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.
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.
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.
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.