A column about Earth Hour

So, what did you during Earth Hour? Some friends of mine had a candlelit party down at Glebe Point, looking out across the water as the lights went out. Well, a few of the lights went out, as it turned out. Very romantic it was too, by all accounts.

I’ve no doubt that the rest of the Greens-voting Glebe readership that gave Labor so palpable a scare in Balmain and Marrickville the other weekend did its bit, and want to congratulate you for it. I raise a metaphorical glass of chai to you all.

I’m not so sure about the environmental benefits, which, as many have pointed out, were probably cancelled out by everyone who drove across town to admire the effect from a convenient harbourside viewpoint. The Australian said that the whole project saved enough electricity to be the equivalent in CO2 terms of taking seven cars off the road for a year. Which is not bad for an hour, I suppose. But gee – after all the hype, double figures would’ve been nice.

Me? Well, I helped consume a whopping amount of electricity, so it’s not really fair for me to cast aspersions on the efforts of other, now, is it? I was at the V Festival in Centennial Park, where the token concession to the effort was that Beck turned the lights out onstage for one whole song. Then again, his flu-afflicted performance was so low-energy that he must have saved megawatts all by himself.

So I did nothing. But I’d ask you to understand that my desire to help the environment, especially in a non-lifechanging way, was strong. Unfortunately my desire to see The Pixies was that little bit stronger. But seriously, anytime you need someone to flick a switch to save the planet on a night when one of history’s finest indie bands isn’t making a rare appearance, I’m there.

Oh, and the Festival put the Earth Hour logo up on the big screens a lot, presumably to remind us what we weren’t contributing to. I found it a touch ironic that they decided to use electric lights to screen the logo of a project dedicated to reducing the use of electricity.

The event wasn’t actually about saving energy, though, of course. It was about raising awareness. And it certainly did that. Fabulously influential columnists such as myself are discussing it not only in Australia, but across the world. As a PR initiative, Earth Hour was excellent.

Because it raises some very worthwhile questions. Like, why do city office blocks need their lights on all weekend anyway? And why can’t they just fit timer switches, like old-school apartment blocks, so that those who are beavering away on the weekend can turn on the light just in their areas? Closer to home, my apartment building lights its communal areas 24/7, and there really isn’t a need. There are heaps of examples, when you stop and think about it. Usually, we don’t. But for an hour there, we did.

Well, it was more like two minutes for me, in fact. Most of my mind was busy hoping Beck’s voice would improve, and that he’d do some of his non hip-hop material. But the important thing is that I did think about it, for the first time since I saw An Inconvenient Truth, was shocked and appalled and then didn’t bother to actually do anything.

You know, we snooty Westerners like to criticise the North Koreans for being backward. Many pundits have joked that if you look at night satellite photos of Pyongyang (which I recommend Googling, they’re hilarious) it looks deserted. But that’s not true. They’ve just been celebrating tEarth Decade. We’d do well, in fact, to be more like them. Well, perhaps without the brutal totalitarian rule or the famine.

But we need to consciously reduce our energy consumption more frequently than an hour a year. And if we do – and only if we do – then Earth Hour will have meant something more than an interesting visual effect to enjoy while sipping wine at a picturesque harbourside location.

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