EARTH HOUR: DETRIMENTAL ‘FEEL GOOD ENVIRONMENTALISM’?
By: Bliss Ndapasowa
An hour long event established less than 10 years ago has proved to be the key driver in crowdsourcing support and mobilising masses towards environmental sustainability worldwide.
Engaging over 7000 cities and towns across the globe, the World Wide Fund for Nature’s Earth Hour campaign has become the single largest grass-roots environmental movement towards action on climate change.
It is a lights off event held annually towards the end of March encouraging individuals, communities, households and businesses to turn off their non-essential lights for an hour as a way of showing their commitment towards conserving the earth.
The stimulus of the initiative is to however go beyond simply switching lights off for an hour once a year only.
WWF South Africa’s CEO, Dr Morne du Plessis, stated that their vision this year is to turn the awareness of one hour into actions beyond everyday consumer choices and how individuals spend their money as this has a high influence in promoting products, services and organisations that strive to live up to an environmental planet.
“Let’s make choices that support our planet,” he said.
In 2012, during the earth hour South Africa is said to have reduced its energy power by 402 megawatts; electricity sufficient to power the whole of Bloemfontein thus illustrating the viability of the initiative.
Conversely, the Earth Hour has been criticised as ‘feel good environmentalism’ that has become focused on self-righteous actions that do not have a real impact. These accusations are based on the campaign accomplishing less in reducing carbon emissions which contribute to climate change.
In a piece titled ‘Earth Hour won’t change the world’ in the USA TODAY forum, Bjorn Lomborg states that using one candle for each extinguished bulb actually increases carbon emission. He explains that candles are almost 100 times less efficient than incandescent light bulbs and more than 300 times less efficient than fluorescents.
Lomborg further explained his concept by underlining the effects of the ‘green’ alternative energy currently being pushed to be used around the world as a way of cutting carbon emission. He mentions that many countries are investing in solar panels and wind turbines but technology is stil insufficient hence environmental impact is negligible.
In response, The Christian Science Monitor in the 2013 article, ‘Earth Hour’: Does it really save energy?, revealed that the campaign organisers are encouraging use of 100 percent beeswax or soy candles as they do not contain petroleum hence rendering them carbon neutral.
In as much as critics have managed to make a case against the campaign, they tend to miss the bigger picture whereby the initiative is intended to raise awareness about climate change which proves to have been successfully achieved.
The campaign’s ability to lure massive mainstream community support has earned it recognition from various prestigious entities namely FIFA, UEFA, UNESCO, among others.
Apart from the Earth Hour, the WWF also runs several sustainability campaigns such as the Global Earth Hour City Challenge where South Africa’s mother city Cape Town has been selected as a finalist competing against 32 other cities from 14 participating countries.