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

22 Comments

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  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 kamigoroshi.net 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 tehCpeng.net 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. =)