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Earth Hour: Are you participating?

Earth Hour started four hours ago in its founding city, Sydney, Australia, and has since been making it’s way around the world. Since then cities small and large have been demonstrating their concern for climate change by silently, yet powerfully, turning off their lights for an hour at the stroke of 8:30pm-local time.

Here in Toronto, we still have a solid eleven hours ahead of us. And for you – are you going to participate?

I’ve heard, in the past, a lot of cynicism and critique around Earth Hour. “Why participate? What’s an hour going to do?”

My comment to this is two-fold.

The first is that Earth Hour is not about the actual energy saved around the world. It’s about awareness, choice and social change. It’s about taking a stand through something as simple as turning off your lights for an hour, and bringing to the surface how that simple act is already a contribution. We waste so much energy in the developed world – amongst so many other things (water’s another good candidate). And if only for that one hour, we think about how much we consume and actually need, that’s a good thing.

The second is around actual impact. Environmental impact, energy savings, and for the individual, money back in the pocket. The small act of turning off your lights for the one hour may be miniscule in the grand scheme of things, but it’s not just about you – it’s about the collective. In 2009, cities all over the world noted decreases in energy consumption in their locales. For Toronto, we saw a 15% decrease in electricity usage. Around Southern Ontario, the energy savings amounted to 88.3 megawatts (the equivalent electricity to power 1,471 average-size homes for 24-hours). In a country like the Philippines, the savings came to 611 megawatts of electricity, which for that small country was estimated to be the equivalent of shutting down twelve coal-fired power plants for an hour. Who said there’s no impact?

When we act as a part of something bigger, the result can be enormous and even miraculous. Big change comes from the small actions of people who believe in something more. And there’s empowerment in that. The best part is that we get to choose.

I don’t know about you, but at 8:30-ET tonight, I’m turning my lights off.

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