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When The Lights Go Out

By Jim Taylor

28 March, 2009

In a world where everything seems too big and too complex for any one person to affect – even if that person is the president of the United States – it’s tempting to assume that there’s nothing any of us can do. So we might as well forget about trying to build a better world, and just enjoy our friends and/or families.

As Peggy Lee sang, long ago, “If that’s all there is... then let’s break out the booze, and have a ball.”

But there is something each of us can do. We can turn out our lights at 8:30, this Saturday evening, March 28, 2009.

Earth Hour started just two years ago, in Sydney, Australia. Some two million homes and businesses turned out their lights for one hour.

Last year, Earth Hour went global. Over 50 million people turned out their lights for an hour. The Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, Rome’s Colosseum, Sydney’s Opera House, even the Coca Cola billboard in Times Square went dark.

This year, the organizers hope to have a billion people switch off. Nearly 2000 cities have signed on, in over 80 different countries.

Each of the earth’s 24 time zones is about 1000 miles wide. If everyone took part, astronauts in the space station would watch a 1000-mile swath of darkness sweeping around the planet as all the lights winked out.

That’s not going to happen. Not yet, anyway. But a billion participants would significantly dim the blaze that radiates into space from Western Europe and North America. Utility companies would see a sudden dramatic drop in power usage.

Sure, cynics will say, the lights will go on again at 9:30. But perhaps not all of them. A few people may enjoy seeing the stars again. A few may relish the cozy glow of candles, or of a fireplace, in a darkened room.

A few might discover that darkness is not a demon to be driven back by glaring lights. It is, after all, in the darkness of the earth that seeds germinate. In the darkness of the night we draw close to each other. In the darkness of sleep our bodies regenerate for a new dawn.

Earth Hour’s Executive Director, Andy Ridley, calls Earth Hour “an opportunity for the global community to speak in one voice.”

“Switching off your lights is a vote for Earth; leaving them on is a vote for global warming,” Ridley says.

Switching off lights for one hour won’t stop global warming. Nor will it end poverty, or cure corruption in high places.

But it might demonstrate to the corporate elites who manipulate countries and financial systems for their own advantage that people are not simply pawns to be manipulated.

Likewise, it might remind us that we are more than puppets dancing on invisible strings. We can act together, when we want to.

Earth Hour is a symbolic act. And as every world religion knows, symbols have enormous power -- whether or not they produce measurable results.

Jim Taylor, 1300 Sixth Street, Okanagan Centre, BC V4V 2H7


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