Sunday, March 29, 2009

Earth Hour

So, I participated in Earth Hour last night. Did you? It was pretty successful apparently, although the first I even heard of it was a vague reference a few days ago and then I found out it was last night only hours before it arrived here in PST.

I joined in by flipping off all the power to the house and going off in the dark for my walk. The irony, of course, was the house was pitch black, white the night itself was not.

There was a beautiful crescent moon. Not only crescent, but low in the western sky and tipped to be a horned moon. There were street lights and house lights and headlights on cars. I wouldn't be surprised if we were the only people in town to participate. Or if others did participate, it would be those "Global Warming is Against God's Plan" types that asked people to turn all their lights on during the hour in "protest". Sigh.

I didn't feel the need to sit in the dark and reflect on the darkness. I do that on a regular basis up here in the mountains, with storm driven power outages. It turns out that a lot of people gathered together in a sort of celebratory way for the hour, so I guess my walk wasn't too off plan.

I ended up at the uptown pub where all the lights were on and a small group of regular locals were hanging out doing the Saturday night karoake. A couple of kids, one guy, and a handful of women. Not one of them can sing on key. But it's fun. I listened and sang and danced along from my seat, drank two pots of tea and read my new ghostly, cozy mystery. Celebrating the dark by coming together to combine our lighting and electricity needs seems like a good choice.

It's sort of an odd thing, Earth Hour. I mean, it would be more meaningful if people remembered to turn off unnecessary lights, did without electrical things, on a regular basis. But that's the whole point, I suppose. Not that this one hour will do anything signifigant in and of itself, but that it will inspire people to continue to be, or begin to be, thoughtful and conscientious. And of course to send a message to governments and businesses and big and small.

It struck me as sort of depressing, actually, because after an hour the lights all came back ON and it seemed like such a waste. But we're spoiled. We want to see the Eiffel Tower flickering against the Paris sky. We want to feel like we're in another world on the Las Vegas strip. We like the safety of parking lots lit up like a carnival and department stores so brightly lit one can read the fine print on the washing instructions of a garment neck tag.

Recently our local Safeway was remodeled. One of the major differences was all the lights were changed and the new lights were dramatically less bright. Although I applauded the intent to reduce electricity use in theory, in real life I felt like I was walking into a cave whenever I went in the store. People joked about needing flashlights to tell the difference between a potato and an apple in the produce section. Now, about a year later, the store doesn't seem particularly dim to me at all. We've adjusted. But I was surprised at how long it took to do so.

Earth Hour is a difficult thing to visually capture. It's photos of buildings brightly lit, and then buildings suddenly disappearing into the dark. Or video of the same. Or photos or videos of people sitting around in candlelight. You can't turn on your television to "watch it live" because, duh. You can Google news and images online after the fact. They have a collection of sites you can visit at the official website.

The interesting thing is that all the changes in my life I've been making, or working towards in the last few months, had me thinking about changing my own electricity needs just a few weeks before I heard of Earth Hour. This sort of sychronicity happens to me all the time. Does it happen to you?

I was starting to think about how my night owl lifestyle requires a lot more energy use then if I took advantage of doing things when the sun was up. I used to think of myself as being clever, using lights and electricity (the dishwasher and the washing machine, the computer and television) during off peak hours. That it was was a GOOD thing that I used all these things at night. Now I think perhaps I'm rationalizing some of that smugness. In the periods of my life when I've lived without television or computers, I've painlessly and quickly shifted into a sun up to sundown (or just after) lifestyle.

I've noticed that over the last decade, more and more lights and televisions flicker from homes all around me in ever increasing numbers. More cars are on the streets even in the middle of the night. Is it just this neighborhood, or is this something that is happening all over? Are we all, increasingly plugged in to our technology, becoming a species that has lost it's natural rhythms with dark and light?

Not that there hasn't always been folk who have been called by the darkness. Shamans and poets, entertainers, writers, shift workers, mothers looking for some alone time or up with a sick child, insomniacs, or simply those who like the sense of being alone. But even regular folk nowadays seem to be pushing the end of their day into the middle of the night.

My schedule is so upside down now that I regularly think maybe I should try to shift it back in line with the "regular" world. But then I think of how much I'd miss the night, for a lot of the same reasons as the types of people I mention above. The only part of me that misses the day is the gardening me, and that me is waiting for the chance to bloom again after I get my gardens back in a few weeks. And the traveling me, which is always up earlier than everyone else, but that's a rather expensive way to reset my inner time. And doesn't seem to be a permanent fix in any case.

It's only been in the last few weeks that the environmental impact of night living has occurred to me. Maybe this will be the insight that tips the scales for me to make changes. How about you?


Blogger Jane said...

We did Earth hour too...
this was our second year!
We went out and walked and then went to the neighbors who had a little fire on thire front porch.
We had a few iced teas and talked and then it was time to put the baby to bed...
We only had one light on the whole block, and the gal that lives there works nights and I think she forgot...

8:46 PM  

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