Turn ’em off

I feel bad about this, because I think I should be more in the loop, but this really is the first I’ve heard about it. “Earth Hour” is tonight, between 8:30 and 9:30 PM. As a show of support for energy efficiency and easing our reliance on limited resources, people across the world are shutting down as many electrical appliances as possible for an hour tonight.

Except, it seems, in the US. Even a brief, token show of environmental awareness is a bit too much to ask in this country. Whether it’s considered impinging on the indulgences of prosperous Americans, or pandering to tree-huggers, or just not welcomed by our energy corporations, news of this event has barely appeared in any media in this country. In fact, there’s a fair chance that, if made aware of it, no small number of residents here would do exactly the opposite, turning on as many lights a possible, as if their show of defiance against ‘eco-hippies’ accomplishes anything more productive than shoring up their own weak egos. For those of you outside the US who might be reading this, yeah, we really are that juvenile in this country (okay, that’s probably not news.)

You might notice that the link above, and this one, shows lots of candles being lit, giving an unnecessary impression of what the event means. There’s no reason to even light a candle, much less a buttload of them, and while such things contribute far less to atmospheric carbon that powerplants do, they still contribute. Speaking as someone who enjoys the night and often goes out as far from lights as I can, going without light is actually pretty cool, and yes, your eyes not only adjust to the darkness, they get better with practice. Late one night, wandering in the woods searching for luminescent fungi, I stared hard at a very large patch of mushrooms trying to determine if they really were faintly glowing. But they weren’t luminescent in the slightest; the amount of reflected ambient skylight they were reflecting fooled me, since they contrasted so sharply with the dark forest floor. The photo below is a 221-second exposure under a full forest canopy, barely a patch of sky visible, and probably comes fairly close to what I was seeing.

I said “token” above, and this really is a token effort, not much of an impact at all on our energy usage when you consider how many lights and devices we have on constantly, so here’s the challenge: go for longer than an hour, more than just one night. See how well you know your way around your house (better than you might think, I suspect – our spacial awareness is pretty well developed.) Watch the backyard and see what actually moves out there when things get quiet – and that means take a listen too. Get familiar (again) with the night sky, and see how many satellites you can spot in an hour. Find a glowworm.

Did you buy a lottery ticket? Didn’t do a damn thing for you, did it? This does, and it’s a guaranteed return, even if only on your power bill. And you know what they say: “Once you go black, you never go back.”

Have fun!

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