Have you heard of Earth Hour? Every year, individuals, organisations and buildings all over the world are encouraged to turn off their lights for an hour and light a candle instead, to highlight the problems facing the planet. This year it’s from 8.30 to 9.30 pm on the 19th March (this Saturday!)
The “problems facing the planet” is a pretty vague thing to protest, so here’s a quick run-down of what that means. You all know about global warming, but a reminder never hurts. By burning fossil fuels and engaging in excess animal agriculture, we are producing too much greenhouse gas for the climate to naturally absorb. These gasses (which absorb the sun’s rays) are building up in the atmosphere and warming up the planet. Scientists at the UN have predicted that 2 degrees Celsius is the maximum warming that we can tolerate as the human race, before experiencing extremely destructive consequences of climate change. These consequences include heatwaves and droughts which will bring starvation to people already struggling with adequate access to food. This level of warming would also cause sea levels to rise and put large areas of countries like Bangladesh, Indian and Vietnam underwater. Natural disasters such as floods, storms and hurricanes have already increased because of climate change.
Climate justice is particularly important to keep in mind because climate change will most affect the global poor – those communities vulnerable to natural disasters, floods and droughts and who depend on the land through subsistence farming. These are not the people who caused climate change. At the Paris negotiations (“COP21″) at the end of last year, 196 countries agreed to keep global temperature below 2 degrees, but under current policy and at our current rate of emissions we will exceed this. If you’re not persuaded, maybe Leo can say it better.
Another big problem facing the planet is major biodiversity loss. Species extinction has occurred throughout history but the current rate of extinction is 1,000 times the natural rate – we are living through the biggest mass extinction since the dinosaurs were wiped out. Rainforest loss is particularly troubling because it holds the majority of the world’s biodiversity. Biodiversity loss is caused by a range of things – agriculture (especially animal agriculture but palm oil is also a big contributor), mining, poaching, over harvesting, global warming, pollution, invasive species and urban development. It is important to note that all are results of human influence. It’s bad to lose biodiversity not just because it would be sad if our children could never see an elephant in the wild, but because ecosystems provide services that we depend on, such as the provision of clean water and food, waste decomposition and carbon absorption. There is a tipping point beyond which an ecosystem can’t recover. It’s incredibly difficult to know where this point is, and the current rate of biodiversity loss is projected to accelerate with no clear end.
Are you convinced that something should be done? Then turn off your lights for Earth Hour! Of course you’re not going to save the planet by the time the hour is up, but it’s a symbolic act. Politicians have a big part to play in creating policies that value the environment and they’re much more likely to do so if shown there is public support behind protecting nature and tackling climate change. Just make sure that you light soy candles, as the normal wax ones are bad for the environment. Although Earth Hour is not about avoiding electricity I think this is a good opportunity to unplug and take a relaxing break from technology. With that in mind, here are 5 ways to spend Earth Hour.
1. Have a Candlelit Dinner
Candlelit dinners are the theme of this year’s Earth Hour! It’s a great way to have either a romantic evening or a night with friends. Dinner with friends can be so soul enriching – I can’t think of a better Saturday than one spent laughing, drinking and sharing food with people I love.
2. Play Board Games
Perhaps you’d like to follow up your dinner with a board game, or perhaps you’d like to make this an event all in itself. I like articulate but whatever your game of choice, it’s a beautifully wholesome way to spend a weekend.
3. Read a Book
Reading a book is the ultimate anti-technology act in my opinion (unless you’re reading on a kindle, which is of course allowed!) The mindless scrolling that happens when you’re on social media seems to have replaced the time I might have otherwise used to sit down with a good book. Why not use this hour to catch up with your favourite author!
4. Do Some Yoga
I have been to one yoga studio in Edinburgh that uses candle light instead of electric lighting and it was magical. If you can’t find a studio that does classes by candlelight, yoga at home could be just as special.
5. Craft by Candlelight
Crochet, knit, sew, embroider, paint – whatever creative outlet you like to use, try spending an hour engrossed in it on Saturday and surround yourself with candles! I like that this reflects days gone by when all crafting was done by candlelight.
If you are getting involved in Earth Hour this year, why not add your name to the map! This is an important record of how many people are joining in to show support for action on Climate Change.