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To Earth Hour or Not to Earth Hour?

Once a year for the past half decade, Earth Hour (happening this year on March 26th at 8:30 pm) has swept the globe with a request that everyone switch off their lights, along with whichever electrical appliances can be spared, for one hour. Last year, over 126 countries participated in the event – that means about 1 billion people (including those who operate the Empire State Building and the Eiffel Tower) complied with the lights out appeal. Pretty big business.

Some people are wholeheartedly jazzed about Earth Hour, and have made Facebook pages and making Youtube videos to show their support. The rest of us participate because we’re told it’s environmentally friendly, and our friends do it. Either way, it’s not exactly a life changing commitment – turning your lights out for an hour to show respect for the earth sounds simple enough, right? Oddly enough, it’s not that simple. Criticism around the event has actually been raging across the internet from passionate opponents. They say Earth Hour is just another example of symbolic environmentalism, and can even contribute greater carbon emission due to the upsurge of everyone turning their lights on after the hour is over.

The possibility that Earth Hour might not be so earth friendly came to mind last year. I was working at my serving job, I turned off all
the lights and lit a bunch of candles, thereby forcing people to dine in a small room filled with paraffin wax off-gassing while they ate.
The simple light of a lead wick releases toxic fluorocarbons and other pollutants from the fake fragrances and dyes that make candles smell
like dreams. Those dreamy scents disguise the fact that paraffin is a petroleum derivative and starts off as black sludge left over from producing pavement and oils. If you don’t want to inhale it, it’s not going to be good for the environment either.

One spot where enthusiasm has been met with confrontation is on Facebook. One earth hour enthusiast from Australia set up a Facebook page encouraging Mark Zuckerberg to shut down Facebook for one hour during the event. Facebook obviously has a lot of influence over us, and not having access to it might urge us to go out and pick up some trash. Her page prompted a rival page, asserting the idea that earth hour is fruitless because it tackles the problem by shutting down technology and therefore, shuns innovation. This group actually worked out that, if Facebook shut down for Earth Hour every year, it would only constitute 0.01141% of its total operating time – a pretty insignificant number to make a difference in carbon emissions.

Most of us don’t even think of using the internet as being an earth offender. A newspaper recently shocked readers by divulging that two
researchers from the United States discovered that performing two Google searches generates about the same amount of CO2 as a boiling
kettle, 15 grams. Google then corrected this by saying it was actually about .2 g per search. But the fact remains – Google owns about 450 000 servers around the world which deal with over 200 million search inquiries per day, and have to maintain super quick performance. That requires a lot of energy.

So what does Earth Hour do to change any of this?

The World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) created the event to raise awareness about the small actions we can do to make a big difference,
not in an attempt to straight up change the world. This year’s slogan, “go beyond one hour,” is testament to their hope to push people to
expand their mindset about saving energy. The WWF isn’t trying to reduce carbon levels with this event. The head of campaigns at WWF has
said that the event isn’t about saving energy per se, and for that reason, they won’t be measuring energy saved during the hour.

I think the Earth Hour dilemma can be interpreted along the lines of the Valentine’s Day debate. Most of us either love or loathe the card
and candy filled day o’ fun. Either way, the general consensus is, if your relationship sucks every other day of the year, you both need to
check yourselves. Same goes for Earth Hour! If our earth ethic sucks every hour aside from Earth hour, we need to rethink our habits. This
is exactly what the event is all about – reminding us that change comes in small steps. And those small steps really do add up.

It’s up to you whether or not you want to participate in Earth Hour. But if you’re like us and appreciate any opportunity to rejoice and
gallivant, here are our 6 suggestions of things to do during the hour of silence and darkness.
1. Act like you’re in summer camp again and get your friends together for a massage train and girl talk.
2. Host a dinner in darkness party! Fondue is a versatile, easy and incredibly low impact idea.
3. Tell ghost stories and make popcorn on the stove.
4. Have a bath by candlelight (beeswax!) with some Epsom salts and essential oils. Clear your mind and enjoy the darkness and silence.
5. Read aloud to your lovah by candlelight.
6. Have an acoustic jam sesh with your musically inclined friends (preferably with freestyle rap battle debates about whether or not Earth Hour is beneficial.)

~Kait Fowlie

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