Want to join me at the biggest party on the planet (and for the planet) this Saturday Night? All you have to do is turn off your lights.
At promptly 8:30 p.m. begins the sixth annual Earth Hour — one hour when millions of people around the globe turn off their lights as a symbolic commitment to take a stand against climate change, and toward living more sustainably.
Called “the world’s largest voluntary action for the environment,” Earth Hour began with just one city — Sydney, Australia — turning off its lights for an hour in 2007. (The video of the landmark Sydney Opera House, and in later years other world monuments, going dark still gives me chills every time.) By last year, individuals and organizations in more than 5,200 cities and towns, in 135 countries, took part in this global grass-roots action for the planet.
Co-founded by World Wildlife Fund (WWF) Australia, Earth Hour’s original goal six years ago was to raise awareness about global climate change — before Al Gore convinced most of us with his Inconvenient Truth, and before those ever hotter heat waves we can’t ignore any longer. Earth Hour, now supported by WWF International, calls for a hopeful (rather than fearful) approach to global warming by showing what can be done when individuals work together as a world community. The movement now has organizational supporters and participants ranging from the Vatican to Microsoft to the Girl Scouts.
Our local electric company, SDG&E, encourages particpation in Earth Hour, and also offers a host of events for "Earth Month" in April, says spokeswoman Allison Zaragoza. “We definitely support our employees and customers who pariticpate in Earth Hour," says Zaragoza, who also takes part in her own home. "It really promotes the important messages of sustainability, reducing our carbon footprint and paying attention to our energy usage." (And, of course, the Earth Hour folks urge us all to use common sense safety-wise, and switch off only non-essential lights, not those that might affect personal or public safety.)
This will be the third year my husband and I turn off our lights for Earth Hour, and we’re hoping more of our Carlsbad neighbors join us each year. (I will be posting a big sign at our common mailboxes.) Besides being important for the planet, we also find it fun and relaxing, pulling out the candles, turning off the computers and actually having a quiet, electricity-free evening (kind of like during last year’s major power outage, when our five-year-old asked if we could do this every week!).
La Costa resident Michele Blumberg, a global educator, has participated in Earth Hour since it expanded past Sydney, and also appreciates the experience as well as the message. She says, “I really like Earth Hour and have made it a time for a personal at-home retreat evening: silence, stars, night sounds and peace. I never want to turn the lights back on. We forget about the dark, don't we? Something about the dark and the quiet just calms everything down."
The hope of Earth Hour’s founders is, of course, that we all do more than just one hour of darkness — that we contemplate and get motivated to make more lasting changes toward a sustainable lifestyle. “How will you go beyond the hour?” Earth Hour began to ask last year, when it changed its logo from a “60” (symbolizing the 60 minutes of Earth Hour) to a “60+.”
Of course, as residents of Carlsbad, Earth Hour is in keeping with our city’s environmental commitments. In 2008, our fine city adopted Sustainability Guiding Principles, which include being a “model community” when it comes to sustainable living, and which hold that “the participation of Carlsbad residents is vital to our success.”
That means: join us for the planet party, fellow citizens of Carlsbad! Turn off those lights from 8:30 to 9:30 this Saturday night. Invite your neighbors over for lantern-lit drinks and conversation. Put up a sign at your own common space or workplace. Ask your favorite Saturday night date restaurant in town to use candles for the hour (so romantic!). Meditate or pray for Mother Earth. Encourage your kids to share about Earth Hour at school. Broadcast it on Facebook, Twitter, email (for those of us born prior to the 80’s).
Earth Hour 2012 gives us all the opportunity for one hour to be model citizens of the planet, in our model city of sustainability — and the opportunity to get inspired to make changes in our daily lives. While Earth Hour is a global event, it comes down to each of us individually to participate in a meaningful way, for the hour and beyond.
In my house, we have a list of things we want to do to live more sustainably. One of them is giving our daughter what she asked for last year: fun, relaxing, intentional, electricity-free nights like this Saturday much more often.
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