For the last couple of years, on the last Saturday of each March, I turned off the lights and most electric appliances in my house for Earth Hour. And right now, I am basking in the candle-lit quiet of a switched-off house for the same cause as I type.
Over the years, along with so many others around the world, in my efforts to curb the impacts of my lifestyle and live in a way that does little damage as possible to the world, I have taken a number of +small+ actions. My brag list includes: using fabric bags and never accepting or using plastic ones when shopping, the replacement of all light bulbs with energy-saving ones, fitting the bathroom with a low-flow shower head, drying the laundry on a line not in a drier, trash sorting and in-house recycling where possible (my first batch of compost is almost ready) – disclosure: I have yet to invest in a water filter to ween me off bottled water and absolve me of the sin of its consumption.
And like so many others, in addition to an underlying sense of moral and ethical imperative, the reasons and motivations behind these actions vary; they range from the strong conviction of the effectiveness of these actions, to wanting to set an example to others and perhaps raise awareness, through sheer practicality and economics, or the need to feel good about myself and my lifestyle, and to sometimes simply being sold in on eco-chic trends.
But what all these actions have in common is that, at one point or another, they were tainted with skepticism, stained with cynicism: How effective is my low-flow shower head or my vegetarian diet (disclosure: adopted since the age of 15 for ethical, +food preference+, and environmental reasons +in that order+) against the amount of water, pesticides, and fertilizers used in producing some of the crops I eat or the continual marginalization of the farmers? How effective is reducing my electricity consumption or car mileage in the face of the consumption by energy-intensive industry factories of subsidized electricity? What good is it all when corporate greed is incessantly driving the world into mindless consumerism and warfare?
But I think, and Earth Hour is a good time to reflect on all this, that, while we may sometimes doubt the effects and effectiveness of our actions within our personal spheres to mitigate the impacts of policies and acts by governments and corporations, these actions, in addition to their perhaps debatable impact, carry within them the will to positively affect change, no matter how little; they should always serve as drivers for us to try and apply that will to all our choices: what we consume, how we vote, which job we take. And initiatives like Earth Hour are an indicator, a reminder, a signal of our connectedness in that will, of our collective power – worldwide, once in a year, for one hour in one day, we unite to symbolically express our wish for change and indicate the direction we want for that change to take, can we bring it about? It takes time and effort and will, every day of the year, every hour of the day. We must hope, believe, and keep at it, and never does one hour of darkness carry with it that big a message of hope.
We, for the first time in history, are reaching a point where our wish to connect behind a common purpose is matched by our ability to connect.