Friday, April 17, 2009

The Value of Earth Day

On Saturday, March 28, over 1,000 cities in more than 80 countries observed Earth Hour 2009. Homes, office towers and public landmarks turned off their lights for an hour, at 8:30 pm local time, to conserve energy and raise awareness about global warming.[1] Earth Hour was organized by the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), who organized the event as “a global call to action for every individual, every business and every community; A call to stand up and take control over the future of our planet.”[2]

In 2009, the Earth Hour movement reached new heights with an estimated one billion people engaging with their community about the social issues that matter to them. Earth Hour served as one way of creating even a small bit of agency for all those that participated. As Amy Jussel, Founder and Executive Director of Shaping Youth, writes in her blog, “[Earth Hour] is a great way to engage kids of all ages in being part of a larger vision. It’s empowering to feel they too can be part of a cause [and] make a statement.”[3] Earth Hour clearly provided an opportunity for people throughout the world, young and old, to make a statement, increase community awareness and show that they are willing to make a difference.

Yet despite the success of Earth Hour 2009, measured in the estimated one billion people that participated, there was considerable opposition to the event. Most of this resistance stemmed from the belief that one hour of energy conservation per year could not possibly have a significant effect on long-term climate change. The CEI Group even initiated a Human Achievement Hour as a form of protest, arguing that with such a limited actual effect on the environment, Earth Hour is merely a protest of a human achievement: electricity.[4] But, as environmental blog Twilight Earth points out, groups like CEI and others are missing the point:

“[No], turning off your lights for those 60 minutes will not stop the glaciers from melting. It won’t save one endangered species on the brink of death due to Global Warming, but it will send a message. The goal of Earth Hour is that message we are sending, not the impact of our actions on the planet. Earth Hour is a symbolic gesture.”[5]

Earth Hour started in Sydney, Australia in 2007, when over 2 million people 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, [as even] global landmarks such as the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, Rome’s Coliseum, the Sydney Opera House and the Coca Cola billboard in Times Square all stood in darkness.”[6]

Check out this link for some great before and after photos of Earth Day 2009!







POSTED BY: Ben Krumholz

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