The WWF-organised Earth Hour takes place this Saturday evening. Its mission? To stop the degradation of the Earth’s natural environment and build a future where people live in harmony with nature. Collectively and symbolically, switching off our lights and reducing our energy consumption for one hour is a show of support for the only Earth we have, as well as a clear message to our leaders that climate action is of immense importance to a great many people. Famous landmarks, such as Sydney’s Opera House and Pakistan’s National Mausoleum, usually beautifully and respectfully illuminated, suddenly appear diluted.
So what if it may seem all for show, a token feel-good gesture. Isn’t everything these days? Last year’s event was the biggest yet, with a record 128 regions reaching 1.3 billion people joining the display of unity – the largest voluntary action witnessed, a vote for Earth.
Cast your minds back to the excitement of childhood power cuts. Better still, cast them forward to the unfortunate souls in Japan experiencing the unimaginable following the earthquake and tsunami which caused so much disruption and devastation. An hour to think of them and what they’ve lost. To think about our own wasteful consumption and whether it is worth risking the nuclear catastrophe that now terrifies Fukushima most of all, its reactors swamped with sea water acting as an emergency coolant. To be humbled by the extraordinary bravery of those dedicated workers trying to avert a most disastrous meltdown at nuclear sites crippled by earthquake, exposed to harmful levels of radiation, the effects of which horrify us all.
There are phrases we use all too casually and carelessly. ‘World turned upside down’ is one of them. Yet look at the startling images from Japan; a stark reminder of our fragility. We are all at the mercy of nature whether we care to accept this brutal fact or not. Our world can be turned upside down in minutes. We could lose all that we have spent a lifetime working to achieve and attain; everything and everyone we cherish and hold dear. Loved ones. Pets. Photographs. Children’s creations. Material possessions that can be replaced but only at a cost.
Please reduce your energy consumption on Saturday between 8.30pm and 9.30pm. How difficult, how awfully inconvenient, is it really to flick a few switches, to lose the TV, the video game, the dishwasher or whatever wonderful appliance usually uses power of an evening? It’s not a gimmick, it’s a challenge. It may someday be a rehearsal should you find your world turned upside down. Can we not manage a mere hour without a few relative luxuries? How blissful those little things we take for granted must seem to those now clinging to all that they have left in the schools and galleries acting as makeshift accommodation for the countless displaced Japanese. For those still re-building Christchurch, Veracruz and the Mentawai Islands off the coast of Sumatra following their own natural disasters in recent months. For those living in slum towns in Jakarta or Nairobi, or as refugees in Gaza, for no reason other than that they’ve been denied an alternative way of living because the planet couldn’t cope if its every part enjoyed our prosperity and indulgence, so some of us ensure that our fellow human beings have less so that we may have more.
So, yes, we can bear an Earth Hour once a year.
To borrow another passage from the WWF: It’s not hard. It’s not rocket science. It just means that in living, we must stop polluting. And poisoning. And being so outrageously wasteful. If we did that, wouldn’t we all be considerably better off?
Think of this. Afghanistan’s second and impoverished war-torn city, Kandahar, has also contributed aid to Japan. “I know $50,000 is not a lot of money for a country like Japan,” said Mayor Ghulam Haidar Hamidi, “but it is a show of appreciation from the Kandahar people.” People who live on less than two dollars a day. (Japan pledged more than one-third of the total foreign aid meant for Afghanistan over the next five years, by the way.) I feel that’s a good starting point for an hour of contemplative reflection on a quiet Saturday night.
If you’re not now thoroughly depressed and devoid of all hope, feel free to lighten (get it?) the mood with some characteristic blog jollity to hopefully return you to a more pleasant state of mind.
If you afford yourself the luxury of music during Earth Hour, for one dimly-lit and possibly chilly hour, what will you listen to – both for fun and in all seriousness? Here are ten, their titles appropriate for such an occasion, listed in humour:
– AC/DC, ‘Back in Black’
– Syd Barrett, ‘Dark Globe’
– Leonard Cohen, ‘Who By Fire’
– Deep Purple, ‘Black Night’
– Neil Diamond, ‘Home Before Dark’
– The Five Satins, ‘In the Still of the Night’
– Manfred Mann’s Earth Band, ‘Blinded By the Light’
– Peter, Paul and Mary, ‘Light One Candle’
– R.E.M., ‘Nightswimming’
– UFO, ‘Lights Out’
If you’d rather be bleak, though, by all means be so.
The chatroom will be open tomorrow from 3pm (UK). All states of mind welcome.