March 25, 2011

What are you doing for Earth Hour?

Saturday night, people around the world will be participating in Earth Hour (8:30 pm local time) and taking a stand against climate change. We participants — over 1 billion last year in 128 countries — recognize that energy conservation and sustainable, clean energy solutions are crucial in making sure we have clean air and clean water now and long into the future. But WWF encourages us to go beyond energy and make everyday positive changes in our lives that, in myriad ways, help the planet just as much as they help us.

The Earth has limits just as our bodies do, and those of us paying close enough attention have noticed over the last few decades the changes that have made our natural systems unhealthy, and us along with it. We don’t have to look far to see it. That also means we don’t have to look far to see solutions. You, your neighbours, and your friends can all have a positive contribution that together adds up big time. Look at what powering off for just an hour can do:

In 2010, energy consumption for that hour dropped 1.4 percent province wide, with Burns Lake, BC, reducing its consumption by a whopping 7 percent. According to BC Hydro’s Team Power Smart, “If British Columbians implemented the same conservation measures (as they did in 2010) for just one hour every evening, the combined savings would be enough to power close to 2,200 homes for an entire year.” — Granville

The more we already consume of something — paper coffee cups, plastic water bottles, electricity — the bigger the positive impact when we decide to change our habits together. If this is new to you, start with something easy like turning out your lights and shutting down your computer for an hour on Saturday. Then look at what else you can do, like choosing local produce and goods, refusing to buy things with excess packaging, joining a community garden, and biking or taking transit to work. It’s not all easy or convenient but you’ll find that once you make it a habit and lifestyle, it’ll become second nature (no pun intended).

Earth Hour is also, in my mind, a great excuse to unplug for awhile. I’ve spent a considerable amount of time in nature and socialising with friends this week, and haven’t missed the computer. I think I’ll take the opportunity to see if I can rescue the hat I started knitting (I know, it’s almost April!), or make sure I want to keep reading Trauma Farm ahead of my upcoming flight (cringe). Perhaps it would be a good occasion to flip through my energy issue of GOOD Magazine, although I was going to save that for the plane ride. In any case, I’ll be enjoying my beeswax candles. What about you? If you’re stumped, check out these ideas.

On a slight tangent, I think that a move to sustainable energy sources that are not based on fossil fuels and, especially, are implemented locally, allows cities to be more self-reliant; lets prices be more consistent and respond to local rather than global fluctuations; and creates safe, local jobs in highly skilled sectors. Coping with extreme weather due to climate change will be easier if we’re relying on robust regional systems, whether it’s wind farms or blueberry farms, instead of importing much of our energy (e.g. oil) and food across provincial borders or oceans. Inter-regional systems can help us deal with impacts of extreme weather here at home.

Psst — send a letter! Stop Stephen Harper from giving money to oil companies.