I remember my first experience with Earth Day, in the early 1980s, only a decade after its inception. Although Ronald Reagan was president, and James Watt, the U.S. Secretary of the Interior, was busy selling off public lands to private corporations and decreasing funding for environmental programs, there was still an atmosphere of hopefulness about those earlier Earth Days. Many people knew the problems that were emerging from energy use and overconsumption of resources, but we still had plenty of time to raise awareness and turn things around. Earth Day was a symbol of that hope and change.
Fast-forward to 2009 and the time for symbols is long past. The iceberg is in sight and we're desperately trying to slew the Titanic into a 180 degree turn, but it ain't happening and there aren't enough lifeboats. Gentleman, don your tuxedoes and be prepared to play chamber music...
So shoot me, my family didn't celebrate Earth Hour. We didn't turn out light switches off, only to burn candles or oil lamps for our light instead. I know it's supposed to be symbolic and all that, but even the symbolism is flawed. After all, that candle still consumes resources. It was made somewhere, shipped in a truck, people undoubtably drove to stores to buy them especially for Earth hour. Call me jaded and cynical, but I just can't buy into it anymore.
Instead, I did something thoroughly constructive - watched Daniel Craig in the latest 007 flick. After biking home from work. After eating a mostly locally grown meal. After bringing my laundry in from the line. I think the time has come to reach beyond the symbolism, beyond the notion that simply doing something for an hour makes a difference. It's time to turn most of those lights off every night. Does every office building and soccer field really need those lights burning? It's time to look for every possible way to save energy so that our big power plants can really start powering down (they weren't even affected by Earth Hour)
It's time to make every hour Earth Hour. Either that, or rosin up your bow.