Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Earth Hour happens this Saturday

Earth Hour was initiated by the Australian World Wildlife Fund in 2007. Essentially, they asked Australians to turn off their lights for one hour, from 8:30 pm to 9:30 pm, on the last Saturday in March.

The idea spread and individuals, cities, and organizations around the globe signed up to take part in 2008.

It's almost entirely symbolic - lights actually use up relatively little energy. It's more, as the official site describes it, "a vote for the earth". I think of it as a single time when people and communities who are concerned about climate change can sort of publically announce so. But as the Canadian science journalist quoted in that CBC story notes, "Earth Hour also demonstrate[s] how dealing with climate change is really going to happen: from the ground up". It's how you try to live your life the other 8,765 hours of the year that count.

We took part last year and will do so again this year. And you can, too, if you choose - just turn off all your lights from 8:30 to 9:30 pm local time. Some people take the opportunity to "unplug" nearly completely, turning off TVs and cellphones and computers. One person in a comments thread said his family unplugs during this hour and spends the time walking around the neighbourhood together.

I'm not quite that noble. They'll pry my wireless internet connection from my cold, dead hands. But turning off the lights and thinking that you're part of a thing bigger than yourself is kind of cool.



Blogger Sherwood Harrington said...

Bravo! And I'd go further: if you live within 200 miles of a major astronomical observatory and your municipality uses streetlights that don't look a weird orange-yellow (low-pressure sodium lamps), then please turn them off permanently, which can generally be accomplished by use of a simple shotgun.

This position is not necessarily endorsed by the International Dark-Sky Associaton. But it's a good idea, especially if you live within shooting distance of an armed astronomer.

3:12 a.m.  
Blogger Dann said...

[jaw drops]


Sherwood! Yer armed?!!?!?!

10:16 a.m.  
Blogger ronnie said...

Dann! He lives in a Fort!

8:10 p.m.  
Blogger Sherwood Harrington said...

... and with good reason.

10:29 p.m.  
Blogger Mike said...

I was surprised to go to a planning board meeting to cover plans for a new Rite-Aid in Farmington, Maine, and hear them questioning the company at some length about the lighting for the parking lot. Then I looked around and saw that this rural community had made a concerted effort to keep lights pointed down on everything. No observatories around. They just liking being able to see the stars.

I don't know if they'll be turning them off or not this week, but with a new moon it might be nice regardless of other considerations.

5:43 a.m.  
Blogger Dann said...


5:28 p.m.  
Blogger ronnie said...

Every time I go back to visit my parents I am astonished at how many stars you can see at night. It has nothing in the way of significant night lighting other than weird orange-yellow streetlights.

Same experience when I'm in Cuba. City-dwellers forget how beautiful the night sky looks when we don't bleed light pollution all over it.

8:38 p.m.  
Blogger Sherwood Harrington said...

I have seen magnificent views of star-filled skies from many places: from dark-of-the-moon cold still upstate winters to Uluru's stunning Milky Way casting shadows on the far-outback's ground. But, and I swear this is true, the finest view of a star-filled sky I have ever had was from downtown Oakland, California, on a fall night in 1989.

October 17th, 1989, to be precise. The night of the Loma Prieta earthquake.

It was a still, warm, "good seeing" night (as astronomers term atmospheric conditions that allow fine-resolution), and one of low humidity (which reduced low-elevation obscuration due to the usual haze near the San Francisco Bay.) The stars were so sparklingly clear that I almost felt that I could grab a few of them with my hand, a sensation I hadn't had since my youth in the rural darkness of Chenango County.

The sense of wonder was punctuated occasionally by the distant, blue flash of an exploding transformer on PG&E's network, overwhelmed by the shifting and collapsing electricity distribution to the dying lights.

My neighbors and I in our apartment building intially gathered on our front porch to guard our place against looters, but, ultimately, we stayed up all night long to watch the sky instead.

11:02 p.m.  
Blogger Xtreme English said...

all the electric lights will be off in chez all the flameless candles charged up. ha.

the night sky in scotland was absolutely fabulous last time i was there. no streetlights for miles.

only problem was, my eyes have gotten lots dimmer since my youth, when the stars at night over our lake were "thick as bedbugs" (punchline from an old favorite New Yorker cartoon featuring two city urchins staring up at night).

still, it's nice to know they're STILL THERE.

8:07 p.m.  
Blogger ronnie said...

What an amazing story. I am always fascinated by moments of beauty and community that occur in the midst of wider crisis.

9:06 p.m.  

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