confessions of an earth hour sceptic II

According to best estimates by the organisers, Saturday 29 March 2014 the people of 152 nations and 7000 cities will turn off their lights for one hour to prove the world can unite to tackle climate change.

Neither Earth Hour nor any other clever social marketing initiative have made inroads into the rate of destruction of the environment thus far. Earth Hour has raised awareness, but so far, the awareness hasn’t translated into environmental benefits. Many people including reputable scientists believe that we have passed the point of no return and that it is now a question of damage control rather than the opportunity to maintain what we have or even to turn this ship around. Nobody likes bad news and people are clinging to hope.  Earth Hour gives hope because it brings people together and signals good will. 

This year, Earth Hour is trying to take the initiative further than in previous years adopting crowd funding and an extensive network of partner organisations to help turn this year’s Earth Hour from a ‘moment into a movement’.

In Australia, for example, the campaign collaborates with Get Up to shine the light on the Barrier Reef and its long term plight.

“We want to use the movement’s power to help Australians make the connections between tackling climate and saving our Great Barrier Reef.” Get Up campaign email.

Mobilising crowds like this is an achievement in itself, there is no doubt about it. BUT has it made a real difference to the crucial challenges of the day?

What effort and energy has gone into Earth Hour to what effect?

Has anybody evaluated the initiative beyond participation?

I can’t answer either one of these questions but would suggest that we need to evaluate Earth Hour and other initiatives in the future so we can make informed decisions and invest our energy to the best effect.  We are running out of time and must go ‘beyond feel good’ to ‘do good’.

As always, I am keen to hear what others think and have collated a few other references for further reading.

My first blog about Earth Hour in 2011.

Earth Hour evaluation for a public relations award.

Saudi Gazette, beyond the 60 minutes.

Last but not least the brilliant video from the people at Earth Hour:



  • Thank you for writing this!

    I have recently been invited to participate in no makeup selfies to raise awareness for cancer research… In Europe this is a fundraiser. In Australasia simply one more reason to post paste your face on Facebook!

    I am totally all about people taking action to make a difference, but I find that things like Earth hour are all about the action (turning lights off for an hour) rather than actually changing habits long term or even being informed about what the true problems are.

    I still think the intention is great, but it is with the success of the big marketing event, that they can then have some real impact and that should definitely be the next step.

  • G’day! I agree with you as awareness about something is one thing, but I too think it needs to have some sort of goal!
    Cheers! Joanne

  • Great constructive argument about the effectiveness of such a huge initiative. It can be easy to join into these ‘feel good’ initiatives like you say and consider that a contribution to the bigger issue when really it is only scratching the surface. Thank you for showing another perspective on this. I totally agree that the result of time, energy and $ spend should be measured to ensure they are being used wisely. Great post.

  • Thank you for your comment, Kylah. Much appreciated.

  • I personally love Earth Hour and have joined in on several continents over the last few years. I’ve found that it’s a great chance for the family to unplug and the couple of times we have involved other families it has been interesting to see what others think of it. Do you know some families never, ever, ever have all their lights turned off in their home? Night lights at night. Lights outside the front door during the day or above the oven in the kitchen? I was gobsmacked when I couldn’t get one family to sit through ONE HOUR of darkness with candles and a pack of cards. I know this is a drop in the ocean but it definitely gets people thinking about what small steps they can take to make a difference. As for the no makeup selfies – I always wear no makeup so that wasn’t exactly a challenge!

    • Ulrike Schuermann

      thanks for your thoughtful comment – you illustrate the spectrum of opinion really way, there is more than one way to go about environmental awareness!