On Earth Day, here’s how to make Earth Hour last all year

Earth Hour – it’s been three weeks and I’m missing it already. I’d like it to last all year. So thank goodness for Earth Day, now showing at  a day near you.  I actually wrote this with the lights off during Earth Hour, but I lost it in the dark. Better late than never, I found it, so here it is.

Harping on about the good old days

When I was a child, we had a thing called Sunday. Perhaps you’re old enough to remember it. Admittedly the idea sounds quaint now, but it was a day when you couldn’t go shopping because by regulation almost all the stores were shut. Some people found it hard to think what to do on a Sunday, especially since there were 52 of them each year and church was getting unacceptably religious. Most people, though, had a sense of imagination and were quite happy spending time with family and friends, going visiting, or gardening, or playing sports, or a thousand different activities that enriched their lives a little bit. Then they scrapped Sunday so people could do more shopping instead, unless they worked in the retail industry, in which case they had to do more working. It was as if millions of people had risen up as one and shouted, “No longer shall we put up with the government dictating when we can and can’t go shopping – that’s obviously the job of a well-financed cartel of multinational supermarket and department store chains!” There was a noble rearguard action called ‘Keep Sunday Special’, but it was terribly unfashionable, suspiciously pious and had about as much chance of success as if it had been organised by King Canute of ‘Keep Tides Low’ fame. A few years after the abolition of Sunday, some well meaning people invented ‘Buy Nothing Day’. It was nearly the same as the tired old Sunday concept, but now, so as to keep up with the times, there was just one of them a year. In other words Buy Nothing Day was a little under 2% of Sunday, slipped back into the calendar on an entirely voluntary basis. In popularity terms it proved to come somewhere between Eat Nothing Day and Breathe Nothing Day, but no doubt it made for some happiness – especially, I suspect, for that crusty few who secretly hanker after the Buy Nothing Life.

Getting up to date

And so now we have Earth Hour. It started in Australia and like Kylie Minogue, sea water warm enough to swim in and winning at cricket, it has gained international standing as Quite A Good Idea. My favourite Earth Hour was in 2008 when we went skinny dipping in the local river and were surrounded not by darkness but by the most amazing natural phosphorescence I’ve ever splashed through. I’m sure you’ll agree that learning to spell a word like phosphorescence is the kind of uniquely magical experience that can easily make Earth Hour well worth all the effort of turning out the lights.

The only snag really is what Earth Hour has to tell us about all the other Non-Earth Hours in the year – all 8,759 of them.

If you enjoyed this particular 0.0114% of your annual time allotment, perhaps there is some way of treating Earth Hour like that other great Australian invention, Vegemite, and spreading it out a little bit more evenly upon the warm toast of your year. To that end here are a few simple ideas for you to introduce gently but firmly to your own particular eco-friendly lifestyle of choice:

In search of the longer lasting hour

1. Hide all your clocks. That way you’ll probably overshoot and have an Earth Hour-and-a-Bit by mistake. Whoops.

2. But why wait till next year? Why not snatch an Earth Moment today, right now even! Next time you feel yourself about to do something that uses fossil energy, consider trying a wonderful non-fossil alternative. You could also make a note of the moments when you catch yourself saying, ‘But there is no lower-energy alternative!’ These days young people call this kind of talk ‘politics’. And even if you’re old there’s still time to get used to it.

3. Take up amateur astronomy. If you find you actually start to enjoy looking up at the night sky with all the lights turned off you will also find it’s not much of a hobby if you only do it for one hour a year. The same goes for many other hobbies – amateur lie-ins for instance.

4. Go camping. Depending on how much you like canvas (OK, rip-stop polyester with a five year guarantee and a nausea-inducing colour scheme) this could be referred to as an Earth Weekend or an Earth Week. My brother- and sister-in-law like it so much they used to camp for the whole summer quite near their home and go in to work every day feeling like they were still on holiday. Irresponsible, certainly, but there it is. You could call this an Earth Season, but probably not in public because totally unlike Earth Hour it sounds ridiculous.

5. If you’ve stuck with this so far, you’re surely ready for the most radical idea I can produce while having my thought interrupted every two minutes by the need to wind up a defective clockwork torch: how about a day a week when you don’t use much fossil fuel at all and instead discover other means of enjoying yourself? I know it sounds crazy but you might just find it worth trying. I feel I can say this because one year my partner and I were in a cabin in the Scottish Highlands with the outside temperature an unprecedented minus 18 degrees Celsius. The snow was so deep we couldn’t push open the door. Needless to say there was a power cut and to keep from freezing we had to stay in bed all day. Amazingly, we found things to do! I’m confident that with a bit of time on your hands you might too. Just imagine, one day in seven when you allow yourself to do something different from the other busy days of the week. You could be more laid back, or you could get done the things you’ve been meaning to do for a while. Either way you’d feel much happier with a day unplugged from the pressure of others’ expectations. A weekly day of rest! Mmmm. It would be just like Earth Hour except 1,248% better! The only difficulty will be deciding what on earth to call it.

[Oh, and before you ask, Earth Moment, Earth Weekend, Earth Week, Earth Season, Earth Hour-and-a-Bit and Non-Earth Hour are now all taken, soon to become not-for-profit foundations in their own right, and all run from the Internet of course by well-meaning 18 year olds taking an Earth Year Out- so lay off. Sunday you can keep and you’re welcome to it.]

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