Smoko – Why I Don’t Turn Off Lights For Earth Hour

I meant to write this about a week ago.  It’s a bit late now, but hey ho, something for you to think about for next year.

There are some reasons why I don’t participate in the Earth Hour ‘movement’.

To get the obvious ones out of the way:

1.       Our home is powered by a stand-alone solar system, and fossil fuels don’t power our lights. At least not so directly as from a power station (they do have to make solar panels and batteries from something though, and it aint woven palm leaves).

2.       We live in a secluded valley.  No-one but ourselves can see the lights from our house.  So as far as making gestures goes, to perhaps influence some masses into sudden revolution by turning off our porch light, for example, it would be a pretty ineffectual one.

And then anyway,

3.       As far as making gestures goes, Earth Hour is a pretty ineffectual one full stop, in my opinion.  In fact it’s worse than ineffectual, it’s counterproductive. One would think that a world-wide movement against climate change would actually do something to address climate change, rather than add to the problem.

You see, when everyone on a mains electricity grid suddenly switches off the power, the grids don’t immediately, magically, stop burning fossil fuels.  The turbines don’t cease to turn for an hour while people light up their room full of Chinese-produced, imported candles.  I fact the opposite occurs.

Until the moment of Earth Hour, people are drawing power normally (and let’s face it, many will continue to do so throughout the entire 60 minutes and beyond), and power stations are burning and turning to meet that demand.  When, at 8.30 (was it?), everyone turns out their lights (and perhaps their other appliances? Or is it just lights?), the power stations experience a sudden drop in demand, which causes a lot of the power they are producing to be suddenly not needed and therefore dumped off / released off as heat, gases, through power surges, etc, and all the things we don’t really want happening.

Then, because it takes a fair bit of time to get enormous power generating turbines turning, the power stations not only don’t stop them for the hour, but also have to anticipate that, in 60 minutes, half of Australia is going to turn it’s lights, aircons, tvs, dishwashers, coffee machines, phone chargers, laptops, etc back on again.  This causes a sudden, enormous, power demand on the system, akin to ‘peak hour’ (dinner time, when every family gets home from work/school and switches on every appliance in the house simultaneously).  Power stations, as with peak hour, have to gear up the system to meet that demand when it occurs, meaning they have to burn more fuel and ‘rev up the engines’.  In short, power stations burn, and waste, more fossil fuels during and immediately around Earth Hour than would otherwise happen on your normal, average climate-change-causing evening.

earth-hour-sydney-before
Sydney, a few minutes before Earth Hour
Sydney, about half way through Earth Hour
Sydney, about half way through Earth Hour
Aaaand...Sydney 1 minute after Earth Hour
Aaaand…Sydney 1 minute after Earth Hour

A more worthwhile gesture, if you like, would be to invest in renewable sources of energy for your power needs.  Another would be permanently cutting your power consumption.  Yet another good gesture would be throwing away your multitude of electronic goods, keeping only those you actually really need, if you must, and turning off your stuff when you’re not using it (if you really must use it – btw, anyone selling a working old typewriter by any chance?).

Or are those not gestures, but actions?  Yes, I think that’s it!  Actions are where it is at. Gestures only gesture, but actions speak louder than words. Vote with your lifestyle, not your finger (the light-switching one, not the middle, though both of these will cause about as much positive change in the world as the other).

So I for one never have and never will, as it stands now, turn off my lights because it is Earth Hour.  Lights aren’t the problem people.

That said, it’s well past 8.30 here, and it’s time to turn off the light, turn off the sole remaining appliances (excepting fridge) that are on (this computer and that modem) and go to bed. Not because it will influence climate change, but because I am very tired.

Support action on climate change, and ACT yourself, but don’t think that turning your lights off for an hour in any way constitutes this.

One love J

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