As many of you are aware, tomorrow Saturday March 28 marks the 3rd annual Earth Hour event when millions of people around the globe will switch their lights off for one full hour as a statement against global warming.
Earth Hour began in 2007, when 2.2 million homes and businesses in Sydney, Australia switched off their lights for one hour. In 2008 the message had grown into a global sustainability movement, with 50 million people switching off their lights. Global landmarks such as the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, Rome’s Colosseum, the Sydney Opera House and the Coca Cola billboard in Times Square all stood in darkness in solidarity of the event.
This year, Earth Hour is being taken to the next level, with the goal of 1 billion people in cities and towns all over the globe all switching off their lights. The media buzz around Earth Hour has grown so big that even restaurants and hotels are getting in on the fun and offering special Earth Hour promos and romance packages as they dim their dining rooms to old fashioned candlelight.
Indeed, the folks behind the Earth Hour movement have done quite an impressive job at garnering attention, creating media buzz, and turning the heads of people and businesses not usually attuned to environmental causes. Of course it didn’t hurt to have popular street artist Shepard Fairy (made ultra famous by his rendition of campaigning Barack Obama) rebrand the organization and create snazzy new posters and downloads for this year’s pledge to darkness.
However, not all environmentalists are impressed with this awareness initiative and many are criticizing the action as having little to do with the actual fight against global warming and more to do with celebrating the popularity of the group’s ability to create such a grand “feel good” gesture for the majority of the world. It is slightly disturbing to see how many individuals are posting comments on blogs and participating in discussion groups that they are planning on diligently turning their lights out like a herd of sheep blindly following a shepherd without giving one thought to how they can more effectively help Mother Earth or make Earth Hour-like actions a part of their daily routine.
As Joel Makower of the Green Buzz states, “Turning off the lights for one hour seems a meek and hollow gesture, a feel-good measure that may fleetingly raise awareness, but does little to educate or change long-term habits, let along “take control over the future of our planet.” It is, simply put, a media event in search of actual content.”
Makower has a point. Earth Hour’s Take Action campaign simply tells people how to help spread the word about Earth Hour, how to stage their very own Earth Hour event (do people really need more of an excuse to throw a party in the dark??) and how to win their video contest on what they did during Earth Hour, rather than giving any real advice or imparting any true wisdom on what people can do to help stop global warming.
Non-profits and other small organizations that campaign tirelessly for environmental causes and struggle daily to get the general public involved with their actions are understandably fed up and irritated with the Earth Hour blitz. The Washington DC-based think tank the Competitive Enterprise Institute is staging its own event tomorrow in protest. This free-market advocacy group has been known to promote market-based, non-solution solutions to environmental crises. They’ve recently been in the press for their satiric “Celebrate Coal!” rally last month. Their very public knock against Earth Hour is the “Human Achievement Hour” in which humans are celebrated and encouraged to go about their regular Saturday night routine of going to the movies or going out to dinner. As CEI states on their website, “Anyone not foregoing the use of electricity in [Earth] hour is, by default, celebrating the achievements of human beings.”
So what will you be doing tomorrow night? Sitting in the dark or brilliantly enjoying the fruits of human innovation?