This post has been written to coincide with the start of Earth Hour in the UK. The event, initiated by the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF), asks people around the world to spend an hour in darkness to support action against climate change. With a worldwide rolling start at 8.30pm local time, the WWF are hoping that a billion people will join together in switching off their lights.
Perhaps you’re already sitting in darkness as you read this post, but I’m not. I disagree with large scale events like Earth Hour, because they actually allow people to ignore the issues. “If I switch my lights off for an hour, I’m saving the planet!” they think, whilst tucking into a processed microwave dinner that they brought back from the supermarket in their gas-guzzling 4×4.
I’m generalising of course, and many of the participants in Earth Hour will already be hardcore eco-warriors. The trouble is, combating climate change will not be solved by large scale gimmicks like this. Everyone must make small and boring changes to their lives which are hard to market with a simple slogan or event, but will collectively make a difference
We must reduce our use of energy in a drastic way, and not just for 60 minutes in a year. You may switch your lights off this evening, but what about the rest of the time? How many people leave unoccupied rooms needlessly lit throughout the year, simply because they forget to flick the switch when they leave? I’m not claiming to be perfect as I sometimes do it myself, but I do make a conscious effort to turn off the lights each and every time I leave the room.
It’s not just lights we need to worry about, as changes must be made in every aspect of our lives. Transport, food, manufacturing – they all need overhauling. Whilst I appreciate that the WWF are using Earth Hour to get people talking about these issues, I worry that many people will simply enjoy an hour in the dark and then get on with their lives, using just as much energy and pumping out just as much carbon as before.