Earth Hour isn’t long enough

By Luiz Coelho

Another Earth Hour is over. In several locations around the world, houses and businesses turned their lights off and avoided energy consumption for one hour. But, at the end, did anything change?

I wrote about this same subject last year (for another publication), and, even though I do not have precise statistics about Earth Hour 2009 right now, it is reasonable to say that there will be similar results to the ones obtained last year, with some cities announcing energy consumption reductions of more than 10% during the event.

But, is that true? In 2007, Herald Sun columnist Andrew Bold disagreed. He argued that “a cut so tiny was trivial – equal to taking six cars off the road for a year”. Also, David Solomon, a PhD student at the University of Chicago, claimed that, in fact, “more than 67 per cent of the apparent decline during Earth Hour was due to factors operating throughout the entire day”. This would change the estimated reduction in electricity use during Earth Hour to a tiny 2.1 %.

Of course, both statements can be wrong, and need to be scientifically verified. However, even if we sustain the 10 % reduction, there are 24 hours per day, and 365 days (and 8,760 hours) this year. A 10% energy reduction for one hour, when seen within the context of a whole year of waste and disrespect for the environment, is basically irrelevant.

The point is clear. If Earth Hour happens only once a year, and for one hour, then it is a huge failure. Worse than that, the whole feel-good propaganda around it distracts many people from the serious danger the environment is in. It is almost like giving a placebo to a very sick patient. It is a medication that does nothing concrete, but takes away fears from people’s minds, and allows them to go back to their daily environmental unfriendly activities, once the Earth Hour is over.

Earth “hours” can be only relevant if they happen frequently and consistently. We, as concerned people, have to demand from the institutions we are affiliated with (including the Church) that policies are taken so that real reductions in energy consumption happen. We also can do much more. Measures such as reducing lights, heat, taking shorter showers, buying organic and locally grown food, and boycotting products from countries or regions that are clear agressors of the Environment are surely helpful. One thing, however, is clear. What we do now (including the Earth Hour), is far from being enough to save our planet.

As a final reflection, I close this text like last year’s, with a poem by Julian of Norwich, 14th Century mystic, who “lived several Earth hours” in a much more reasonable, dynamic and spiritual way than we probably do.

Be a gardener.

Dig a ditch,

toil and sweat,

and turn the earth upside down

and seek the deepness

and water the plants in time.

Continue this labor

and make sweet floods to run

and noble and abundant fruits

to spring.

Take this food and drink

and carry it to God

as your true worship.

Luiz Coelho, a seminarian from the Diocese of Rio de Janero, spends part of the year in the BFA program at the Savannah College of Art and Design. His Web site includes his art and his blog, Wandering Christian, on which he examines “Christianity in the third millennium, from a progressive, Latin American and Anglican point of view.”

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