Earth Hour, the bottom line: what it means when we switch off the lights
By Carly Digweed, Communications Intern, WWF-Canada
Turning off our lights for Earth Hour is easy enough, but why should we do it this year?
More and more we are hearing from scientists that we are closer than ever to a tipping point. Climate change is no longer a theoretical threat, and we’re seeing it happen right before our eyes. Drought, wildfires, hurricanes – these events are showing us that climate change is already here, and it’s going to get much worse if we don’t act now.
Every year, millions of Canadians participate in Earth Hour but most people experience it on a personal or community level. How can we help people understand or see that the action and commitment they see in their neighbourhoods scale up to something bigger? How does action on the personal level translate into hope for global change?
This is exactly where WWF comes in and why Earth Hour was created in the first place. We want to be, or try to be, the conduit that translates personal actions into a message of global hope. That’s why we’re asking people to tell us what they are doing to take action and why, so we can work to amplify these stories and share them within Canada and with people in the Philippines or India and vice versa. It is hugely empowering to know that, not only are we not alone in this effort, there are literally hundreds of millions of people around the world who all want this change.
© Jeremiah Armstrong / WWF-Canada
This year with the Earth Hour City Challenge, there’s a spotlight on climate actions being taken at a municipal level. Why should we focus on progress being taken at the city scale? How can cities drive national and global solutions?
Cities are where climate change is directly felt and where action is directly taken. For example, when Hurricane Sandy hit in New York, it was the city, the transit, the sewage systems, that bore the brunt of recovery.
In terms of city-driven national and global solutions, because we haven’t seen the changes we want at the federal level, it’s only feasible to carry on these great feats that are happening at a municipal level. Since most people reside in cites, there’s a large revenue base – taxes and votes – at stake for government in these areas. So when cities demand a change, it’s definitely a powerful driver. Community action is what influences federal action, which is what we need.
© Patrick Doyle / WWF-Canada
What climate change action have we seen since Earth Hour started in Canada over 6 years ago that can be broadly attributed to public support?
Climate change is pretty unique in that it’s not a one-time thing. We can’t just rally people together for one night and come back to it next year. We need to build an understanding that climate change is something that extends far beyond election cycles. We need to engage communities for ongoing, lasting support for change. Over the 6 years that Earth Hour has been running, we can attribute a lot of conservation achievements to broad public support. For example:
- –The Green Energy Act in Ontario
- –Carbon Tax being implemented separately in both B.C. and Quebec
- –Renewable energy legislation in Nova Scotia
- –Climate change targets in all provinces and territories
- –Climate change and energy subsides remained on the G8 and G20 agendas when Canada hosted in 2010 – all made possible with local support.
We not only need cities and their citizens to take action, we need change to happen at the highest level in Canada. What message are these millions of Canadian Earth Hour supporters sending to our decision-makers?
When people lead, leaders follow. Political leaders are accountable for their constituents, so if we don’t ask, nothing will be done. These representatives are supposed to be a reflection of our priorities, and anyone who fails in that, is out. But at the same time, we expect these leaders to inform us of threats and connect us global problems. With that, we want them to treat our concerns as a priority, and they know if they succeed, they will be rewarded.
Will you be participating in Earth Hour this year? Stand up and be counted! Join team Earth Hour.