Earth Hour participation has grown by leaps and bounds since its inception in 2007. Advocates claim it saves energy and raises awareness of the issue. Naysayers dismiss it as worthless and paranoiacs dismiss it as a conspiracy. Is the truth out there?
Cities across Canada and provincial and municipal power utilities reported significant impacts in terms of energy consumption reductions in the wake of Saturday's Earth Hour (8:30-9:30 p. m.).
Terry Young, of the Independent Electricity System Operator in Ontario, said it had "a major impact in terms of electricity demand.... Any time we can notice something like that on a provincial scale then it does have some sort of an impact." The reduction in energy consumption is the real, economic and environmental impact of the event. The hard returns or savings.
There are also soft returns. Simi Heer of B.C. Hydro focused on the psychological impact of the event, it "is fun and interesting. It gets people talking about conservation." Getting people 'talking about conservation' cannot immediately and directly be measured in terms of dollars and sense. It can, however, have long term benefits in increased awareness.
Care2.com points out three significant benefits that follow from Earth Hour, although only one can be considered real, direct and bottom line.
1. Just because an act is symbolic doesn't mean it's pointless.
On the occasion of Earth Hour, 2008 Timenoted, "Because climate change is essentially a political problem, and the language of politics is symbolism." Republicans and Democrats are not elephants and donkeys any more than Canadians are beavers and maple leafs but symbols are important to people and politics.
2. Tons of carbon dioxide emissions will be eliminated.
That tonnes and tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions were not produced during Earth Hour is measurable, undeniable and significant.
3. Learn to appreciate (and conserve) what you have.
Earth Hour is a reminder of how much we rely on energy and how little attention we pay to energy consumption and greenhouse gas production. "This small sixty-minute observance is a chance to change your thinking about the energy that's available to you, and make a conscious effort not to squander it," according to Care2.com.