The banners around Hyde Park in Sydney are back, a few scattered posters in a few foyers have been re-hung, and a few people are talking about it. Yes, Earth Hour is back at a time when the need for decisive action on climate change has never been so important.
So what is the purpose of Earth Hour? Is it a beginning of a movement? Is it just a statement of intent? If so, as a statement it's fantastic, and shouldn't be negated. The sense of unity while basking under candlelight (low carbon emitting of course) is one that sparks a warm tingly feeling that only community can bring.
That unity shows how serious we are in our commitment to the environmental movement. People who don't participate are obvious; bright beacons of wastefulness in a sea of sustainability.
Yet, is this it? An hour long struggle of unity to show our collective environmental conscience? Or, is it for most just a cursory glance to the problems of climate change for those that don't want to make real changes?
The Earth Hour web-site is quite enlightening. Apart from the majority of serious subject matter and references to other serious organisations, there was one link that caught my eye and seemed to fit the bill of propelling an image of conscience rather than encouraging effective action. The link read:
‘Try our amazing Augmented Reality! Use your web cam, follow some simple instructions and you can see the Earth appear in your hand. Then create your own snapshot with a click, and forward it to your friends to show that you care - and they should too!'
The marketing of the web-site is also quite interesting. The Earth Hour organizers are marketing this year's lights out as a global election. A vote for, or against global warming by the flick of a switch. The political process has never been easier! If only federal governments could be thrown out of power by turning off a light. Tyrants would cease to exist!
This vote is again an admirable idea, a united message to governments and businesses of our continued commitment to fight climate change. Yet, a cynic could argue that the organiser's target of one billion ‘yes' votes out of a worldwide population of 6.7 billion hardly seems like a landslide. Most liberal-democracies would call polling 14% a crushing failure.
In all seriousness though, the target of one billion earth-hour participants shows a vital truth about the world. The majority of the world doesn't have lights to turn off, or the internet to read information about Earth Hour (or homepagedaily for that matter). We, with the lights, cars, telephones and internet need to seriously look at how we use the earth's resources and try and use less...for longer than an hour.