As you may have heard, many individuals and municipalities will be observing Earth Hour tonight at 8:30 pm, your local time. The idea is to raise awareness about the importance of energy conservation in combating global climate change.
The success that is reported in actual energy savings varies greatly, and it’s unclear how much of an impact this might have on the environment overall. Several cities reported reductions in consumption between 1-10% during Earth Hour 2008, although some cities increased consumption, possibly because of the weather increasing the need for heating. This is a savings of in the neighborhood of 100 metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions.
So, is a small decrease in consumption for one hour out out of the year really something to make a big fuss out of? Not if that energy saving is all that comes out of it. If you sit with the lights off for an hour, then go out and drag race your Hummer to the lake and dump toxic sludge in it, of course you’re not doing much good. But if Earth Hour increases awareness of environmental concerns, and shows that participating governments are truly serious about enacting green policies, then a lot of good can come out of the Earth Hour project.
Of course, there’s been some criticism of Earth Hour, and a competing event scheduled for the same time called Human Achievement Hour. The idea is to celebrate human achievements, one of the greatest of which is the ability to generate, control, and harness energy, all of which has been necessary for our modern human achievements. I guess we’re supposed to celebrate this by doing what we normally do and leave the lights on. Or maybe we should turn on lots of unnecessary lights? Really, this “celebration” doesn’t seem like a true counter to Earth Hour, but simply a mockery.
But the real point here is that human achievement and environmentalism are in no way in opposition to one another. If we enjoy all our modern conveniences without concern, and end up making our planet unlivable, that’s not really a human achievement, is it?
But if we can figure out how to keep those conveniences, all while preserving our environment? Talk about a human achievement to be proud of.