Sulking in the dark

Are you an Earth Hour Grinch? It’s a bit Green Kitsch, and it’s not going to change the world. But you should still Switch off on Saturday night.

Before you decide if you’re ON or OFF, skim through these basic facts and arguments:

What is it?
Earth Hour 2010 is 27 March, 20h30-21h30, and the concept is that everyone in the world who cares about climate change will be switching off their lights. An OFF switch = a vote for the Earth; an ON switch = a vote for global warming, say the organizers. Supporters have called it “the first global vote” and “the greatest voluntary action ever”.

Everyone taking part is signing up on the World-Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) Earth Hour web site , so that the “votes” can actually be counted. Or you can sms EH2010 and your name to 34017 (R2/SMS).

But why? What’s the point?
The Big Lights Out is a simple, dramatic way to send a message to the world’s leaders, big business and everyone else that we’re sick of conversation without action.

What are the arguments against Earth Hour?
Earth Hour has been roundly criticized as an empty gesture – yet another way for the leisured classes to salve their collective environmental conscience without actually doing anything constructive to make a real difference.

Well, isn’t it kind of empty?
Only if we allow it to be: the aim is raising awareness; the hope is that action will follow from awareness. This year WWF is challenging us to focus on real change by pledging to reduce our carbon footprint.

Are people really going to go for this?
Some of us certainly are. Over 1000 cities and towns have signed up – even more than expected. And millions of people are switching off: the target is 1 billion.

Are you supposed to just switch off your lights or everything electrical?
That’s up to you, but I think it’s kind of missing the point to turn the lights off and then stick a load of washing in the tumbledryer.

Is everyone switching off at the same time?
Everyone is switching off when the clock strikes 20h30, wherever they are. (If the whole world switched off simultaneously, then some people would be doing so in broad daylight, which wouldn’t be much fun.)

What are we supposed to do for that hour?
Anything you like. Some people will be having full-out Earth Hour parties in the dark, others more genteel candle-lit sit-downs. Some are just going to mellow out and enjoy an hour free of light pollution. (Just keep in mind it’s probably best to stay off the darkened streets, and watch out for the naked flames with all those candles…)

There are also lots of events organized around the country from a candlelit dinner at the Table Bay Hotel in Cape Town , to a Rooi Plein picnic in Stellenbosch, to movies and being plunged into darkness at the Jon\burg Zoo. See for what’s on near you.

Are you an Earth Hour Grinch or an Earth Hour Firefly (i.e. you’ll be glowing naturally from within on Saturday Night)?

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