Saturday, April 01, 2023 | Ramadan 9, 1444 H
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Earth Hour reflects grass root activism at its best


As the Sultanate of Oman, along with the rest of the world, observed Earth Hour by switching off household and institutional lights for an hour, it reminds us that protecting the environment isn’t just the task of governments and institutions, but all of us.

It also gives us hope that individuals could contribute, even in small ways to solving the problem of climate change.

An initiative started by the WWF (World Wildlife Fund), Earth Hour was first observed in Sydney in 2007. Ever since, it has become one of the most recognised events in the globe’s environmental calendar, observed in the third weekend of March, aligning with the Spring and Autumn equinox. With over 193 countries participating, Earth Hour shows that ‘we can all play a part to shape a safer, fairer and more sustainable future for everyone on our planet, the one home we all share,” according to the WWF.

Turning off the lights for one hour, one day in the year may not sound like a big achievement and it may not be enough to mitigate the ecological disasters we see regularly unfold.

How much energy could we actually save with this symbolic gesture, we cynically ask. How many people are even participating, if it’s entirely voluntary?

The results may surprise. While the organisers themselves state that reduction of energy consumption is not the sole goal of this initiative, countries have reported a reduction of 15-30 per cent of energy used in this period.

By itself, that is not anywhere enough, as critics have pointed out that electricity is not even the main culprit in climate change and that candles themselves are made of paraffin, a hydrocarbon.

The significance of events like Earth Hour, however, is in the hope and possibilities of engagement that it provides to a community.

By shifting the responsibility of such macro tasks like environmental protection into the tiny hands of school students, this largely notional moment gets converted into a mission of hope and agency. It provides spaces for the community to engage in larger issues by providing opportunities for conversations on how best to protect the immediate environment in ways that are local and sustainable. This is important to prevent climate ‘doomscrolling’.

By now, climate anxiety has become a reality. Associated with helplessness and loss of hope, climate anxiety is an accepted state of mind which translates into distrust with authorities and “feelings of fear, shame, guilt, anger and frustration,” according to the BBC.

Earth Hour provides a much needed catharsis and outlet for the helplessness we may feel.

Scientists have provided many options for those who feel such anxiety: be part of a larger community, remind yourself that every single individual can make a difference, however small, join a movement or help in any other way you can: activism and art are both equally powerful choices.

Observing Earth Hour thus energises us and makes us feel we are part of the solution. That is any day better than being part of the problem.

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