What On Earth is Earth Hour?
Published: Wednesday, April 4, 2012
Updated: Wednesday, April 4, 2012 20:04
Lights out. Extension cords unplugged. My laptop and my cell phone turned off.
Yes, it’s possible to survive without these gadgets for an hour, and I did when I observed Earth Hour on Saturday night with my friend Stanzin Dawa ’15. Not many people seem to know about Earth Hour, and even if they do, many choose to either forget about it or ignore it.
The Earth Hour is a worldwide initiative started by the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) and is observed globally on the last Saturday of every March from 8:30 to 9:30 p.m. The goal is to encourage households, institutions and corporations to turn off their non-essential lights for just one hour as a step toward conserving energy and creating awareness about climate change. Earth Hour was first observed in Sydney in 2007, where 2.2 million residents of the city switched off all non-essential lights. The event went worldwide in 2008.
Often when I tell friends and acquaintances about Earth Hour, their first response is to ask, rolling their eyes, “How much energy could I possibly save in an hour by switching off the lights in my room or house?” Can you make a difference even though individual efforts at energy conservation may seem like a drop in the ocean?
The answer is a big yes. Just because others haven’t taken action, why should that stop you from taking the first step? One person trying to make things better is better than one person trying to make things worse.
It surprised me that Earth Hour is not a big deal at Smith. As an institution that actively encourages energy conservation and debates strategies for ecological sustainability, it is important for Smith to make a statement by participating in this global event. If the campus could go without power consumption even for an hour, once a year, the amount of energy saved would definitely carry great significance and the impact in terms of raising awareness would be massive.
I come from a small town in North India, where sometimes we do not have power for 10 hours a day. But in my Smith house, power outages are infrequent and lights in the dining hall, basement and bathrooms remain on 24/7, even when no one needs them. I wish old lights out rules were re-established. Surely something like lights out at 3 a.m. on school nights seems practical. Though Smith has some wonderful eco-friendly policies, the amount of irresponsible energy use that happens just through the student body is mind-boggling.
I invited Stanzin into my room so that we could observe Earth Hour together. For an hour we sat together in the dark, unable to see each other or anything else in the room. We discussed social and global activism and taking the first step towards change. And for the few minutes we played “Antakshari,” a game that involves singing the first line of a song, with the other player singing a song with the last syllable of the song that has just been sung.
I never realized how quickly the dark hour went by. At 9:30 when Stanzin got up to leave, I embraced her, saying “Happy Earth Hour!”