't penetrated the mainstream yet. Voters aren't going to the polls to vote with environmental concerns as a major factor in their choices. What we need to do is convince people to care about the environment, about global warming, about urban planning, and so on. The problem isn't that we don't know what to do; it's that we can't convince everyone else to do what needs to be done.

And that's where ideas like this come in. Convincing people to turn the lights out for an hour is, I think, a pretty clever way of getting these ideas into the public discourse and of making people think about how their choices affect the environment. Not everyone is going to give these issues a lot of thought, but this might help some along to the realization that we need not only personal, but political and economic solutions as well. There is a lot of "green" this and that bullshit out there that we might be better off without, but I don't think ideas like this are a net negative.

We need to do much more and we need to do it soon. What doesn't help is launching attacks about the things that we are doing.
posted by ssg at 9:50 PM on February 18, 2008


For the complainers, what good is the negativity and pessimism you're putting out in the world doing? Seriously, what is the point of your dissension on this?

pwally explained the pointlessness of this.

I encourage friends and acquaintances to stop driving and take mass transit. Switch to fluorescent bulbs. Think in terms of energy rather than money. Present arguments for the finite nature of fossil fuels. Hopefully I've also planted seeds that will help people consider the folly of class conscious consumption.

but it just might change one mind. And that can be infinitely more powerful, don't you think?

In comparison to behaviors I've helped change through simple discussion, no, this project is not infinitely more powerful.

I'll make a bold claim here - there aren't any people that will both hear of this project and be unaware of its message. I can't remember the last time I talked to someone that was unaware of the climate change debate.
posted by MillMan at 9:51 PM on February 18, 2008


And why are we supposed to do this? Duh! So that we can "...take a stand against the greatest threat our planet has ever faced..."

Gee, hyperbole much?

Me, I'm going to turn on every single damn appliance, light, and fixture that I can during that hour.
posted by davidmsc at 10:10 PM on February 18, 2008


UbuRoivas, perhaps that comment should replace all those pesky front page links delineating what the objectives and goals of Earth Hour are such as: individual small actions, as simple as replacing lightbulbs, and lifestyle changes taken collectively to make a difference.

Some of us already do that, along with other things, like putting on more clothes in the winter, rather than turning on the heating & walking around in our underwear, or cycling almost everywhere as our preferred mode of transport.

Clearly the government and businesses will address environmental issues without a social environmental movement.

You mean, like the way we get free energy-efficient light globes from businesses, as part of some sort of carbon credit scheme set up by the government?

Perhaps next time you speak to the president you can bring to bear the massive wealth and influence you wield to radically alter the direction of government policies and multinational corporate agendas world wide.

The rest of us will have to suck on it here at the grassroots level teaching dullards that doing a small individual something is better than doing nothing at all.


Like joining The Greens party & clawing a few extra percentage points in each election until through the combined weight of thousands of individual efforts, and 30% of the vote in my area, government policies & corporate agendas are indeed slowly changing, as evidenced by the freebie globes mentioned above, amongst a number of other things?

It's not that Earth Hour is such a terrible thing if it raises publicity, but the environment is already front page news. Everybody knows about the problems. It doesn't raise awareness one jot. It saves one hour's worth of energy, which is a small win, I guess, as long as it doesn't lull lull people into complacency, thinking they've done their bit for the year.

(actually, that last part's a bit of a silly assumption, but fuck me if 95% of the people participating don't revert to their exact same pre-Earth Hour practices & lifestyles within a week after the event)
posted by UbuRoivas at 10:11 PM on February 18, 2008


It's not that Earth Hour is such a terrible thing if it raises publicity, but the environment is already front page news.

I'd say that most people know what global warming is and know that it is a problem. Not very many people know how much energy they consume and how they consume it (directly and indirectly), and very few people have any kind of idea what the potential solutions are.
posted by ssg at 10:35 PM on February 18, 2008


this is so fucking dumb
posted by 1 at 10:40 PM on February 18, 2008


The problem is not us, the people. It's our freakin governments attempting to "protect" industry. Four years ago I switched completely to compact flourescents and saw my electricity bill go down by half. It's a direct bottom line savings. And frankly "flourescent" technology came from business use, which "typically" wants to generally operate as cheaply as possible as well.

If governments would actually tax pollution/energy consumption by industry at higher-levels, you betchyer ass those companies would quickly find ways to reduce their emissions.

But this is a game of chicken - especially in energy-producing regions. The government gets most of it's revenue from the industry, yet if they even begin to talk about taxing emissions or climate change or hell even increasing royalty taxes the industry starts talking about moving business elsewhere... So now the government has to face potential "loss of jobs"...

(Bitter Albertan here...)

Hell - even intermodal rail usage with high-speed distribution/transfer centers is being fought in this stupid province.

Rail is proven to use 80% less fuel than truck transportation - in this province we have 3 major destinations - which account for 90% of transport requirements (Calgary, Edmonton, Fort McMurray) - yet no plans to link the three with a high-speed intermodal system.

Intermodal rail reduces wear'n'tear on roads, reduces accidents due to "mixed traffic" using the same highways.

Ugh... While I have an SUV, it might be time to join the Greens - at least when the system collapses I can say to my kids that we did "try", before we go and hunt longpig for dinner...
posted by jkaczor at 11:04 PM on February 18, 2008


“It's not that Earth Hour is such a terrible thing if it raises publicity,”

Then we’re in agreement in every way that matters.

“...but the environment is already front page news. Everybody knows about the problems.”

I can’t speak to that point. I don’t know everybody. Many people I’ve spoken to are aware of “global warming” in the abstract but they’re not sure of what it is they are supposed to do.
This is one way to address that, one concrete set of things to do.

Unquestionably this is not, and should not be, the only thing people do. Nor should it be the only message. People should be doing other things as well to raise awareness and build solidarity.
Hopefully at some point this will be one minor voice in a large chorus singing the same anthem.
This is stupid? Ok, do something else. But: Do. Something.

I happen to agree with your misgivings as to the complacency of the general population. But I think this is one way to kick start at least some energy saving trends.

This occured in the 70s. Going green, energy conservation and the like started being fashionable.
Carter put solar panels on the White House and started funding exploration into alternative energy technology. The country started moving in that direction.
Then of course, Reagan was elected, tore down the solar panels and scrapped the research funding and suddenly it was the “Me” generation redux in the 80s.

The only thing that changed, apart from backdoor deals on oil prices, was the visibility of the symbols. There was no more “energy crisis” because awareness dropped.

Whether this works as it is supposed to or not it is still useful. If people do sink back into complacency, we can try something else.
Even failures are instructive, like any science.

So, to the folks resistant to this, I understand the misgivings. But the frustration is better directed at those in direct opposition to these kinds of things, the “global warming is a myth” folks and so forth who are spreading an opposite message.
And it’s not like people aren’t listening to them. And we know they are not going to stop.
You think there’s a better way to spread the message? A better way to get more and more people on board? Great! Spread the word. Organize. I’d be happy to be part of something less hokey sounding.

But even if this is only as useful as raising one’s middle finger at the seven sisters, it is, at least, some resistance, some message in opposition to the drumbeat that everything is just fine, there is no global warming, mankind cannot possibly affect the climate of the Earth, and on and on. Those voices are not silent. Some people, and right now enough people, are listening to them.
posted by HVAC Guerilla at 8:20 AM on February 19, 2008


Millman: It is every bit as meaningless and self-serving as other comments are claiming. Art projects aren't going to help ease us into the extensive macro level changes we are going to be forced into during the coming decades. Projects like this allow us to feel good about ourselves

Why do you seem to think that it stops with the "gesture?" Why can't we have gestures, grand or picayune, along with political action and personal action. Why not combine micro with macro? It's like chicken soup-- it can't hurt.

Chicago has a pathetic recycling program, granted. But it's also got one of the most progressive green building mandates in the world and has protected its waterfront better than just about any city you can name. It was one of the first municipalities to ban leaded gasoline. Our major also loves stunts, but he puts his money where his mouth is, and he wants Chicago to lead the green revolution, so I'm guessing that it will.

However, corporations have spent decades and billions to convince Americans that they 1. can't do anything about large problems, 2. that government and "liberals" are either the anti-Christ or lying to them or both about the state of the world, especially vis-a-vis the environment and 3. that the bleeding hearts trying to keep them buying an SUV are the anti-Christ, liars, and probably racists who just want either all the goodies to themselves or for everyone not like them to suffer. This was done with a combination of advertising (gestures and art projects, if you will) and purchased legislation. They probably couldn't have bought the legislation without using the media (via ads and promotions) to convince people that they were right. I believe that stunts like this are the way right-thinking people are taking this tactic back from the real evil doers.

Anyway, I think you need art and you need gestures and you need to change your own lightbulbs AND we need sensible legislation and government regulation and citizen action and agitation to get these things. Not everyone responds to (or even comes in contact with) NYT Op Ed pieces or NPR essays that disparage any actions that the chattering classes deem pointless or inappropriate. You seem to think that "art projects" are replacing action, but I think they are a hugely necessary part of the action. And, again, even if the city of Chicago did nothing else, at least it's doing this. We are fighting a huge battle here against awesome (in the legitimate sense of the word) forces and we need every tactic we can get.
posted by nax at 11:34 AM on February 19, 2008 [1 favorite]


Why not just ask everybody to contact their lawmakers and push for Nuclear
Energy? that would do more for the environment than some stupid publicity stunt.
posted by Megafly at 4:19 PM on February 19, 2008


Why not put this argument to rest with some actual empirical data?

Okay, I can only offer a very informal methodology, but: anyone who is interested can send me a scan of their electricity bills for the last 12 months (with all their personal details deleted), and tell me whether they are participating in Earth Hour or not.

Twelve months from now, I'll contact the participants, and ask for scans of the new electricity bills for the 12 months following Earth Hour.

I'll tally the results, and perform rudimentary statistical analysis, and we'll try to work out if either group (Earth Hour participants or Earth Hour abstainers) ended up reducing their energy consumption, in kilowatt hours, and if participation in Earth Hour has any statistically significant effect.
posted by surenoproblem at 8:17 PM on February 19, 2008 [2 favorites]


Singed up ,Great Idea!
Thanks.
posted by Rancid Badger at 8:50 PM on February 19, 2008


Singed up

We'd better get a move on - this global warming is obviously worse than I thought!
posted by UbuRoivas at 10:01 PM on February 19, 2008 [1 favorite]


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