“Earth Hour” – Useful or a Complete Waste of Time

UntitledEarth hour is worldwide movement for the planet organized by the World Wide fund for Nature and is celebrated sometime during the last week of March. Launched in Sydney in 2007, Earth Hour is probably the world’s largest environmental campaign. India joined the movement in 2009 and since then, has reached out to approximately 10 million individuals across 150 cities. Iconic monuments like the Rashtrapati Bhavan, Gateway of India, India Gate and Victoria Memorial switch off non-essential lights in support of this campaign.

This year it’s on 24th of March. On this day people and organizations will switch off their lights for an hour in the evening thinking they have done enough to reduce carbon emissions for the entire year. “A feel good generation’s way of absolving themselves of all the sins against nature.” Is it enough to cover the damage done by landfills, uprooted trees, polluted rivers, vehicular pollution or its just cleaning our conscious. In reality ‘Earth Hour’s’ vain symbolism allows anyone to look climate-friendly – politicians, corporate polluters, ad agencies, celebrities, citizens and, of course, WWF. They do include some of the world’s most fossil fuel-friendly politicians, and the funding for the event is by companies with rising carbon footprints. Does it make sense? I am not going into details of all the green washing going around here. It is all over the web/news channels for curious minds to read. Earth Hour is one of the biggest marketing campaign that attracts corporate, and government support. I am trying to put simple facts to see whether it really is worthwhile or its just cashing on mass hysteria.

Earth Hour teaches us that tackling global warming is easy…only an hour. Is it logical that the environment that gives us 24/7, we give back only the 1/8760 of it. Is it really beneficial for the earth? The emissions cut by ‘Earth Hour’ really are tiny as a small decline in electricity consumption does not translate into less energy being pumped into the grid, and therefore will not reduce emissions. Moreover, after Earth Hour, any reduction in CO2 emissions during the hour will be offset by the surge from firing up coal or gas stations to restore electricity supplies afterward. Also we don’t switch off anything really inconvenient, like heating or air-conditioning, television, computer, mobile phone etc.

Candle light marches, lamps, lanterns in the sky, looking natural and environmentally friendly, are still fossil fuels—and almost 100 times less efficient than incandescent light bulbs. Using one candle for each switched-off bulb cancels out even the theoretical CO2 reduction; using two candles means more CO2.

Open air musical shows are planned in many cities, preparations, media coverage, extra waste generation, ad campaigns all require power consumption which otherwise won’t be needed. Thanks to everything from people travelling to attend the event to fossil fuel-based candles and firing up power stations when the lights come back on, all increase power consumption and global warming unnecessarily.

As I have written before, sustainable living doesn’t mean going back to dark ages. Electricity has given humanity huge benefits. Billion people still burn dung, twigs, and other traditional fuels indoors to cook and keep warm, generating noxious fumes that kill them. In India people burn tyres in winter which I think offsets any reduction in CO2 we may have obtained during this hour. Waste to energy incerating plants and the process without any pollution standards still gives out poisonous fumes near Indian capital of New Delhi. Old cars and public transports give out black smoke everyday on the streets. Blaming electricity for pollution alone is not correct. Electricity has allowed us to mechanize much of our world, ending most backbreaking work.  The refrigerator made it possible for almost everyone to eat more fruits and vegetables. Electricity has allowed us to irrigate our fields. Light has enabled us to have active, productive lives after sunset. Electricity has allowed us to be connected to the entire world via satellite

Switching off lights is not a solution. Darkness gives rise to crimes mostly against women of which our nation is quite famous of. If there is a survey of crimes committed, I am sure it will show an increase during this hour. Prudent usage by individuals and a focused attitude to green the world’s energy by the governing bodies is the need of the hour. I will stay  at home and have a quite weekend  remembering what all nature has given us. I will avoid going to places to celebrate this glorified ad campaign and pledge to take small steps like car pooling, less water usage etc. every day to show my gratefulness to Mother Nature.


A physicist turned green living advocate.

Welcome! Fellow Green Living Enthusiast

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