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Lights out in Sydney

A few months ago, I was in Paris for a conference and there was a quite a commotion made over a proposal to turn off the lights of the city for 5 minutes as a symbolic gesture recognizing climate change as a major issue in our society today. Some applauded the idea and eagerly awaited the opportunity to participate while others criticized the proposal as a harebrained scheme dreamt up by the environmental wackos who might cause the energy supply systems of the entire city to short circuit! In the end, the lights went out and came back on without any mishap. And in the final analysis, I think the Parisians became more aware of the importance of individual action as a result of it.

But this past Saturday, the Aussies turned off the lights of Sydney for an entire hour! Sydney's Mayor had all the non-essential lights on city owned buildings shut off, saying "We all have to act to reduce our ecological footprint." I agree! And I'm not alone. More than 2,000 companies and 60,000 households signed up to participate in what they called Earth Hour. Personally, I love these kind of symbolic events because they are a way to call people to action and invite them to join communities of people who feel a real sense of stewardship for this planet. Officials in Sydney have proposed cutting the city's greenhouse gas emmissions by 5% in the next 12 months. Bravo! I hope they succeed and that others, like the Parisians, follow their example.

So are the folks living in Sydney more environmentally minded than the rest of us? I don't think so. But I do think that we need to start implementing Earth Hour more often in our daily lives without waiting for city officials to make these decisions for us. Even by unplugging household appliances when they aren't in use could reduce your energy consumption by up to 10%. Go for it and feel good about it. It really does make a positive difference.