Earth Hour

Friday 23rd March, 8:30pm

I’ve been taking part in Earth Hour (and Earth Day) for most years now. The general idea is to stop using electricity for the hour. This can seem simple at first but once you start gearing up for it you realise just what things use and require electricity; lights, fridges, internet things, phones, watches, clocks… How this effects us will depend on our evening routines. How we can take part will typically depend on the people we live with.

When I lived at home I would raise the suggestion of Earth Hour, but would be met with disinterest (food needed to be cooked because we always ate late and the TV(s) and lights were on). I remember deciding to take part anyway by wrapping up warm and stepping outside for the hour. Even this was met with a complication; how would I know when the hour was up without the use of my battery-powered wrist watch!? I resorted to counting the seconds.

Since living on my own I thought the event would be less of a challenge, but since I was taking part in SETI@home which involved having computers on, or having the compulsion to log onto the internet to socialise, it would still take some will-power on my part.

This year I have already stopped participating in SETI@home to save myself the cost of electricity, so there are no computers that I need to go round switching off. I sometimes switch my broadband router off over night, and then that leaves only my fridge. This brings me on to the consideration of things we might put off doing for that hour but then “make up for” by either doing them before or after the hour instead, such as cooking, therefore there is no benefit beyond the mindfulness and self-control exercise.

Coincidentally, this morning’s Radio 4 Woman’s Hour episode included the topic of youngsters and social media, which was interesting in itself:

New research conducted by the University of Essex and University College London, published on Tuesday, found that young girls using social media for more than an hour a day are more likely to develop wellbeing issues as older teens. Are digital technology and social media hijacking young people’s attention, and why is it more prominent in girls? Professor of Lifecourse Epidemiology at UCL, Yvonne Kelly, co-author of the new research, and Erin Cotter, founder of ReConnect – an initiative working with children in secondary schools encouraging reflection on their relationships with technology, discuss the impact screen-use is having on the mental wellbeing of young children and how to promote a more balanced digital lifestyle. – Link

It’s not really a new topic, but there is always “new research”.

Not spending an evening in front of a screen can be a challenge for us all in this modern world of 24/7 connectivity. For youngsters now they can know no difference. For me I remember the time before and I think back to that time in my childhood and what I would have been doing once I got home from school, [did my homework], played outside for a bit and then had my tea. My mum always limited our time in front of the television, and I wasn’t allowed my own TV until I turned 12 years old. I can remember annoying my mum before then with the line: “I’m bored!” which was always met with: “Go and find something to do then!”

I don’t think having 24/7 access to the internet is a cure for boredom. We can have a world of things to do but still feel bored. Plonking ourselves in front of a screen just leads to stuff being fed into us until time has passed and we’re tired enough to go to bed. Doing this out of routine leads to you knowing no different; you don’t learn the techniques of “finding something to do”. Too much of passive entertainment and I don’t feel good at all; I need to be doing something constructive and creative. Even with Youtube entertaining me I find myself watching other people doing things that I want to be doing, instead of actually doing them, and this leads to anxiety and the wellbeing issues highlighted in the Radio 4 show.

So what to do with no electricity for the hour? That means no light, so typically I will light some candles and turn to a book, or, just go to bed early so that I can wake up earlier and make full use of that big light in the sky that is called the Sun and is free to use.

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