Sunday, March 30, 2008

Earth Hour

Last night, March 29, was Earth Hour. We were having a small birthday bash for blogless J. So, we turned off the lights, had a few candles, and played some party games for the hour. I think it was actually one of the funnier birthday parties we've had - librarians seem to lose some of their inhibitions in the dark!

But that's not what I wanted to talk about.

Today I've been seeing comparative images of various major cities on regular nights, and during Earth Hour. Pictures like this one of Sydney:

The thing I don't get is why the cities need to be as bright as they are usually. Does it not make more sense to turn off most of the lights in your office building over the weekend? Why exactly does the Honest Ed's sign need to have 23,000 lightbulbs? Why does the Skydome, or whatever they're calling it these days, need to be lit up all night with huge spotlights? Why shouldn't we all turn off our computers when we leave work for the night or the weekend?

The picture of Sydney above is exemplary. The light pollution of the top image is extreme, and every major city looks like that. Even suburbs. I have a very clear image in my mind of descending toward Burlington from the escarpment to an ocean of lights, and that's a city with a population of just over 170,000 (although it bleeds into the larger Hamilton).

When did we decide that it was somehow important, or a sign of success or power or cultivation, to light our cities up to the point that we can't even see the night sky? How can we possibly justify this kind of wastefulness? Not only justify, but demand it. It seems crazy to me.

This is Toronto last night. There is nothing wrong with that image. I rather like it actually. It looks like night:

This morning a woman from the WWF Canada was on CBC Sunday talking about Earth Hour, and about the WWF's longterm companion program "The Good Life". Have a look. It is all about re-evaluating what we judge to be a good life in light of global warming and the need to live more ecologically. It is one of those programs that is so simple and makes so much sense that you wonder why we don't already live that way, and why there needs to be a program to make us think of living that way.

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