Yo, Coachella Valley. This Saturday from 8:30-9:30 p.m. is Earth Hour – a 24-hour, rolling symbolic demonstration of the power of individuals to take action to stop climate change.
Now in its sixth year, Earth Hour encourages people first to turn off their lights for one hour — 8:30-9:30 p.m. in their time zone, so it moves across the globe. The second part is then challenging individuals to commit to other, year-round actions to decrease their carbon footprints.
The event started in Sydney, Australia in 2007, according to the Earth Hour website, when 2,000 businesses and 2.2 million people switched off their lights and lit candles for one hour. Organizers hoped to bring in all of Australia for 2008, but then other cities and countries signed on as well – 400 cities in 35 countries.
Last year, millions of people in 135 countries joined in. This year, some of the world’s most iconic buildings and larndmarks will be going dark — the Empire State Building, the Eiffel Tower, the leaning Tower of Pisa, the Sydney Harbor Bridge and Opera House, and the Burj Khalifa, the world’s tallest building — 2,716.5 feet– in Dubai. UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has confirmed that the United Nations headquarters in New York will be switching off.
Click here to see a video on the event – very cool and inspirational.
The World Wildlife Federation, which organizes the event, is also upping the ante for 2012 with a new campaign called “I Will If You Will.” You can set a challenge – like getting a tattoo if 10,000 people commit to recycling for the rest of the year – or accept one.
The tattoo challenge is real. Click here to see that and other “I Will If You Will” challenges.
Now – beyond the usual crew of climate change skeptics — I can already hear the howls of protest. It’s smack dab in the middle of season, it’s Dinah and Kraft-Nabisco weekend. People would lose business; it’s not practical.
Well, what if we looked at this as a challenge. I mean think about it. People could have candle-light dinners on their patios; restaurants could turn down or turn off the house lights and also use candles. Heck – the women partying on at Dinah could do without their disco lights for an hour – it’s early in the evening.
Maybe St. Margaret’s Episcopal Church in Palm Desert could turn off the cross on the hill for an hour.
And, as the Earth Hour website makes abundantly clear, any lights having to do with public safety and health care can and should stay on.
Turning off the lights for an hour might also give us a little time to contemplate just how dependent we are on electric light. Thomas Edison opened his first coal-fired power plant 130 years ago in New York City, lighting a few blocks of lower Manhattan. By 1927, 25 percent of American homes still didn’t have electric lights.
For most of human history, we did without them. Beethoven wrote the 9th Symphony without electric lights; William Shakespeare wrote his plays, Charles Dickens, his novels without electric lights. We fought the Revolutionary War and the Civil War without them.
According to the International Energy Agency, as of 2009, 1.3 billion people around the world were still living without access to electricity.
Not that I am suggesting we go back to kerosene lamps and torches – I am as addicted to my compact fluorescents as the next person. But one hour without them will not spell the end of civilization as we know it – unchecked climate change is more likely to do that. It’s about being willing to inconvenience ourselves a little and consider some basic changes in how we live.
So, yes, I’m going to set the valley a challenge.
My downfall on energy efficiency is hot showers. I’m a total hot water hog. For me, 5 minutes is a quick shower; 10-15 minutes is normal, and the water has to be just this side of scalding. I believe in personal steam cleaning.
If 5,000 people and 50 businesses across the valley turn off their lights for Earth Hour, I will commit to buying a timer and sticking to 3-minute showers for the rest of the year.
So, come on, Coachella Valley. If the Empire State Building and Eiffel Tower can do it, so can we.