Monday, March 30, 2009

Earth Hour 2009

This post is cross-posted at Peregrin House, the homeschooling blog...

Saturday night we participated in Earth Hour. We turned off the lights from 8:30-9:30pm and sat around the kitchen table telling stories with grandma & grandpa, who live upstairs. Mango set a recorder on the table, and now we have some fabulous recordings of grandma and grandpa telling stories. Mane was enchanted by the candles and by the quiet, warm atmosphere. It really was beautiful and made us want to have Earth Hour every night.

However, on Sunday morning we spent some time researching the carbon emissions of candles or oil lanterns versus electric light bulbs, and we found that even a single candle may give off more carbon than a 60 watt light bulb. Mango says we need to stick with using candles only occasionally for ambiance. They're not a better environmental alternative. What *is* a better alternative is turning off lights whenever we don't need them, unplugging cell phone chargers when they're not in use, turning off the computer when we're not using it, turning off the receiver amp when we aren't listening to music, and using the city bus and our bicycles more.

Mane spent some time on the Earth Hour Kids website, and then we watched a NOVA movie on global warming and more energy efficient choices. We heard all about electric cars, solar panels, wind farms, and reforestation. The options are all so expensive right now, and, with kids, we have to focus on the things that are within our reach. So, we're helping Mane remember things like turning off lights and reminding her that if we all work together, we can make a difference, which was a key message of Earth Hour.

We also spent some time reading about how a group called Engineers Without Borders is working on helping to replace oil lanterns in developing countries with solar powered LED lanterns. It's a good example of how technology can be used to reverse some of the negative effects that earlier technology created...and how environmental concerns interplay with world economics and poverty. Because people in developing countries are less likely to have electricity, they're more likely to use kerosene lanterns, and this contributes to health problems from soot and carbon monoxide, as well as the more global problem of greenhouse gases and global warming. The article we read even pointed out how reading is difficult with less light, making it harder for children to get an education, and, if they do read by the light of the kerosene lantern, they're more likely to get sick from the lantern emissions. It's strange how something as simple as lighting can have such a huge effect.

What struck me most about Earth Hour, though, was the number of places where lights seem to serve very little purpose, yet it was such a huge deal to turn them off Saturday night. Of special note was the Coca Cola billboard in New York. Do we really need to light up billboards at night? Isn't it enough to see them in the daylight? Also, several bridges, including the Golden Gate Bridge, turned off their "decorative" lights, leaving only the necessary lights to help people drive safely. What are we doing leaving all those lights on all the time anyway? The lights were turned off on the pyramids in Egypt, the Colosseum in Rome, and the Eiffel Tower. I can understand lights for security reasons, but the sheer volume of lights is questionable. It left me wondering how much we could "save" in terms of CO2 emissions if we all gave some hard and careful thoughts to which lights are really necessary.

We seem to honor things by lighting them all day and all night (the pyramids, for example, and the statue of the Virgin Mary in Rio de Janeiro), which raises a myriad of other questions for me. Why? Why do we do that? Do we think the pyramids know they're being honored with lights all night long? Why is it so disrespectful for them to sit in darkness? Perhaps they want to rest at night, too. I don't have such a hard time thinking about turning the lights off on the pyramids, but I cringe to think about turning them off on the Vietnam Memorial Wall in Washington D.C. (I have no idea if the lights were turned off on monuments in D.C., by the way). Why is that? Why do a feel that it's disrespectful to turn out the lights on the list of names? It's not really. It doesn't dishonor the dead to let the names rest a while, especially when nobody is there and the people have left this life long ago.

Earth Hour gave us plenty to think about. I have at least three other blog posts floating around in my head, but this seemed the simplest to get down in type right now. If this is simple, I don't know how I'll ever get to the rest. ;) ...stay tuned...


  1. thanks for this post, amy! i loved reading about your experience, and also some of the information you unearthed during your reading and study. i *totally* agree with you about how many lights stay on all night long...everytime we're in the city late at night and i see entire office buildings lit up, i feel the activist in me getting all riled up. i pray, for the sake of our children and our children's children, that we will begin (as a global community) to dig deep and make big changes. i look forward to the rest of your thoughts on these issues...

  2. I didn't know that about candles! WOW. My pet peeve has always been store parking lots all lit up all night. ARGH! We do have way too much light pollution - it's hard to see the stars...

  3. I love that you did this. And your thoughts about it. SO interesting. I learn something every time I come here :)

  4. I'm trying to click the followers thing, but blogger won't let me. Just so you know. You're in my reader anyway, but the follower thing goes to an error page. Argh!

  5. I (heart) creation.

    You must have babysat us more than I thought, my parents don't know where I come up with this stuff.


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