Tonight at 8:30 pm, we were asked to "go dark" for an hour-- to turn off all non-essential lights, unplug unused appliances, and generally stay off anything running on electricity, or even really a battery, in order to spread awareness of (and hopefully put a stop to) the effects of global warming. Celebrities like Kevin Bacon, Hart Bochner, and Melissa Gilbert lent their images to PSAs leading up to the evening about the effect our general consumption has on the environment at large and how we all need to do a little bit to conserve. I eagerly signed up, figuring that if my unemployed friends during this economic recession could go without TV for 525,600 minutes in order to scrimp on bills, surely I could go without 60 to save the environment! I am here to tell you, my friends, that 60 minutes is a long time!
It is a bit sad that in this day and age our culture has become so expectant of instant gratification and constant entertainment that the simple task of "going back to basics" for a mere hour could be daunting. But it was. Oh it was! I didn't expect it to be. In fact, I went into Earth Hour excitedly, shouting it at my friends as we dispersed from a table read early in the afternoon. I looked forward to partaking in something that was guaranteed to be much bigger than me (Times Square even dimmed their lights; God forbid they would shut down the fifty foot Coca Cola completely, though, lest some tourists might buy a Pepsi instead!). At 8:25, I willingly shut down my laptop and turned off my rerun of Friends (yes, this is how this twenty-something chooses to spend a Saturday night; you read my post about having no life, right??) and got ready for whatever adventure might come my way.
But what adventure can come from sitting in the dark on your couch in your own apartment by yourself? In all honesty, I probably would have just fallen asleep, tucked comfortably under my chenille throw, except my dog decided it would be the perfect opportunity for him to come lay on my chest and lick my face. The hour ticked on, but for me it dragged by. I could hear the sounds of the outside world just across the courtyard from my own apartment-- the sounds of my neighbor watching a war movie for the fifty bajillionth time; the squint-worthy glow of the halogen lamps that dot said courtyard for added security (apparently neither my neighbor nor my apartment manager got the celeb-studded memo). And I admit, the itch to just flip open my computer and check to see if anyone commented on my Facebook song survey crept up not once, but thrice in the course of the hour.
When 9:30 finally rolled around, and I was once again "allowed" to indulge, I found that the previous hour had not made me remember all of the simpler things I once loved to do (hell, who can read in the dark? I guess I could have lit a candle, but in all honesty, after the gas leak scare I had a few weeks ago, I wasn't too keen on that whole notion). Instead, the previous hour made me realize just how reliant on technology I had come not only for information and entertainment but for just a way to pass the time. And I can't imagine I am alone in that. How many people do we see texting during a meal they are sharing with another (different) friend? How many can't watch their favorite television show without updating their Facebook status or Twitter profile to tell people that is what they are doing?
I wish Earth Hour had been a bit more widely publicized (the YouTube videos I referenced earlier averaged only about four hundred views in about a week; the clip of my dog opening presents on Christmas garnered 30,000+ in only two days!). Maybe using so many electronic resources to spread the cause would have been oxymoronic and counterintuitive, but I think the impact would have been much greater, and therefore, the event much more successful, if people realized just what they were at risk to lose if something isn't done about our energy issues. Everyone is so flippant and assumes either the damage is already irreversible so why bother or that things can't possibly get too much worse in their own lifetime, so it just isn't a priority. But the minute something they care about becomes at stake, that is when they become invested. A bunch of people I know couldn't even be bothered to do Earth Hour tonight because it would have cut into their Rock Band playing time or blending their margaritas. But I bet if they didn't have a choice-- if DWP just cut them off for an hour-- they would have been up in arms. Is that what it will take for this society to understand the importance of the issue???