The artist duo Bigert & Bergström fetter themselves to shackles with the shape of a CO2 molecule, symbolising an average Swede’s emissions in 10 days. Photo: WWF.
On Saturday, the organization WWF has announced a global Earth Hour, when people all over the world turn their lights off for one hour in a symbolic action. But the idea is of course to inspire people to do more than that.
Turning off the lights last year. Photo: Sayna Mostofizadeh, WWF.
During the last weeks, challenges have been flying back and forth through Sweden. One day it’s Swedish Prince Carl Philip challenging Prince Daniel to lower the temperature at home. Then it’s the pop singer Danny Saucedo challenging the other pop singer Eric Saade to reduce his showers to two minutes a day, recycle his waste and eat only vegetarian food during the whole month of March. The other day it’s politicians challenging each other over national carbon emission reductions or the carpenter Bengt who promises to go to work by bike one day a week and go by public transports the remaining days – if 100 others do the same.
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The general secretary of WWF pulls the plug out at the Concert House of Stockholm. Photo: Sayna Mostofizadeh, WWF.
Since a few years back environmental organisations, headed by WWF, have organised Earth Hour in many countries across the world. By turning off the lights during one hour the aim is to put a mental spotlight on climate change.
In Botkyrka, in the outskirts of Stockholm, people spent Saturday night walking in a torchlight procession to a park, where artists performed. Landmarks in Stockholm as the Concert House and the Ericsson Globe had their floodlights turned off. In Varberg [map]people took the chance to watch the stars together, in Halmstad [map] a seminar about the dilemmas of economic growth was held and in the cathedral of Karlstad [map] people could listen to “Requiem for a light bulb”.
Among environmental and climate activists there are some discussions about whether or not these kinds of arrangements lead to actual changes in people’s behaviour in the long run. But others argue that although energy consumption might not go down a lot during this one hour (about 2,5 percent in the city of Örebro [map]), Earth Hour can work as a way of bringing up these issues, raise awareness and put political pressure on decision makers.
Many schools have taken the opportunity to talk a bit extra about climate change, and last week Sweden’s environment minister Andreas Carlgren received 1 500 hand prints from about 900 schools where the pupils have been asked to come up with suggestions of what politicians should do to make the world inhabitable for future generations.
Irrespective of measurable effects, I think spending some time without the machines we are so used to for keeping us busy all the time, can give some perspective.
Not long ago I heard a man talk about how he organised a stag-party for one of his friends who was getting married a couple of years ago. The stag-party was on the same day as Earth Hour, and he said that when the friends speak about this now, they say the hour when they turned off all lights and just played the guitar and sang in candle lights is the best memories that night gave them.
Candle-lit concert in Katarina Church, Stockholm. Foto: Emma Arvida Byström.
The artist Laleh playing in light generated by the Swedish national cycling team. Foto: Germund Sellgren,WWF.
This Saturday people all over the world turned their light off for an hour, during the annual Earth Hour.
More than 200 Swedish municipalites had announced their participation and in several cities Earth Hour was celebrated with artist shows, snow board contests or ghost tours. In central Stockholm the park Kungsträdgården was filled with people, listening to a concert by artists as Laleh, Darin and Andreas Johnson. The stage was softly lit up by a power generator pedalled by a group of cyclists from the national cyclist team.
A group of artists has been working on a very imaginative cycle project, which resulted in a cycle caravan led by a three-seated bike winding its way through the city to the concert. (read more about the art project here)
All about awareness
It is clearly not about the energy saving in itself – during this hour in the dark several Swedish cities report that the electricity consumption went down about five per cent – but more about the awareness effect. Especially the cyclist at the end of the stage caught my mind. If you need several cyclists to generate the power required for lighting up a small stage, then imagine how much we would need to work our muscles if we didn’t have the access to cheap energy that we have today.
The organiser behind Earth Hour, WWF, says this manifestation will serve to put pressure on politicians after the failure of the Copenhagen climate summit in December. As a moment to think about climate change , what it could lead to and how dark it will actually get if we don’t do anything about it, I think Earth Hour is a very good idea. Let’s just hope it does not stop there.
On this short video you can see people counting down before the unplugging, and how dark it actually got in the centre of Stockholm.