Did Earth Hour make a difference?

I know it is over a week since Earth Hour was celebrated around the world, but I want to post my thoughts anyway. Although little has been said in the South African media since Saturday 26 March, the friends I asked all said they had supported Earth Hour. We did too.  I spent Earth Hour (and a bit) lying in the dark thinking. I thought about the recent earthquakes which caused such devastation in Japan and New Zealand. I also wondered what a difference Earth Hour was making – not only in South Africa, but throughout the world.

According to Eskom (our local power company – there’s only one here!)

During Earth Hour on Saturday South Africans saved 350 megawatts of electricity, enough to power Bloemfontein for a whole day, Eskom said on Tuesday.

“As part of its support for the Earth Hour campaign, Eskom measured the reduction in electricity used during the hour against typical consumption for this time on an average Saturday evening,” said spokesperson Hillary Joffe . . . Read more

Bloemfontein is the judicial capital of South Africa (the seat for the Supreme Court of Appeal) and is a “university town”. It is the home town of some very famous South African sportsmen and women. Bloemfontein is also where The Lord of the Rings author J.R.R. Tolkien was born. Although since he left there at the age of 3, I don’t think it provided much inspiration for creation of Middle Earth! Population-wise at approximately 370 000 residents it is a much smaller city than Johannesburg (7.15 million residents) or Cape Town (3.5 million residents)*.

So what does a saving of 350 megawatts of electricity mean? Not a lot as a one time event, but the savings could be quite significant if people were to continue conserving power and there was an accumulative effect. What I personally experienced though, was that during this year’s Earth Hour there was a greater awareness in South Africa of the environmental issues – including climate change. There was a feeling of solidarity with people from all over the world, together with the understanding that the environmental problems facing the world today, cannot be solved by one nation. That is what events like Earth Hour are all about.

The official Earth Hour site had a blog with posts filed from each country as it went through Earth Hour. South Africa’s contribution was titled “Soweto again demonstrates power of grassroots action“. If you want to check out what happened in your country go to the Earth Hour blog here.

Earth hour in the Southern Cape

[*These figures are from Wikipedia, and may vary according to how the different metropolitan areas are delineated. However, I think it gives a good indication of the comparative sizes of these cities.]

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Categories: Nature/Environment, Random


I live on the Southern coast of South Africa, and write about the things that interest, amuse or inspire me. You can find me at https://notesfromafrica.wordpress.com and http://southerncape.wordpress.com (my photoblog)


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16 Comments on “Did Earth Hour make a difference?”

  1. April 4, 2011 at 1:08 pm #

    Excellent post Lisa – I have reblogged with reference to you. Hope thats ok?

    • April 4, 2011 at 4:44 pm #

      Thanks, I wasn’t sure I expressed my thoughts too well. Yes, it’s fine to reblog as you have done.

  2. eremophila
    April 4, 2011 at 1:27 pm #

    An interesting perspective. I’m a bit of a cynic about it, as I feel one hour once a year isn’t much, but perhaps, I ought to reconsider this view. Maybe as you say, it does raise the consciousness of others on the situation here on Earth. When there are debates in my country about the form of power – coal, wind, solar, etc, I state that more importantly, it is about changing how we use power first and foremost. Reduce, reduce, reduce. 🙂

    • April 4, 2011 at 4:47 pm #

      I also tend to be cynical about most things, but if it’s an opportunity to educate more people about environmental problems and the world-wide energy crisis, I’m for it. I think showing people what a difference it can make just to switch off lights, may convince them that they can really make a difference.

  3. April 4, 2011 at 2:43 pm #

    I hate to say it- I didn’t know about earth hour. Dang it. However, we are in forced conservation mode here and any one of the Clampitts caught leaving a light on has to put $10 in the family kiddy. It’s amazing how much less light we now use.

    • April 4, 2011 at 4:49 pm #

      I guess everyone in Japan is already very aware of conserving energy. And with scheduled power cuts, they have no doubt have done their bit for Earth Hour.

  4. jacquelincangro
    April 4, 2011 at 3:27 pm #

    Kudos to you for participating in Earth Hour. And it’s lovely how you spent the time. Of course one hour isn’t enough, but we have to start somewhere to raise awareness.

    • April 4, 2011 at 4:52 pm #

      Thanks! Willie, when told that we were going to switch off our lights, responded with “Why doesn’t everybody rather plant a tree?”. He likes trees. 😉

  5. April 4, 2011 at 5:40 pm #

    Lisa, I’m sorry to admit, I didn’t know about Earth Day–maybe I was too focused on it being my birthday.

    I notice that having returned from Haiti, I’m beginning to take electricity for granted again. Going without is the biggest consciousness raiser possible.

    I know it sounds extreme, but I wish the US would do rolling blackouts to raise awareness–say for a week. We are so spoiled it sickens me, really!

    Thanks for this great post, Lisa!


    • April 5, 2011 at 6:32 am #

      That’s your excuse – you were focused on your birthday?! 😉 Looks like I will have to alert my readers in future of any upcoming environmental events. Earth Hour was well publicized in South Africa, so difficult to miss.

      A couple of years back there were problems with one of South Africa’s nuclear power reactors (currently there are two in the country), and we experienced rolling blackouts (or “load shedding” as it’s called here) for a couple of months. Was bad for the economy (some of the blackouts were in business hours), but good for raising awareness.

  6. April 4, 2011 at 5:58 pm #

    Good on you for participating in Earth Hour, Lisa.

    We’d participated the last two years, and it had been quite an interesting experience! Fortunately, it wasn’t winter, or you might’ve witnessed a dramatic increase in smoke pollution in the Western Cape that night, what with everyone lighting fires to warm up the house.

    Ultimately, I also wondered how much difference it made – as I still needed to prepare supper, just a little earlier than usual, so we still used electricity. Can’t grill veggies over a candle flame!

    But creating awareness – that definitely has a positive impact.

    • April 5, 2011 at 6:36 am #

      Yes, you’re right, Earth Hour does come at a good time of year for those of us in the Southern Hemisphere.

      True about still needing to cook, but I think the main purpose is to switch off all lights, and see what a difference that makes. It definitely makes more of a difference than I would have thought it would.

  7. April 4, 2011 at 8:41 pm #

    Electricity has never been cheap and we were raised to not switch on a light unless you are going to use it. It was a big no-no in our house to leave a light burning in a room after you left it.

    Although it may not be the most noble of reasons for using electricity sparingly, it certainly helped that I grew up that way. It’s a habit now and I’m conserving energy without realising it 😉 During the summer, and even autumn, months I rarely use more than the kitchen light.

    • April 5, 2011 at 6:40 am #

      My parents also taught us that. Although in my current home, that is not always applied by certain individuals. Drives my mother nuts when she visits! 😉

      I don’t think using electricity sparingly needs to have a noble reason. You just need to do it!

    • April 5, 2011 at 5:13 pm #

      I also grew up like that, Clouded, and it’s good to reinforce such habits. We tend to work until late at night on the computer though, and I’m sure we’re using a fair bit of electricity when we do that.

      The really tricky time is winter… Our house gets soooo cold and damp, that it’s incredibly tempting to flick on the oil heater….


  1. Did Earth Hour make a difference? (via Notes from Africa) « The Slowvelder - April 4, 2011

    […] I know it is over a week since Earth Hour was celebrated around the world, but I want to post my thoughts anyway. Although little has been said in the South African media since Saturday 26 March, the friends I asked all said they had supported Earth Hour. We did too.  I spent Earth Hour (and a bit) lying in the dark thinking. I thought about the recent earthquakes which caused such devastation in Japan and New Zealand. I also wondered what a diff … Read More […]

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