Outen the Lights

Earth hour is a World Wildlife Federation sponsored event where everyone is encouraged to turn off all non-essential energy consuming devices for an hour to call attention to current levels of energy consumption and light pollution. I’ve followed the event and sometimes observed it since it was launched in 2007.

It was observed on March 28 last year when the media reported that it saved 4% the previous. However, 4% of what was not explained. Was that 4% of what would have been consumed that hour, that day… It would be nice if the media gave enough information for the numbers they quote to be meaningful. The Earth Hour web page is a little more exact. There were informative and comparative numbers on Canadian participation for instance. Ed Norton was the spokesperson interviewed on television program I watched that Saturday morning. A guest in my home was angered by the whole thing. He said that a lot of people did something like this just to feel better about themselves and it did more harm than good because they felt like they had made a difference when the only thing that would actually make a difference was catastrophic change, prohibitive cost, or force. I recognized that he had a point. For instance, people changed their driving habits while feeling extremely vulnerable during the recent gas crisis. Then, as soon as prices and supply normalized, habits slowly reverted fairly nearly to what they were before the crisis. However, I put forth the optimistic view that sometimes activities like this changed perceptions and that sometimes actions followed and change was possible. I have known people who made permanent changes, both large and small. He repeated himself, louder, more emphatically and with more words. I do give him that he had some people pegged 100%, but hope that wasn’t the entire picture.

Previous years, we did not drive down town to see what Atlanta looked like during the voluntary outage because it seemed at crossed purposes to use extra energy driving 25 miles one way to witness the energy conservation. Participation was definitely not large enough to improve night shy viewing in the metropolitan area. earthhourshot This year we combined purposes and made the trip. The lights were off on the big Varsity sign by the interstate. They were off before Earth Hour began so we asked the drive-in waiters why, just to be sure it was related to the event. They did not know why the sign was not lit. The large Biltmore signs went off on time, first one and a few minutes later the other. The mega screen at the W went black. The city did look different, but I wondered how many people actually noticed. It seemed perhaps, that even participating companies hadn’t shared the participation with their employees.

When I remembered Earth Hour 2010, I checked to calendar to see if it might fall while we were in the wilderness. Not quite, our primitive camping trip in the Dry Tortugas, an adventure with ultra low energy consumption and extremely little light pollution set in the shadow of Historic Ft. Jackson ended just a bit early. I don’t know what media coverage was like this year. I didn’t have access to media in the days leading to the event, but it was easy to appreciate the Earth Hour goal on the island given the night time darkness and the distance from populated areas. We were so near to the nesting sites of terns, frigate birds and sea turtles and the stars were bright. My cup runneth over.

As it turned out we were back in civilization on Marco Island, Florida with family during the actual observance. I saw no signs that Earth Hour was being observed there, but I had been away from media for days and I forgot to look. We did take a nice night stroll down the beach with the children and I later thought it nice that we were, in a way, observing Earth Hour while at the same time having forgotten it.

Earth Hour participation and awareness grow each year. It will be interesting to see how things develop. As growing numbers of people see that growing numbers of lights have been turned out, they will find out why. Wouldn’t it be nice if awareness grew to a level where everyone could observe an Earth Hour without consciously seeking it? I hope that each year I get another chance to walk on the wild side, regain a little of my night vision and appreciate life off the grid, whether that happens in a premeditated group setting or quite by accident, and I wish you nothing less.

For more information check these sites.

National Wildlife Federation Article

Earth Hour USA

FWS Sea Turtle Activity Mat