What is Earth Hour and does it really make a difference?


By Su Fen Tan

What is Earth Hour and does it really make a difference?

In 2007, World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) Australia proposed their idea for engaging Australians on the issue of climate change, leading to Sydney’s first “lights out” event on 31 March. The following year, the movement went global—and has been observed annually ever since. For one hour every March (usually the last Saturday of the month), people, businesses and landmarks across the world switch off non-essential lights in support of Earth Hour; reinforcing their commitment towards the environment while calling for more action on climate change. It is probably the only time of the year you’ll see major city landmarks such as the Eiffel Tower and the Petronas Twin Towers go dark.


At its core, Earth Hour serves as a symbolic call for global commitments and efforts to tackle climate change. It does not claim to be an energy or carbon reducing exercise, thus it doesn’t measure the reduction in electricity use during the event. So how does it make a difference really? Critics have pointed out that the reduction in power consumption during Earth Hour itself (it is only one hour out of the entire year after all) is so low that it is quite insignificant, while others have denounced Earth Hour’s focus on individual behaviour when fossil fuel companies are the ones responsible the vast majority of man-made carbon emissions, writing it off as an ineffective “feel-good” event.


But hey, change has got to start somewhere, right? And if it takes a feel-good event that trends on social media to do so, we don’t see the harm in it. Besides, we believe that there really can be strength in numbers. Whether you’re participating in Earth Hour or not, you’re probably aware of it, and that is where change takes its first steps—through awareness. A counter-argument against Earth Hour’s focus on individual behaviour will be its ability to spread awareness to the mass on the need for action on climate change, and this can, albeit indirectly or in baby steps, reach people of influence to set in motion policies for change. Think of it as a fulcrum that will lead to impactful action.


So yes, the act of turning off our lights for Earth Hour alone might not make much of an impact in itself, but it is up to us take it further, to take it beyond that hour and into our daily practices—then we might just see a difference.


For more information on Earth Hour, visit the website.

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