Earth Hour

Earth Hour is a crock of shit. It’s an insignificant gesture that amounts to nothing. An 8.7% drop in power usage sounds significant, but what does it really mean? Assuming that there isn’t any statistical error in that number (there likely is!), an 8.7% deviation from the hourly average amounts to an annual deviation of 0.0009932%. Basically insignificant. A number so small that things like National Night Out, where people are encouraged to keep all their outside lights on, will likely cancel it out. Then again, they don’t have the marketing push that Earth Hour does.

Google’s temporary black on white design was emblematic of the problem. In their own about page they acknowledged that black screens on LCD monitors actually consume more electricity than white ones. It’s a shallow showing from Google when you consider just how much power their data centres consume and what kind of environmental impact they have.

To make a real difference — an 8%, if not more, annual drop in consumption — you have to do more than a symbolic gesture. Ban incandescent bulbs. Get all the massive corporate towers to shut off their lights when not in use (something they should be doing for Lights Out anyway). Get retailers to dim their glaring lightshow storefronts turned off. Get people to use public transit and get the government to invest in it, especially the dilapidated TTC (who are in a legal strike position as of Tuesday and, if they do go on strike they will be bring more cars onto the roads.)

And Earth Hour isn’t really about that. It’s about the marketing. The WWF, along with Leo Burnett Australia (the Australian office of my current employer), spent a lot of money on a very extensive campaign to promote this. It is a feel-good campaign that can be exploited and flaunted (which they’re very much doing).

Ironically, the best thing about Earth Hour was when they shut off all the obnoxiously bright and distracting advertisements and TV screens that surround Yonge and Dundas. Now that is a cause I can get behind.

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