Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Earth Hour

This past Saturday, people all over the world turned out the lights for an hour between 8:30 pm and 9:30 pm, for Earth Hour. The idea was to make a statement on behalf of reducing carbon dioxide emissions. I thought that it also offered an opportunity to practice for the post-petroleum era. We turned off our lights at 8:30 and I took a long, luxurious, candle-lit bath before getting into bed. I didn't turn the lights back on at 9:30 because I was asleep!

I enjoyed this so much that I did it again last night, on Monday night. (I didn't do it on Sunday night because we had a dinner party, and it wasn't over until about 10 pm.) One thing I like about Earth Hour is that it decrees an end to your work day. When the lights go out, you have to stop working. I suppose you could cheat and turn on your computer, but it has lights in it, doesn't it?

The experience made me think about the fact that until pretty recently--as recently as the 1930s in the rural South--work just ended at dark, pretty much. No matter how poor you were, and maybe especially if you were poor, you probably at least always got enough sleep. Or at least, you had time to think about things, as you lay in the dark not sleeping. Or time to talk, or play music, or...whatever. That's a luxury that many very wealthy people no longer have.

One thing I didn't think about during my candle-lit bath was the fact that candles themselves emit greenhouse gases! But an article this morning in the Christian Science monitor says that the average Earth Hour observer is probably not replacing all her electric lights with candles, so her overall emissions are probably less during Earth Hour than when she has all the lights on. Just to be sure, however, it's best to burn soy or beeswax candles, which are not made from fossil fuels. Or better yet, just enjoy the dark.

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