Friday, March 27, 2009

Lights off at 8.30pm tomorrow! Vote Earth!

Earth Hour poster by Shepard Fairey. Earth Hour is happening tomorrow. From 8.30-9.30pm your time, wherever you are in the world, you can vote earth by switching off your lights for an hour - Earth Hour. Beginning in my part of the world and moving across the planet as it turns, the lights will go out.

Listen, we know that global warming is a reality. It's happening already, it's been happening for years, and in some parts of the world like the Arctic and in Antarctica it's progressing far faster than the scientists' worst-case predictions.

When I was at University a million years ago we were studying global warming, and at that point pretty much anyone who knew anything about science agreed that climate change was beginning to take place, and that it was our fault.

And then at some point the oil companies got involved in the discussion and things changed. Instead of a common agreement that this phenomenon was real, and very worrying, and something that we had to stop before it was too late, suddenly there were people questioning the scientists, and muddying the water, and sowing confusion and dissent.

The oil companies (and others who had a vested interest in such matters) spent millions of dollars on bogus scientists and focus groups and phoney research to convince enough of us that the theory of global warming was at least in question, and that we didn't need to change our habits or do anything about the way we burn fossil fuels, or destroy forests, or run our cities, or drive our cars.

When people who aren't scientists spend that much time, money and effort trying to discredit a scientific theory that's backed up by a huge amount of scientific research and observation, you know something's going on. You'd have to be stupid not to.

The global warming discreditors did a pretty good job for a long time. For many years environmental groups like Greenpeace and WWF were fighting an uphill battle just to get people to listen to them. But slowly, slowly, things began to change.

I think the tipping point in the direction of global awareness and acceptance of climate change was Al Gore's movie - An Inconvenient Truth. So many people saw that movie around the world, and it was a very powerful film, putting forward a clear and effective case for global warming being a reality.

From WWF-NZ:

On March 29 2008, more than 50 million people around the globe united for one hour and switched off their lights to show that they care about our living planet. With growing concern about the effects of global warming, Earth Hour demonstrates that collectively people can make a difference. More than 370 towns and cities took part including San Francisco, Dubai, Tel Aviv, Sydney, Rome, Copenhagen, Manila, Bangkok, Santa Cruz, Christchurch and Chicago.

Earth Hour is the highlight of a major campaign to encourage businesses, communities and individuals to take the steps needed to cut their emissions on an ongoing basis. It is about simple changes that will collectively make a difference – from businesses turning off their lights when their offices are empty, to households turning off appliances rather than leaving them on standby. Earth Hour is a message of hope and action.

I admit I wasn't really aware of Earth Hour 2008. Christchurch was the only big city in NZ to embrace it, and it simply passed me by. I obviously wasn't paying attention if 50 million people around the world took part last year.

Anyway, this year I am paying attention - and I'm VERY pleased to see how many other people are taking notice as well. There have been loads of ads on telly, I've received emails from both WWF-NZ and Greenpeace reminding me about it, and there was a nice big piece on the news this evening. Hooray! Apparently the organisers have had three times more cities pledging to take part than they had hoped for - which is completely brilliant. Hope it can be seen from space!

It's particularly important that we in New Zealand take part in Earth Hour, and that we encourage our friends and neighbours to take part. Our enthusiasm as a nation in taking a leading role in the fight against global warming seems to be waning a little - probably due to our current focus on surviving the economic downturn. John Key certainly isn't helping by pandering to ACT's demands that the Emissions Trading Scheme be reviewed, especially considering his (and his government's) very dodgy attitude towards global warming.

If Earth Hour can raise people's awareness about global warming and climate change, that's a really good thing. If we can use that hour as a global vote to let politicians around the world know that we as a planet want to do something to stop global warming, that's a great thing. If we can save a wee bit of energy in the process, that's very cool too.

It can take a heck of a long time for a movement to gather momentum. It takes energy and commitment and determination to keep on plugging away until you get a critical mass of people taking part. I'm hoping that the massive leap in the numbers planning to participate in Earth Hour this year marks the tipping point for this particular movement into the mainstream. As a planet we need to work together to combat climate change - and we need to start doing it immediately, before it's too late.

Global warming and climate change has been described as "a far greater threat to the world than international terrorism". A very large number of very credible scientists around the world agree that Earth's climate is being affected by human activities. You don't have to dig deep to find out who's been funding the climate change deniers all these years.

The way I see it is this: even if you're not 100% sure that global warming is a reality, you can see that many scientists believe the consequences of climate change would be utterly devastating to life on earth. Even if it's only a possibility in your mind, wouldn't it be sensible to take steps now to prevent it - just in case? Aren't the potential consequences of doing nothing far far worse than the changes that scientists believe we need to make in order to combat climate change?

Don't we owe it to our children and grandchildren to take this seriously and DO SOMETHING?

Turn off your lights tomorrow between 8.30 and 9.30pm and join us for Earth Hour. It's a small thing for each of us to do as individuals, but because millions of people will be doing it, together we make it into a very big thing. And at the very least, it's a start.

Further Reading:

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