Be prepared – at 8.30 p.m. Saturday, the lights will turn off.
From Tokyo to Toronto, Paris to Papua New Guinea, hundreds of millions of people in more than 150 countries will participate in the world’s largest coordinated action on climate change, led by the World Wildlife Fund.
Organizers call the one-hour switching off of lights and electronic devices a symbolic action, and there will be no measurement of its impact. But environmental campaigners believe it is important to challenge our relationship with technology.
“People need to see collective action to take the issue seriously,” says Peter Madden, CEO of the international group Forum for the Future. “Changes can be attractive if they are reinforced socially.”
With technology increasingly embedded in everyday life, it’s time to make smarter choices, says Madden. “The most exciting innovations are making energy use visible. Phone apps can give you data; heaters can learn when they are needed.”
The Beyond Zero Emissions group estimate that energy demand could be halved if people replaced their household appliances with more efficient models. Patio heaters remain among the worst offenders, and campaigners are aiming for 100% LED lighting.
For hardliners, living off the grid has become increasingly possible. “There is cheaper and more reliable energy available such as ground-source and mini turbines — a great alternative to the rising cost of traditional fuel,” says Madden.
However, Earth Hour’s global switch-off concept has also been criticized, and participation and online involvement have dropped off this year. “It’s a particular demographic of younger people in cities that is hard to sustain,” says Mike Shanahan of the International Institute for Environment and Development.
“For the green movement to grow it needs to be relevant to daily lives and to local issues.”