The so-called Earth Hour is tomorrow, when people around the world are encouraged to show their support for international action on climate change by turning off their lights at 8:30 p.m. of whatever their local time is.
I’m not a big fan of sweeping gestures, which is what I think this is, although I do respect the World Wildlife Fund, which started the action in Australia in 2007. This year, organizers say, the results of Earth Hour will influence world leaders when they meet at the UN Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen in December to negotiate a global climate agreement. I have my doubts.
Not one to miss a marketing opportunity, the travel industry is all over this. Fairmont and Marriott hotels are among those participating, they’ve made sure to let us know in press releases. So is the Eiffel Tower, Christ statue in Rio de Janeiro, Sydney’s Opera House, Table Mountain in Cape Town, the CN Tower in Toronto, and Las Vegas’ MGM Grand Casino. Also, cities including Atlanta, Chicago, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Miami, Nashville, and San Francisco are among those in some 74 countries participating, more than double the number of countries that took part in 2008. OK, let’s take Las Vegas. Are you kidding me?
Joel Makower, executive editor of GreenBiz.com and a green guru, wrote that he, too, was unimpressed with the one hour, calling it a feel-good measure and a “media event in search of actual content. Case in point: The action section of the Earth Hour website contains a wealth of information about how to stage an Earth Hour event, but absolutely nothing — nothing! about how to address climate change the other 8,759 hours of the year.” Good points by Joel, who suggests we use the hour by replacing old-fashioned light bulbs with more energy-efficient models.
So, will Earth Day matter to anyone but the people promoting the fact that they’re participating in it? We shall see. Or rather not see.