The Internet responds to 'Earth Hour'

April 7, 2008

by Mark Ollig

In a well-organized grass roots campaign, Earth Hour was observed a couple Saturday evenings ago.

I first noted this observance as I arrived on Google and found their home page had gone “dark.”

“It’s not Halloween, so what’s going on?” I thought to myself.

Google had splashed the following message, “…we turned the lights out on the Google.com homepage as a gesture to raise awareness of a worldwide energy conservation effort called Earth Hour.”

This is still a new event, as the first Earth Hour was just held last year in Sydney, Australia.

On March 31, 2007, approximately 2.2 million people, along with 2,100 Sydney businesses turned off their lights for one hour.

They started Earth Hour by turning off a light switch and enjoying an hour of quiet darkness.

What started in Australia has now turned into a global event.

You still might be wondering exactly what Earth Hour is.

Earth Hour is a global climate change initiative, which calls on individuals and businesses around the world to turn off their lights for one hour.

The aim of the campaign is to communicate that individual action on a large scale can help change our planet for the better.

The event is trying to show the connection between energy usage and climate change.

The main thrust for this action is in response to the threat of global warming, which according to Earth Hour’s web site “is one of the greatest threats the world has ever faced.”

Saturdy, March 29, 2008, Earth Hour invited people from all over the world to turn off their lights for one hour – from 8:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m.

Over 294,732 individuals and 20,573 businesses signed up and took part in this year’s event.

Individuals from around the world turned off the lights in their homes and businesses.

Noteworthy participation took place in more than 25 major cities on six continents, including Chicago, San Francisco, Atlanta, Phoenix, Vancouver and Toronto.

In total, more than 400 cities signed up to support this year’s Earth Hour.

The lights went off for an hour at The Sydney Opera House in Australia and in Toronto Canada’s famous CN Tower.

In California, even San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge went dark for the hour.

Being part of this event did not mean you needed to turn off every electrical device in your home.

No, you didn’t need to turn off important appliances like your refrigerator, but folks were encouraged to join the Earth Hour movement by switching off some lights to make a statement.

The main point of the campaign was to show people how easy it is to take action to reduce causes of global warming.

It is hoped this will change our electrical usage habits in the future as well.

I did some reading and found most of the large coal-fired power plants operate 24 hours a day seven days a week. I wondered how the efforts of those participating in Earth Hour would affect this.

Earth Hour says when the demand changes, (lights and other electrical devices are being turned on and off) the power generating plants need to regulate their output accordingly. So in the case of coal-fired plants, they will need to make adjustments by either increasing or reducing their coal usage.

It was hoped the outcome of Earth Hour would be a noticeable reduction for the demand of electricity.

Based on the specific time and day the event was planned, it is very likely Earth Hour caused a noticeable reduction in fossil energy power generation.

In fact, it was reported the hour observance may have reduced carbon dioxide emissions by 23.9 billion tons.

I know what you’re thinking to yourselves. Did your humble “climate-aware” columnist and forum bit_blogger take part in this event?

Of course he did.

At 8:15 pm, I walked into the kitchen and flipped off the light switch – the kitchen turned dark.

I now had the satisfaction of having taken an active part in observing Earth Hour.

By registering your name or business at the Earth Hour movement web site, you will receive useful tools and tips which will inform and hopefully get you motivated to become involved.

Granted, the actual effects of Earth Hour may have been minimal, but it is nevertheless a positive initiative.

Bits & Bytes is now officially registered with Earth Hour and will take part in the 2009 observance.

For more information about Earth Hour, or to sign up and take an active part in next year’s event, visit their web site at http://www.earthhour.org.