Earth Hour. A call for people all over the world to switch off their lights for an hour. It is a simple, symbolic gesture. It is something that everyone with a light switch can participate in. This is one of the things that makes it so powerful.
It's also fun. Adria Vasil (of Ecoholic) recommends raw food parties, dinners with mood lighting, music with wind-up radios and acoustic instruments, and strolling the neighbourhood with electric lanterns.
This Saturday, Earth Hour asks people not just to turn off their lights at 8PM, but to unplug things we're unaccustomed to unplugging: computers, television sets, and appliances (at least, those not needed on standby).
As such, it builds up unused muscles. It's good to have a chance to practice.
Unplug a computer today, and tomorrow you may find yourself searching your
house for energy vampires, swapping in high-efficiency light bulbs, or switching to a clean energy reseller like Bullfrog Power.
Earth Hour is a reminder of our dependence on electricity. Physically unplugging so many things in our houses, it is a subtle reminder that all of those things need electricity to run. A subtle, but perhaps ultimately more useful, consciousness-raising exercise.
When Sydney switched off for an hour last year, estimates ranged between 2.1% and 10.2% savings for that hour, with "as many as 2.2 million people taking part." The level of participation was heartening. It illustrates vividly that many people can be motivated to work together.
The proportion of participation in Canada, at least in terms of people who have signed up so far, would seem to be the highest in the world.
Canada is, in fact, the second highest country in gross participation, being just slightly edged out by the United States, which has ten times Canada's population. This did not go unnoticed by the folks at Earth Hour, who issued a release reporting on Canadian enthusiasm for the event, and encouraging a little friendly competition.
The organizers are, no doubt, closely watching the number of people who sign on to unplug for an hour. Electric utilities are supporting the effort, and analysing electricity usage rates for that period. Astronomers are measuring the effect on light pollution and inviting people to go out and remember what the stars look like without the lights of the city.
Dinners by candlelight. People out looking at the stars. Millions of people experimenting a little. Humanity inspiring itself.
What will you do during Earth Hour? We would love to hear from you. Please leave us your comments below.