The Dernogalizer

March 28, 2009

Earth Hour

Filed under: Climate Change — Matt Dernoga @ 2:37 pm
Tags: ,

For those of you who don’t know, tonight from 8:30 to 9:30 people people from all around the globe are going to be turning off their lights in a symbolic gesture. There are also going to be many businesses, cities, and countries turning off the lights in the buildings and facilities they control to send a message. I even heard McDonalds is going to be dimming all of its M signs. This is supposed to represent a message that people want there to be action on the issue of climate change. While Earth Hour was of a decent size last year, this year it appears that there’s going to be a massive upswing in participation, which is a good thing considering the distractions going on around us right now like the economy.

However, I do have some reservations about Earth Hour, and whether or not this is the best way to send a message. Two issues factor into that consideration. One is that the message could easily be misconstrued that the only way to stop climate change and cut back on energy usage is to live in the dark, even though that’s far from the truth. The other is that while turning off your lights for an hour is nice, I’m of the opinion there are more productive things to do regarding the climate movement, even in only an hour. What if during that hour, hundreds of millions of people all sat down and wrote letters to their local, state, and national politicians telling them that action on climate change is a priority, and that in future elections it will be on their minds?  What if all these people went to the store and bought 1 item that would improve the energy efficiency of their home, or reduce their carbon footprint?  People could make this as simple as an efficient lightbulb, or more complex like energy efficient windows.  I think that everyone taking 1 green action during Earth Hour would be a lot more productive that turning off the lights.

That said, I’d rather there be an Earth Hour than there not be one, I just think we can do better is all. I saw a very good article today in Time Magazine which addressed my concerns. I’d definitely encourage you to read it, and below are a few quotes from it.

“This is the second year in a row that WWF has helped run a worldwide Earth Hour — the event began two years ago just in Australia) — and participation has grown tremendously, from 400 cities in 2008 to some 4,000 this year.”

“Earth Hour itself is easy to make fun of — skeptics will say that turning out the lights won’t make but a light ding in our carbon emissions, and critics will claim it proves that environmentalists really do want to send us straight to the dark ages.”

“Is Earth Hour going to become such a tipping point, or the movement’s defining image? It’s possible, but as important as pictures are, we’ll need more. When President George W. Bush was in charge, knocking away climate change action like an NHL goalie, symbolism mattered because it was all we had. Now there’s a new President who has made very green promises, and who needs to be kept to them, even in the teeth of the worst economic crisis most of us have ever known. The new battle will be fought in the nitty gritty of policy, and the protests that matter will be political ones.”

“So think of it this way; turning off your lights Saturday night is all well and good — but remember that the work really starts when you turn them back on.”


  1. […] Blog cross-posted from: HERE […]

    Pingback by Earth Hour | CCAN Blog — March 28, 2009 @ 2:47 pm | Reply

  2. Earth Hour is a good thing for the general public and for Congress/staffers too (see ). Many people out there don’t think about the issues as much as you do. Many don’t even know where electricity comes from, be it dirty energy or clean, renewable energy. Identifying the missing links between the light switch and climate change is important. If the symbolic demonstration that is Earth Hour helps the general public & Congress think more about the connection between turning on electric lights and global warming, it will have served an important purpose. Also, Earth Hour is a global demonstration, and one that has engaged a large number of people in many countries. This is an important show of international engagement for the next meeting in Copenhagen. Earth Hour is a good thing.

    Comment by David Kowalski — March 28, 2009 @ 7:09 pm | Reply

    • Hey Dave thanks for the comment. Like I said in my post, I am glad we are doing Earth Hour, I would rather it happen than not happen. I also think it’s generating good press. My point is that we need to make sure that people don’t stop there.

      Comment by Matt Dernoga — March 28, 2009 @ 8:08 pm | Reply

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