Saturday, March 28, 2009

Whistling in the Dark

In about 15 minutes, Earth Hour 2009 will reach the Bay Area, and we'll be turning out our lights to participate. I doubt many others in the neighborhood will participate - the word about this event in Tampa has been pretty minimal. Still, we'll be joining in, just to make a statement.

I've read a lot of skepticism on the web about Earth Hour. Most people don't see how it can make any real difference (and some deny the human effects on global warming altogether). And while it's true that turning out our lights (mostly CFLs in our house anyway) for one hour won't really effect our electric bill, I think a lot of people are missing the point.

We all use lights everyday that we don't really need, along with a lot of other electronics. A neighbor across the lake has a "security" motion-activated light that seems to illuminate nothing in particular, and constantly goes on and off all night long as neighborhood cats and ducks prowl their backyard. Office buildings are lit up on the outside everywhere, creating interesting city skylines but obliterating the night sky. I myself turn on a light in the bedroom every night when it gets dark, even though we seldom go in there until bedtime.

Whether folks want to believe it or not, using electricity has a big effect on the earth. Most of the power in the US comes from coal plants, and these are unbelievably dirty. Don't believe the hype about clean coal, either (this means you, President Obama!) - it really doesn't exist. Earth Hour is an event designed to help us all think about what we really need from electricity, and what we can make adjustments to do without, or at least use less frequently.

We here in My Florida Backyard will spend our Earth Hour out on the porch, enjoying the evening breeze and talking about possible change we might make in our lifestyle to make the Earth a better place.

So, even though Bay News 9's "non-scientific poll" showed that 63% of those in the Bay Area don't plan to participate in Earth Hour, and the city of Tampa itself is only making the small symbolic gesture of darkening the St. Pete Times Forum, we're going to spend the next hour in the dark, enjoying My Florida Backyard in the dusk with no lights on to distract us.

(I'm sorry, but I have to use this opportunity to tell one of my favorite childhood jokes. "Mother, I'm awfully glad Thomas Edison invented the lightbulb." "Why is that, dear?" "Because, otherwise we'd all be watching TV in the dark!")

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