What are you doing Saturday night at 8:30?
Me, I’ll be turning off the lights.
And it’s not just because I don’t have a life and go to bed at 8:30 on Saturday night … although I admit it’s hard to resist an opportunity for slumber.
No, silly, it’s Earth Hour. That’s the day everyone in the world turns off the lights for an hour and saves a zillion kilowatts of electricity.
Last year, for example, British Columbians turned off the equivalent of 2.5 million lights or 125 MW, according to the greenpages.ca. With thousands of people and 52 municipalities participating, we reduced the load on the grid by two per cent, 3.5 per cent here in Vancouver.
It was kind of neat to see big swaths of the skyline wink out like a disaster movie without all the grief associated with the disaster.
Of course, there’s a great debate underway about the meaningfulness and effectiveness of Earth Hour. It’s easy to be green for an hour. Let’s see you try the same stunt every day. If B.C. just turned off the lights an hour a day, the energy savings would be enough to power 4,000 homes for a year.
During that hour, we can at least sit in the dark and think about how, if we all do one little thing like turn off the lights, shut down the computer, or turn down the thermostat, we could start cleaning up the global mess we’ve created. It almost makes me feel like breaking into a chorus of Kumbaya. Talk about a disaster.
The good news is that you don’t have to go to bed or sit in the dark having a Hootenanny for One. You can go to Juno Fest on the 900 block of Granville at 8:15 and join the countdown to lights off with a few thousand BFFs. Or if a more intimate affair is your style, head to one of the many restaurants offering candlelight dinners Saturday night. I’m not sure how much energy it takes to manufacture a candle and get it to the table of your favourite restaurant, but it’s symbolic, eh.
The truth is, the real impact of Earth Hour is symbolic. For a global population with serious attention deficit disorder, in three short years Earth Hour has become a way for everyone to focus on the value of energy conservation — and Mother Earth herself.
Think of it as spending an hour in the dark in order to see the light. And don’t fall asleep.
– Paul Sullivan is a Vancouver-based journalist and owner of Sullivan Media Consulting;