The Earth Hour Edition

Earth Hour: an annual event where middle-class families crowd around the living room table, playing board games by candlelight in the name of environmental sustainability. While noble in its intentions to raise awareness about energy conservation in an industrial, coal-burning economy, the reality of the lack of ecological benefits is the first disillusioning factor of this dimly-lit 60 minutes.

Consider this: those fossil fuel plants that we’ve demonized after countless David Suzuki-narrated documentaries produce more emissions when energy levels rapidly change than when maintaining a constant rate of production. So when the clock strikes 8:30 and households around the globe ceremoniously shut off their lights and electronic devices, more fossil fuel emissions are effectively released into our already depleting atmosphere.

This “ back-to-the-good-ol’-days” logic suggests that the only way to battle climate change in our industrial era is to revert back to “ how it used to be” and slum it Little House On the Prairie-style. This is not to say that all environmentalists are trading in their smartphones for needlepoint, but the discussion around the importance of Earth Hour that tends to focus on the simpler times isn’t exactly conducive to change.

I can appreciate the work Earth Hour does to start conversations around the importance of reducing energy consumption, however, the feel-good environmentalism that Earth Hour promotes inevitably leads to more Bath and Body Works candle sales than actual tangible effects. The solution to climate change will not be found by plunging ourselves back into the darkness.

Earth Hour propagates the notion of “ saving the planet” while having more substantial effects on your electric bill than Mother Nature. According to Ontario’s Independent Electricity System Operator (IESO), on March 26th, 2011, between 8:30pm and 9:30pm, province-wide participation in Earth Hour warranted a drop in the demand for electricity by 360 megawatts or 2.1 per cent compared to a typical Saturday evening in late March.

Realistically, using Ontario’s blended average retail electricity price, based on 2012 statistics, Earth Hour amounts to a province-wide total cash savings of $24,864. What this means is that the economic benefit to Earth Hour is still a justifiable argument for roughing it by the glow of your iPhone for an hour each year—that is, if Earth Hour was only about the savings, and not about saving the planet. Based on recent statistics on the average cost of electricity inOntario, we can assume that Ontarians saved an approximate $36,936 during Earth Hour 2016. What I have neglected to mention, however, is the total amount spent by the promoters of Earth Hour, the World Wildlife Foundation (WWF), on their CEO’s salary (450,000), not to mention government funding and additional corporate partnerships.

In short, if Earth Hour increases the amount of greenhouse gas emissions and the amount of money saved by turning off electronics is trumped by the amount of funding spent on large salaries; watt is it that we’re really doing?

Earth Hour is not single-handedly bolstering CO2 emissions and inspiring Nelly’s 2002 smash-hit “ It’s Getting Hot in Here,” but its ill effects should not be written off. When asked the question of whether or not you’ll participate in Earth Hour, ask yourself instead: why is this still a thing?

Featured photo courtesy of Tess King 

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