Earth Hour ’09

After the one-hour switch-off, the count­down, the cel­e­bra­tions, the can­dle­light par­ties, the dark­ened sky­lines of reknowned cities of the world, the pledg­ing, the vot­ing, inevitably, the Earth Hour craze and excite­ment with­ers away, and when we return to our daily lives one won­ders just how Earth Hour made a dif­fer­ence — if any.

I remem­ber fear­ing that my neigh­bours would think that we missed out on pay­ing our elec­tric­ity bills when I per­suaded my fam­ily to make that flick last year — which true enough, resulted in a lone dark house in the whole neigh­bour­hood. A year later, I find myself fear­ing my neigh­bours would think we’re a bunch of insen­si­tive jerks that doesn’t give a damn about global warm­ing if we don’t go dark by 8.30pm, 28th of March.

Although of course, it wasn’t the kiasuness that drove me to par­tic­i­pate in Earth Hour ’09.

It was my photographer’s instinct.

Okay not really, but I spent my Earth Hour at the Kuch­ing Water­front for the photo oppor­tu­nity, join­ing Siong Huo, Chee Min and his friend whose name I can’t remem­ber (sorry!). Nonethe­less, it was a dis­ap­point­ment see­ing as there wasn’t much dif­fer­ence to the Kuch­ing sky­line when the clock struck 8.30pm.

Kuchings feeble attempt at going dark on Earth Hour 2009. Spot the difference!

Kuching’s fee­ble attempt at going dark on Earth Hour 2009. Spot the difference!

Our Swin­burne cam­pus though, took us by sur­prise. There was talk on the cam­pus forums that the stu­dent coun­cil failed to get the Uni­ver­sity to par­tic­i­pate, but when we passed by the area on our way to the city, we saw Swin­burne Sarawak stand­ing in almost com­plete darkness.

Lights off at Swinburne Sarawak

Lights off at Swin­burne Sarawak

It was so dark you could walk into the open lab and grab an LCD mon­i­tor or two and stroll out through the main entrance right past guard post unno­ticed. Seriously.

My cam­era couldn’t focus on any­thing. The sec­ond shot above was exposed for a full 30 sec­onds with my dSLR sit­ting atop the car roof, mak­ing the build­ings on the left in the photo above appear rather bright when in real­ity they were actu­ally illu­mi­nated by the bright Sim­pang Tiga traf­fic inter­change right beside the campus.

Sup­port and pub­lic­ity in Malaysia for Earth Hour this year around was phe­nom­e­nal. From a little-known, let alone par­tic­i­pated event last year, Earth Hour ’09 was blown into a full-scale pub­lic­ity event com­plete with tele­vi­sion, radio and print ads, online social media groups and what­not. Because unlike last year, Malaysia was offi­cially a par­tic­i­pant of Earth Hour ’09.

There were even SMS rumors that SESCO will be cut­ting the power grid for Earth Hour (I know!). Earth Hour pleas appeared on my University’s online announc­ment board, top KL land­marks pledg­ing to go dark, heck even the 80 NS camps nation­wide flicked their lights off. In short, Earth Hour was every­where.

Sad light switch

Sad light switch by Declan­colo­han @ Flickr

But there was a neg­a­tive side to this increased pub­lic­ity and cov­er­age of Earth Hour this year — the crit­ics rose pro­por­tion­ally too, as with every other phe­nom­e­non humankind has ever expe­ri­enced. When it was cool to par­tic­i­pate in Earth Hour before, it is now appar­ently cooler to critic or boy­cott it.

Peo­ple started think­ing twice about the move­ment, cit­ing rea­sons such as an hour of dark­ness wouldn’t leave any impact on our energy foot­print, some say­ing Earth Hour is becom­ing a fad and that teenagers are par­tic­i­pat­ing just because of the cool fac­tor and just to have fun. Oth­ers label Earth Hour of being a huge and point­less mar­ket­ing gim­mick that promises noth­ing con­crete but a sim­ple flick of the switch.

Seri­ously, have a look around.

Peo­ple are miss­ing the point. For­get the sci­ence, physics, sta­tis­tics and num­bers. It’s not about the gigawatts of power we’ll save, nor how much tonnes of CO2 we’ll be releas­ing as a result of can­dle­light par­ties. It’s about the under­ly­ing mes­sage Earth Hour organ­is­ers are try­ing to get out to the World — that our planet Earth is in peril because of the can­cer of humans that are plagu­ing it, exploit­ing all of its resources with no end in sight. And as such, some­thing must be done.

The thou­sands, even mil­lions of peo­ple who par­tic­i­pated in — or were even aware of -  Earth Hour last night, regard­less of if they switched their lights off or not, be it indi­vid­u­als, munic­i­pal coun­cils, cities, towns, cor­po­ra­tions or orgraniza­tions, made that first step. Earth Hour has made its impact, it has served its pur­pose. It’s the par­tic­i­pa­tion, the hype, the sense of unity know­ing all mankind is in some­thing together that engraves this ini­tia­tive into the masses. It is now up us to con­tinue from there. I’ll save you explain­ing what should we do, because every­one ought to know by now.

At the end of the day, I implore you to pon­der upon this: What if the Earth Hour ini­tia­tive didn’t exist? 28th of March, 2009 would just come and go, like every other Sat­ur­day night as planet Earth spins around its axis for yet another day as it has been doing for the past 4.5 bil­lion years. While humankind buzz on their igno­rant and waste­ful ways enjoy­ing the week­end. No pledges made, no first steps taken.

Of course, it will be hard to gauge any pos­i­tive impact Earth Hour might have made in the long term — so we won’t know for sure. But as far as ini­tia­tives go, Earth Hour existed for gen­er­at­ing aware­ness and dri­ving the masses to tackle our ever-deteriorating planet Earth. You can’t deny it hasn’t started mak­ing waves of change — albeit small — across the globe in view of address­ing global warming.

If you’d ask me, Earth Hour is about hope.

by shenghan in Happenings, Life on 30th March, 2009 at 2am, Monday, March 30th, 2009 02:54 am GMT +8


jump to comment form | comments rss | trackback uri

  1. I com­pletely and whole­heart­edly agree with your stance on Earth Hour. When it gets to a point where a day is set aside to try and do some­thing about the use of energy in our world, one would sus­pect that some peo­ple out there might think: “Eureka! Maybe some­thing DOES need to be done!”

    In all hon­esty, that hour was one of the best hours of this past week. My girl­friend and I sat in the dark play­ing card games by can­dle­light. Devoid of the dis­trac­tions of our tech­no­log­i­cal “neces­si­ties” like a tele­vi­sion and a lap­top, we talked and laughed and enjoyed our own com­pany. In fact, it was so fun, we may do it once a week–it will cut down our elec­tric­ity bills if noth­ing else.

    I sim­ply don’t get the cyn­i­cism asso­ci­ated with some­thing as won­der­ful as Earth Hour. So what if teenagers par­tic­i­pate because it’s trendy? It’s a hell of a lot bet­ter than binge drink­ing to be pop­u­lar. And even if one day may not make a notice­able impact on the dam­age that has already been done to our world, at least it shows that peo­ple are not only will­ing to try, but it also is an indi­ca­tor as to the sheer amount of peo­ple who are aware that some­thing is amiss in this world.

    And on a slightly sim­i­lar note: I hate tak­ing pic­tures at night with my girl­friends dSLR. Espe­cially fireworks–the long expo­sures make for really inter­est­ing pic­tures, but I get a bit impa­tient wait­ing on the shutter :P

    • ember said

      Exactly, Christo­pher. Glad you see it that way too. Peo­ple just fail to realise that and start to pick on every­thing they can find about an ini­tia­tive that only meant good and noth­ing else. It’s some­thing I can’t wrap my mind around with as well.

      Any­way, glad you found your Earth Hour fun! It’s def­i­nitely great to detach our­selves from tech­nol­ogy once a while and spend some real qual­ity time with our loved ones.

      Ah your girl­friend is a pho­tog­ra­pher too! Well yeah, long expo­sure shots are pretty time con­sum­ing and do require some patience. And your absolutely right — if done right, they can turn out really good. Let that moti­vate you instead! =D

  2. Good post here!

  3. Well said.

  4. Mmh. Well I’m too tired at the moment to write a polemic, but I’ve been against this year’s Earth Hour for quite a bit now. I remem­ber think­ing back in 2007 that the first Earth Hour would be a cool thing to par­tic­i­pate in, mostly because the mes­sage then was clearer, purer, more beau­ti­ful and less tainted by pop­u­lar­ity and cool­ness. There really was a drive then to spread the a cohe­sive mes­sage: it wasn’t JUST about light­bulbs, it was about turn­ing off unnec­es­sary elec­tri­cal appli­ances. It was about pledg­ing to cut emis­sions, locally.

    This year, how­ever, the mes­sage was stunted. I felt sick watch­ing the whole affair — they could’ve sculpted ads say­ing ‘REMEMBER, IT’S NOT JUST ONE HOUR, IT’S A LIFESTYLE’, but nooo … it was all about turn­ing off your lights, all about celebrity endorse­ments, noth­ing MORE than that. It could’ve been, but it wasn’t.

    I posted an essay about it a cou­ple of hours before switch time, and … well, I don’t know. I just can’t bring myself to sup­port it. Not anymore.

    • ember said

      Well from what I under­stand, your point of view is that you are against Earth Hour because of how the organ­is­ers play out their pub­lic­ity cam­paign this year around. IMHO, it is the fun­da­men­tal mes­sage behind Earth Hour that is impor­tant and is what that hasn’t changed since it started in Syd­ney 2007.

      The organ­is­ers prob­a­bly did what they did this year so that Earth Hour could reach a wider audi­ence, hence the celebrity endorse­ments, etc. The word­ings of the ban­ners, scripts of their TVCs may be no more than ideas of adver­tis­ing agen­cies which are, as we all know, more commercially-oriented.

      I under­stand where you’re get­ting at and I, too, have to agree that this year’s Earth Hour’s pub­lic­ity pre­sen­ta­tion is a lit­tle off. But I can’t help but won­der why should we pick on a pub­lic­ity cam­paign. Espe­cially one that prob­a­bly is a low-budget attempt by an NGO that isn’t commercially-motivated but solely moti­vated for a bet­ter planet.

      Fur­ther­more, you might have known this already but the Earth Hour ’09 organ­is­ers actu­ally made use of the par­tic­i­pa­tion this year to con­vince world lead­ers when they meet at the United Nations Cli­mate Change Con­fer­ence at Copen­hagen. They say this all-important meet is one of the last chances humankind has to save planet Earth. If you’d ask me, Earth Hour ’09 def­i­nitely isn’t just about turn­ing off your lights and noth­ing else.

      • It’s more of the hypocrisy la, Sheng Han. I think I’ll quote Kamigoroshi on this:

        FoOie: (this was a reply on to one of the com­ments) At the end of the day, what I under­stand from what you’re say­ing is that we have to spend more money to make a very small impact, which is essen­tial the gist of your argu­ment see­ing how much peo­ple spend on things like Earth Hour for the sake of a hand­ful of peo­ple who may change their lifestyle because of it. That to me and to plenty of other peo­ple who take con­ser­va­tion seri­ously, is pretty waste­ful to begin with. We’re not blam­ing Earth Hour at all, we’re point­ing out the prob­lem that Earth Hour poses to the actual envi­ron­ment. The loss of the real mes­sage, the per­ver­sion of the spirit of it, all for the sake of some elit­ist idea that sav­ing the planet can be cool.”

        Also, Min­ishorts:

        “I sup­port edu­cat­ing our youth about this thing called global warm­ing. but you know, I get newslet­ters every month from the WWF because I once donated 30 USD at one of their coun­ters. EVERYMONTH with­out fail I get a two page, colour printed on ‘recy­cled’ paper plea, telling me about trees being cut down for paper, ani­mals los­ing their homes, telling me they need my money to save more trees, ask­ing me to pledge more. I’ve sworn I would donate else­where but not to the WWF. Because I don’t believe in peo­ple send­ing paper to me, lots and lots of it, and then telling me that I need to save paper in those very same coloured print outs.””

        Now I don’t have any of their expe­ri­ences, but I can iden­tify with the hypocrisy of the entire event. It felt bet­ter focused back in 2007, when even major cor­po­ra­tions pledged sup­port and promised to slash emis­sions (imag­ine that!). And while I’m skep­ti­cal about Global Warm­ing as a ral­ly­ing cry, I think that any effort to increase respon­si­ble con­sum­ing is a great thing. This, how­ever — all the con­certs and the din­ners and the spe­cial deals — isn’t.

        • ember said

          (Sorry for the late replies — been quite occu­pied with the mid-terms. Sigh)

          Hmm. Well so you guys are argu­ing based on the idea — or assump­tion — that Earth Hour wouldn’t make an impact despite the hefty spend­ing and waste­ful man­ner of cel­e­brat­ing and organ­is­ing it. Do you have the sta­tis­tics to back up that assump­tion? Note that I’m not say­ing that I have solid facts that Earth Hour did its job, I don’t, and I’m also sure you don’t have any that says Earth Hour “made a small impact”.. So why the lack of faith?

          You’re assum­ing here, now, that the gen­eral pop­u­la­tion (or those that both­ered) cel­e­brated Earth Hour and went back to their old ways with­out a twitch in their approach towards chang­ing their habits in tack­ling Global Warm­ing. Hence your assump­tion that Earth Hour made only a small impact.

          Can I assume the same for Earth Hour 2007 when “major cor­po­ra­tions pledged sup­port and promised to slash emis­sions” — which you seem to have so much faith in — how many cor­po­ra­tions are still keep­ing their pledges until now, 2 Earth Hours later? Can you be sure some of them haven’t revert to their old ways? The WWF cer­tainly wouldn’t have the man­power to con­duct audits on cor­po­ra­tions on whether they kept their pledges or not. So those cor­po­ra­tions might ease on their ‘going green’ pledges over time.

          We cer­tainly hope that isn’t the case but see how I effec­tively down­played Earth Hour 2007 by just show­ing my lack of faith in their pledges? That’s exactly how you guys down­played Earth Hour’s effec­tive­ness by show­ing the lack of faith in humankind to change their ways.

          When you realise Earth Hour could’ve made a larger impact that you had ini­tially thought, you’ll realise that the means and effort to organ­ise Earth Hour are worth it — in a way. Of course, I don’t very much agree the con­certs and stuff, but I fig­ured the WWF have lit­tle or no con­trol over how com­mer­cial enti­ties decide to cel­e­brate their Earth Hour. Even so, per­haps the WWF fig­ured it would be worth the extra hype and mea­sures to ensure Earth Hour a mem­o­rable event for the people.

          After all, it’s really hard to organ­ise a large scale event with­out suck­ing up a tonne of juice. (While we’re at con­certs — check out how Mel­bourne pow­ered theirs with bikes. Per­haps one of many exam­ples of how large-scale events can be energy-saving.) Other than that, the WWF’s inten­tions are, with­out a doubt, good.

  5. Latrina said

    Clearly I don’t watch enough tele­vi­sion because I don’t remem­ber see­ing many ads for Earth Hour or peo­ple talk­ing against it.

    I have sup­ported it since the first time I heard about it. It’s not so just about sav­ing energy to me.. but more of a way to show us that we rely on so many unnec­es­sary things to be happy. Com­put­ers, tele­vi­sion, phones, video games, etc. In that hour, my boyfriend and I spent time talk­ing and play­ing cards in the can­dle light.. and it was just so beautiful.

    Hell, I say peo­ple every where should make this a daily thing. Shut off the lights, get away from tech­nol­ogy and just spend time together.

    • ember said

      I’m not sure how aggres­sive the cam­paign is over there at where you are, Lat­rina, but I was actu­ally refer­ring to Malaysia’s Earth Hour cam­paign. Also, they weren’t talk­ing against it over the TV (as far as I know) but rather among blogs, forums and news commentaries.

      Aww. That’s actu­ally very sweet of you and your boyfriend on how both of you spend your Earth Hour! You’re absolutely right — per­haps Earth Hour could also be seen as a chance to pull your­self away from the lure of tech­nol­ogy once in awhile and spend qual­ity time with your loved ones.

      My best wishes to you and your boyfriend, Lat­rina! =D

      • Latrina said

        Ah, I for­got we’re on oppo­site sides of the world. :P It’s dis­ap­point­ing that peo­ple would actu­ally be against some­thing so great as this. But that’s soci­ety for you. :|

        Have you seen any pho­tos or blogs about Post Earth Hour? I would love to see a photo of earth or areas who sup­ported it to con­trast the differences.

        • @Latrina: Here’s a pretty good cover of the whole event, though from a pro­fes­sional (news) photographer’s point of view.

        • ember said

          That’s okay. The inter­net does make the world smaller after all. :P

          As Eli James pointed out (thanks, man!), Boston’s The Big Picture’s com­pi­la­tion of Earth Hour ’09 pho­tos around the world is eas­ily the best one out there. =D

  6. ember said

    @WayeYoung and Blur­ryLeo, Why thank you! :D

  7. William said

    I heard a men­tion of “Earth Hour” in a pass­ing news story on the radio.

    For one brief moment I imag­ined what it might look like from the Inter­na­tional Space Sta­tion… sort of like watch­ing a “wave” of dark­ness wash­ing across the planet, only to be replaced by the nat­ural flick­er­ing of candlelight.

    That was the only time I’d heard of it until I popped by here to catch up on and project 365.

    Earth Hour ’09??? “Oh yeah,”… but by then it was too late.


    Just for fun… here in the United States it is April Fools Day.

    Got any good prac­ti­cal joke sto­ries for your next post?

    • ember said

      Whoah. Your imag­i­na­tion of how Earth Hour would’ve looked like from the ISS is awe­some. =P But I guess there won’t be an obvi­ous ‘wave of dark­ness’ effect since Earth Hour only took place in major cities and its land­marks, not every­one switched off their lights. It would be cool to be able to see a footage of that hap­pen­ing though.

      I’m sur­prised you haven’t heard of Earth Hour this year. It’s okay if you missed flick­ing off your lights — its the mes­sage behind the act that is impor­tant. Although you can always take part next year! =D

      April fools this year for me was rather unevent­ful. Sigh. =(

  8. Fahriee said

    Dude, it’s not CSS Naked Day already, is it? O.o Or is it just a prob­lem on my end?

    I used to think that Earth Hour was all about sav­ing energy and all that, but then I real­ized what it was really about. I still sup­ported Earth Hour any­way, to a cer­tain extent. Not because I thought that it was “cool” or because I really believed in sav­ing energy by switch­ing off the lights for one hour, but because I believed that Earth Hour was meant to knock some sense into us ego­tis­ti­cal humans.

    Any­way, I’m just drop­ping by to let you know about an event com­ing up in April and blog­gers are invited. If you’re inter­ested, do check it out..and help me spread the word around if it’s not too much? Tick­ets are lim­ited though, so act fast! See ya around! :)

    • ember said

      Judg­ing from the time­stamp you posted your com­ment — no, it wasn’t CSS Naked Day yet at your time of writ­ing. I’ve been expe­ri­enc­ing partially-loaded pages lately thanks to Streamyx’s inef­fi­ciency too. But just FYI, CSS Naked Day came and went on 9th of April, 2009. =P

      Ha, I like the phrase ‘knock­ing some sense into us ego­tis­ti­cal humans’. I agree! That is also what I believe Earth Hour is set out to achieve.

      About your Breeze Mag Launch­ing event — it cer­tainly sounds great. Too bad the list was already full. Any­way, I wasn’t sure if I could make it because I had some­thing on that same day. =( Thanks a bunch for the invi­ta­tion though!

  9. Kuch­ing not cel­e­brat­ing earth hour I guess… and despite Hilton say­ing they are into Eath Hour, but seems the did lit­tle to ask their occu­pants to switch off dur­ing earth hour.

    Any­way, i love the photo of the swicth!

    • ember said

      Exactly. The par­tic­i­pa­tion of our city munic­i­pal coun­cil would’ve made a dif­fer­ence, but they didn’t. Well I guess Hilton couldn’t do much to per­suade their ten­ants to switch off their lights. They can’t pos­si­bly force them to do so right? It’s a pity not many occu­pants decide to turn their lights off though.

  10. teddY said

    Being an orga­nizer of my university’s Earth Hour and other envi­ron­men­tal ini­tia­tives, I’ve read a lot of cyn­i­cism from the cam­pus pop­u­la­tion itself. Many think that as we orga­nize events such as Earth Hour, we’re mak­ing it a half-ass (quote: Homer Simp­son) work for not going the whole way to make peo­ple change. But many fail to real­ize that it’s not about energy reduc­tion being the main high­light of Earth Hour — it’s the mes­sage that we embody that is the cru­cial part. Many peo­ple still fail to prac­tise good habits of energy con­ser­va­tion — and through Earth Hour, we are encour­ag­ing peo­ple to think more about it. As peo­ple pon­der about it, they will even­tu­ally be con­vinced to change their habits. And remem­ber, a small change goes a long way.

    I do think that it’s a lit­tle unnec­es­sary to have celebrity endorse­ment for such envi­ron­men­tal ini­tia­tives, but if the celebri­ties are endors­ing because of what they belief the mes­sage will help Earth and not because of how much they’re paid to say so, I have no qualms about that.

    • ember said

      I would’ve fig­ured you’d take part in organ­is­ing Earth Hour on your cam­pus, Teddy! And that’s exactly my point. What mat­ters is that when peo­ple switch their lights back on, blow off their can­dles and return to their life, they’ll start to think twice on the real rea­son they cel­e­brated the pre­vi­ous hour in dark­ness. I absolutely agree — a small change goes a long way. Spot on!

      I’m not that picky of how WWF played out their adver­tis­ing cam­paign, be it with celebrity endorse­ments or not. Actu­ally I fig­ured the celebri­ties did the ads vol­un­tar­ily. After all, WWF is a charity. =)