Earth Hour is an event that was started in Australia in 2007. When confronted with increasingly overwhelming evidence of climate change, the Australian World Wide Fund for Nature came up with the idea: A day when all the people in the world’s major cities would switch on their non-essential nights on the last Saturday of March every year for 60 minutes, from 8:30 to 9:30 PM local time in a bid to bring the idea of climate change to the mainstream.
The first real international event was pioneered in 2008 when the event went beyond just Sydney and became truly international with about 35 countries and 400 cities participating. The event’s official website receiving millions of hits during the event week.
This grew to over 5 000 cities in 2011 with over 1.8 billion people participating. The event has since evolved in nature in recent years with people not just switching off their lights but other appliances and devices such as laptops, computers, TVs, decoders and other gadgets as well.
Notable reductions in electricity demand have been noted during Earth Hour events in some major cities, with places like New Zealand seeing as much as a 350 reduction in demand (that is almost a quarter of all ZESA is producing right now).
This should, in turn, reduce carbon emissions which are seen as the key to arresting climate change. (I think its a pity we have to understand climate change first before arresting it first rather than arresting it first then investigating it as we do with normal crimes here).
Earth Hour is not about reducing our carbon emissions at all- it is about awareness. It is just a symbolic event meant to create awareness of individuals, governments and businesses.
This is about how our everyday actions like surfing the web, watching TV, emailing and messaging are harming the environment and impacting negatively on the environment and our climate. It also forces people to have a dialogue on the matter and exchange ideas and solutions on how we can solve the climate change problem.
It is estimated that 40 gigatonnes of CO2 emissions were made in 2010. While most of this was from the usual suspects; industries in developed nations whose plumes of smoke are very visible in most of these nations’ cities to the extent that some cause smog as in cities like Paris and Beijing, a significant amount came from seemingly innocuous actions.
Imagine how sending a single email contributes 4g to this tonnage, which increases to about 50g if the email has an attachment. A spam email that’s not opened produces about 0.3g of CO2.
This might not seem like much, but the total effect increases significantly when multiplied by the number of emails sent each year by each person on the planet.
For example, the total amount of spam sent each year produces the same amount of CO2 emissions as 3.1 billion passenger cars driving around our roads in a year and using 7.6 billion litres of petrol for fuel! That is about 2 500 times the total number of cars in this country or enough fuel to drive all our cars for the next 2 500 years!
Although most people like to blame developed countries like the US, it’s important to note the fact that America is essentially the technology hub for most developing countries. This means that we are also adding to their CO2 emissions indirectly. For
Consider how a lot of Zimbabwe’s websites and apps are hosted in data centres of developed nations. So is our Gmail and Hotmail hosted email ,and our seedboxes (explains why people are not complaining about shaping so much these days).
A single humble Google search on your Desktop produces about 4g of CO2. Bear in mind, Google handles over 40 000 searches per second, which translates to 3.5 billion queries a day and a whopping 1.2 trillion searches per year. Multiply that by 4g ( we are making the stupid assumption that everyone is searching from a Desktop here for the sake of simplicity and to make a point here) and you will get eye-popping results.
One can even conclude that we are simply Googling, texting, Whatsapping and emailing the world to death here. We are seeing a marked increase in extreme weather conditions all over the world like the drought in California, the Floods in places like Indonesia, the catastrophe in Vanuatu and more importantly the developing drought here in this very country.
Is this (the texting, emailing and apping) all worth the cost (climate change)? So tomorrow when the clock strikes 8:30 I urge you to voluntarily switch off your gadgets and bring your family into the climate change fold and educate them on what is happening. In the event that ZESA decides to volunteer you into the event by switching you off, just embrace the opportunity anyway.
Besides, it can be fun. You can have a candlelit dinner with the entire family or your loved one. It can also be an opportunity for you to actually have some normal face to face conversations with the teenage members of your clan who are otherwise almost always glued to the screens of their touch devices.
Soccer lovers will have nothing to lament about either. With the international break, this means that you will not be missing any action.
Image Credit: Earth Hour