[OpEd] Earth Hour Will Not Solve The Climate Crisis; But That’s Not What It Is About

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Earth hour may not be able to have a tangible impact but it's a movement that encourages conversations.
Do your part. Switch off your lights for an hour. Image from @earthhourofficial / Twitter

The world will once again be enveloped with darkness as it celebrates the annual Earth Hour on April 30, 2019, in 180 countries across the globe. Houses, buildings, and businesses will be turning off their lights in solidarity to the grassroots movement that aims to raise awareness on environmental problems and promote energy conservation.

Earth Hour, a campaign born in 2007 in Sydney, Australia, is probably one of the biggest grassroots campaigns for the environment that inspires individuals and organizations to take tangible climate actions for over a decade. The movement was WWF’s program that focuses on raising awareness and stimulating conversations on why nature matters. The campaign has seen tremendous bearing from civil societies and government with millions of global supporters turning their lights off for an hour.

From the Eifel Tower to the Sydney Opera House, and the Empire State Building to Burj Khalifa, thousands of global landmarks have switched off their lights in support of the movement, and encourage individuals to take their part in protecting the environment in their little ways.

Inforgraphic from Earth Hour Organization

“On one hand we have the moral responsibility to live in harmony with nature; on the other nature is vitally important to everyone’s daily lives: we depend on it for the food we eat, the air we breathe and the water we drink, and so much more. But we are pushing the planet to the limit and nature is severely under threat,” said Marco Lambertini, Director General of WWF International.

“Earth Hour 2019 is a powerful opportunity to start an unstoppable movement for nature to help secure an international commitment to stop and reverse the loss of nature – a New Deal for Nature and People as comprehensive and ambitious as the global climate deal,” he added.

Nonetheless, the impact of switching off lights for one hour is very meager and insignificant. It does not resolve the power and environmental problems that the world is facing in this day and age. The global climate crisis is so massive that even if all lights be turned off for an hour every year, nothing tangible will actually happen.

While the insignificance of the impact of Earth Hour and other grassroots campaigns like the rising movement to end single-use plastic cannot be denied, it is also necessary to understand why these campaigns have started and what they are trying to achieve in the first place.

In grass roots environmental campaigns that are targeted towards individuals to encourage them to participate in climate action, the message that they send is far more important than the pragmatic impacts of their activities. Needless to say, grassroots climate movements have successfully opened the gates for global acknowledgment that these problems exist and we should do something about it before everything’s too late.

Sustainability movements are deemed inconsequential by critics, but they proved to be gateways to more sustainable practices. In the recent campaign for the use of metal straws following the alarming plastic pollution in the Earth’s water systems, many criticized that metal straw won’t stop people from using plastic straws because it’s a cheaper and more convenient alternative to metal and bamboo straws.

And they might be right. Metal straws won’t solve the plastic problem, but the mere fact that conversations are happening because of them is a massive win for the movement. The discussion borne from the metal straw trend has reached multinational companies and pressured them to implement changes in their business practices.

Nevertheless, the fight for environmental sustainability is still a long battle ahead. Amid the loud call for corporate social responsibility, many members of the corporate universe seem to be pretending to have deaf ears. Oil giants, among other multinational corporations, have been spending millions of dollars on lobbying for environmentally problematic policies and on stopping laws that may compromise their businesses. And when business and money talks, everyone listens – including legislators.

This is why grassroots movements are essential. They are the ones that create the conversation that will pressure the government and the corporate sector to affect change in policy. The more that these campaigns reach and touch people’s hearts, the more that the calls to end corporate enslavement of the environment become screams that echo fervently.

The fight for the environment is not for ourselves; but for the future generations to see the beauty of our home as we know it. Let’s do our part to make Earth a conducive planet for our grandchildren and their grandchildren to thrive and prosper in. Switching your lights off on Saturday is a small thing, but it creates huge waves of hope and solidarity. /apr

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