Earth Hour a succees… kind of

Earth Hour - Saturday 31 March 2007, 7:30pm-8:30pm

Saturday saw the first Earth Hour here in Sydney, a campaign encouraging Sydneysiders to turn off their lights from 7.30 to 8.30 pm to raise awareness for Global Warming. According to The Sun-Herald more than 65,000 homes and 2000 businesses and government departments turned off their lights. And it was quite a sight, I have to say… the skyline, Bridge and Opera House, all much darker, the stars shining clearly. We love our lights in Sydney (just think of the NYE fireworks), so it was strange to see our city in near-darkness. Quite nice, actually.

Organisers are hoping Earth Hour will spread across Australia next year, and to other Asian cities like Hong Kong and Tokyo… but I’m not sure how much of a success it was here, to be honest. The idea of Earth Hour is good, to raise awareness for Global Warming and to get Sydney to lower it’s carbon emissions by 5% throughout 2007. But there are 4 million people in Sydney; that’s roughly 1 million homes, and maybe 420,000 thousand around the Eastern Suburbs where Earth Hour was targeted – I don’t call 65,000 homes a “resounding” success, just a good start. But worse, people were treating it like a party. I suppose that’s no great surprise; we’ll take any excuse to get wasted, after all. But then the media (or Sky News anyway) started calling it a “celebration”, encouraging people to have “name the food” games and other activities. Maybe I missed something but wasn’t the idea not to have a celebration, but to take time to think about the issue? We’re observing an event and demeaning it at the same time.

That’s what annoys me so much about the GW issue. It feels like it is being treated as a “hot topic”, not something which is so serious. Maybe I sound cynical, but I’m not; I’m angry. Scientists have been telling us about the dangers of climate change for more than twenty years, and it’s only now that we decide to listen? Why have scientists and specialists at all if we simply decide to ignore them when we need their advice? And many politicians are only listening now because it’s in our minds, in an election year; they see it as an opportunity to highlight the differences between themselves and their opposition. I’m sure people like Peter Garrett and Kevin Rudd are earnest in their concerns, but they’re still scoring political points off of it. Still, at least Labor cares. Howard and Turnbull have been abysmal on this. They want nuclear power. Yeah, great; go and create more targets for al-Qaeda. Thanks, John.

So Earth Hour was an interesting, if not an entirely resounding, success. Hopefully what it has done is to raise more awareness, inspired people to learn more about it and what they can do to help. In the end Saturday night was about sending a statement, and I think it did that, even if the media coverage made it feel a bit more like a publicity stunt. The important thing is, I think, to make people understand that, whatever you feel about GW, it’s not an issue to sweep under the rug; talk about it, whether you agree or disagree. Because I fear that what will happen is what occurred with Live8; people wanted immediate change and when it didn’t happen, they lost interest. We can’t let that happen again with Global Warming, whether we agree or disagree with what’s being said… but I’ll guess we’ll just have to wait and see if that happens.

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