29 March 2009

Earth Hour: Media Hype or Effective Awareness Building?

The Sky Tower in Auckland switched off lights ...Image via Wikipedia

I enjoyed my Earth Hour at home with a warm bath and some pleasant conversation with my husband. It was surprisingly relaxing to spend an evening without lights, tv or computer, but did it really make a difference?

In the long run, spending an hour in the dark once a year is unlikely to significantly reduce my carbon footprint, or impact climate change in a meaningful way. So does this mean its all just media hype?

Of course not! Earth Hour is about building awareness about climate change and how each of us can make choices that can help to reduce our impact on the planet. Its about how collectively we are powerful. Its about making us think about the things we do.

Earth Hour was a reminder for me about how much I take for granted. Lights that turn on at the flick of a switch, television, my computer, constant hot water, a hot drink in minutes, smoke free cooking (well most of the time!) . . .

For a quarter of humanity this is sheer luxury. Some 1.6 billion people live without electricity. In developing countries some 2.5 billion people are forced to rely on wood, charcoal and animal dung to meet their energy needs for cooking. Indoor air pollution resulting from the use of solid fuels claims the lives of 1.5 million people each year, more than half of them below the age of five: that is 4000 deaths a day.

Earth Hour made me think about the way my family and I consume resources as we go about our daily lives. There is a huge global disparity between the haves and the have-nots:
The 12 percent of the world’s population that lives in North America and Western Europe accounts for 60 percent of private consumption spending, while the one-third living in South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa accounts for only 3.2 percent (The State of Consumption)
By choosing to consume less - whether it be electricity, chocolate bars or petrol - we do something to even things up. By choosing to consume less and donating even a portion of the savings we make to charities that address global poverty we are doing even more.

What did Earth Hour mean to you?

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