Earth Hour 2012: What was the point of that?

 Earth Hour 2012 took place 8.30pm on Saturday 31 March. Did you notice?

Dome illuminations Earth Hour Edinburgh 2012

WWF’s Earth Hour is a simple idea that’s quickly turned into a global phenomenon. Hundreds of millions of people turning off their lights for one hour, on the same night, all across the planet. It’s about appreciating the brilliant world we all share – and how we need to protect it. Not just for an hour a year, but every day.

This year, a record 150 countries and territories and 6,602 towns and cities switched off their lights on Saturday night, for the biggest call to action for the protection of the planet.

In Edinburgh, lights at the Parliament, the National Galleries, and the castle were turned off and candles on the esplanade spelled out Climate Action Now.

Midlothian Council turned off the lights in the clock tower at Midlothian House and Fife Council turned off the lights in many of their offices. Many hotels promoted candlelight dining, and one took advantage by serving flaming cocktails (note to self for next year…)

So where were you?

Me, I was on George Street in Edinburgh, where it was Saturday night-as-usual. Nipping into the Dome for a glamorous non-flaming cocktail revealed that all the period-feature candelabras were fully fired-up and folk had other things on their mind. Being out in a public space at least meant the lights were off at home. Kind of like the principle of the public bath house – one busy communal space using a lot of energy actually has the net effect of reducing energy used. Or it would, if the Dome were all LED. Maybe it is?

A quick round of the office on Monday morning: Laura was at home, with the lights off, using her laptop (unplugged!) to check out all the Earth Hours around the world. Is this cheating? Discuss.

Nikki was in the Living Room, where Earth Hour was not observed, the staff being more concerned to prevent the use of ‘funny’-shaped straws.

Andrew couldn’t quite remember – he was either washing the dishes or watching telly. ‘What’s Earth Hour?’ he asks, innocently. If he had remembered, he wouldn’t have done it. He gives a typically logical and well-reasoned excuse:  An excess of power (not being used) is bad for the grid and bad for the distribution system. Coal and nuclear stations can’t be shut down temporarily, which means the extra energy in the grid is all bottled up. To be any good, Earth Hour would need to be Earth Week, and we’d all have to take turns so we spread the demand more evenly.

Roddy confessed, ‘It kinda passed me by. I’d heard some stuff about it, but by the time it happened, I’d forgotten all about it’. Which brings me to my overall take on the situation – we feel like it passed us by. And we’re environmentalists.

But perhaps that’s why. The point of Earth Hour is to raise the issue of energy use, to get people thinking, talking, and tweeting about it, and taking one small action. Government, local authority, business, community, householder, child: anyone can choose to turn off the lights they have control over, and make a statement about how much more we could all do. It’s like the trailer for the movie of dedicated climate action. Maybe it doesn’t appeal to those who’ve seen the film, bought the t-shirt, but it’s important that we support it, because everyone needs a starting point. That’s the point.

Final word to WWF: ‘P.S. There’s loads you can do to look after our planet all year round. Take action beyond the hour by getting involved in our campaigns – from helping us defeat the proposal for a new coal-fired power station in Scotland to signing our petition calling on the EU to end overfishing and protect our seas.’

- Sitar

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