I’m Going Beyond The Hour For Earth Hour While Largely Ignoring It

I’m Going Beyond The Hour For Earth Hour While Largely Ignoring It

This time last year, I described Earth Hour as “a largely meaningless piece of slacktivism where people pretend that one hour of environmental posing by switching off lights is more important than long-term behavioural change”. That’s still what I think, and the folks behind Earth Hour are obviously alive to that kind of criticism, since the theme for this year’s event on Saturday is “go beyond the hour”, encouraging people to make long-term changes.

That’s a worthwhile goal, and I’m all for people making more permanent alterations to their power usage and other habits (our post last year offered some thoughts in that regard to get you started). But I’m not going to go out of my way to switch off lights and other appliances on Saturday night, precisely because I do that kind of thing on a regular basis, and I think symbolic gestures are largely a distraction from the bigger issue.

That said, I don’t imagine everyone will be emulating my curmudgeonly ways. If you’re doing something unusual and interesting for Earth Hour, tell us about it in the comments.

Earth Hour


  • Has anyone calculated how much extra carbon dioxide is released into the atmosphere thanks to all the extra candles lit up during earth hour? What about the extra batteries going to landfill because of the torches that people need during this time. Or the power it requires to start all those fluorescent tubes back after an hour? Could we be doing more harm than good?

    • I agree as well. If they were to do Earth Hour, do it during the day when the gas powered peaking power plants are running, instead of the coal base-load power plants. Gas can be shut down and started instantly, however coal takes about a day to start up. However with them saying go beyond the hour, this is to symbolize a larger scale energy use reduction. But however how many people will take part in this slacktivism, and not go beyond the hour?

    • Spot on, Linda. The fact is that most Aussies hope to be able to hide behind the wheels of their gigantic 4WDs and pretend that AGW isn’t happening (and bugger the Bangladeshis etc). Events such as Earth Hour are about raising the visibility of the issue and giving people a metaphorical poke in the eye.

      You can argue about the likelihood of the gesture really ‘raising much consciousness’. But to consider the literal energy saved during the hour is a hilariously geeky exercise in entirely missing the point, calculator in hand.

      • Hah…I bet you’re one of those people that waits for Christmas and Mother’s Day to give “symbolic” love as opposed to being loving all year round, Bob.

        You don’t need to turn off the lights to raise awareness. The ads already did that. Anything further is self-satisfying and not useful as intelligently pointed out by the “geeks” with “calculator in hand”.

  • Earth hour is making people aware.
    It is not going to achieve any direct CO2 reduction.
    But indirectly the aim is to highten awareness to the issue in the first place.

    The fact that we are debating it right here, means it is achieving its goal.

    • I would require quite some persuading that anyone taking part in Earth Hour had previously been unaware of the issue. I don’t think awareness is the issue (though denial might well be).

      • So you think that only people who are already aware of Earth Hour watch the news? I didn’t take part, for pretty much the same reasons as you, but I still think the free publicity helps keep energy saving as a mainstream rather than a fringe issue.

  • I agree with what you say. I get that it’s supposed to be more symbolic than practical, but I think the symbolism (and the awareness-raising that should come from that) gets lost somewhere between the inevitable cynicism invited by the obvious uselessness of people turning off their lights for one hour a year and the lunacy of the people who act as though that one hour is actually making a practial difference.
    The one thing I think it does have the potential to achieve is that there must be some people who do go ahead and switch off for the night and discover that it is actually possible to enjoy yourself without powered devices, and thus feel encouraged to take up a few more sustainable hobbies.
    I’m aware that some restaurants and similar will be having ‘candle-lit dinners’ and such. Which i guess is kind of a nice idea (although they are presumably using fossil fuels to prepare the food and light the kitchen) but I do wonder how many people head out to these earth hour events in their cars…

  • Yeah, I don’t go for b-day presents precisely because I care about my friends all the time.

    C’mon. Anything we can do for the environment is a good thing. We all try to switch off lights etc. The point of Earth Hour is to go that extra step – perhaps even inconvenience yourself a little.

  • So, guys. What happens to the excess energy that isn’t used that night? Your cant exactly limit a plant’s production that easily. Its probably worse because your not going to be using that electricity. Having as much on as you need that night might cover for the shortfalls of others.

    Or not.

    • Baseload power is generated by the coal power stations, but the variability in demand is taken up by gas and hydro; the 12% drop on Saturday night would have been enough to operate the variable sources on less than their maximum output, thereby putting off that output until later. It’s not totally pointless to switch off and use less power.

  • Earth hour is as was said all about the symbolism of: choosing to do something rather than nothing; collaborative action is more effective than singular efforts; small efforts by individuals done collaboratively make even more difference; acting collaboratively for 1 hour proves we can do other things together; the more of us that do partake in EH exponentially increases the possibility both it’s actual & it’s metaphoric impact; every year it happens it reminds people that there is a place that we call home & that we are all responsible for choosing to act in it’s favor or not; that it constantly insites debate & thus achieves it goal about raising the issue; gives people an opportunity to part take collectively either at home alone or with others privately or publically; reminds everyone that does part take & those that observe others doing so that it can be done & can be fun & can / does enhance the evening; & to end with even though I am sure I could think of more it gives me & others the opportunity to part take in a global Mexican wave of turning our lights off. & if really encouraged & joined in by everyone from the heart / spirit of the idea (rather than dumping ones cynicism onto others) and we globally acted together what would occur is time zone band of lights turning out visually signally to the universe that we are having fun and finally stepping into our full potential & choosing to combine our singularity into showing clearly that acting collaboratively as a team is far more effective than we can do alone. So sitting on the side & choosing to dam, slander, ridicule, & deride others choosing to show that team work is what we need on the planet at this time in a community focusing metaphoric global spectacle because you either are too jaded, lazy, selfish or just a grumpy misery guts seems sort of missing the point just a wee bit! So here in Ciarns we are taking over a central civic space, encouraging people to ride walk skate or use PT to get there & back home, holding a creative workshop in how to build a lamp, sharing a community dinner together, having some speeches, a band is going to play, enjoy the hour possibly tge whole evening lights out & watch the movie “Home” to celebrate the place that is everything to every one of us, our home, our spaceship earth, our collective mother. 🙂

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