Climate change …
Global warming …
Biggest party in human history.
by Lou Leonard, Co-Founder at One Earth Sangha and Vice President at World Wildlife Fund
This week I’ve spent most of my time talking with reporters, radio stations and folks on social media about Earth Hour — an event begun by World Wildlife Fund nine years ago to raise awareness about climate change. Earth Hour arrives at 8:30 pm tonight (March 28) local time when businesses, iconic landmarks and a whole bunch of regular folks turn off their lights for one hour – Earth Hour – as a call for climate action and a signal that they are standing in solidarity with people all over the world as we face the climate threat. Like New Year’s Eve celebrations, it moves across the planet like a wave.
Back in 2007, when Earth Hour began as one hour in one city (Sydney, Australia), we had no idea what would happen next. But by 2009, Earth Hour was a rocking, global party. Candlelight dinners in Paris with the Eiffel Tower dark, laughing children in Cape Town dancing under the stars, a ‘dark’ chocolate party at Ghirardelli Square in San Francisco with the Golden Gate Bridge dim in the background. This year people in over 175 countries, 7000 cities, as well as almost any iconic landmark you can think of are coming together to send a signal to the world that action on climate change is a priority.
This year, Earth Hour comes at a more critical time than ever. Just as the lights are going out on the Bird’s Nest in Beijing and the National Cathedral in Washington, DC, governments in those cities and in every countries on Earth are developing national carbon pollution targets to contribute to a new international agreement in Paris in December. The signal that we send tonight can show our leaders that we are watching and we want them to be bold. Through Earth Hour we can break down false barriers and division and begin to act Planetary. Doing so, we can model for our governments that kind of agreement needed in Paris – one that supports and encourages greater cooperation and action, rather than finger pointing and conservative commitments.
As Earth Hour has grown over the years, many were dumbfounded that a climate action could inspire such unbridled joy. As Dharma practitioners we shouldn’t be. As the Zen koan teaches, “the sickness is the medicine.” When we stop running from our fears and face them, magic happens and interconnection reveals itself.
Climate change is the great teacher of our interdependence, with each other and Earth. Think of it this way: The coal dug up in Virginia and burned in Ohio, heats the atmosphere, which melts the Himalayan glaciers. That water floods villages in Nepal before reaching the sea which raises ocean levels and floods the largest naval base in the world – back in Virginia. On the solution side, interconnection has helped drive an unbelievable reduction in the cost of clean energy and its related rapid growth. The policies supporting solar in Germany and the United States helped drive the solar manufacturing industry in China, which lowered prices further, which deepened solar purchases in the United States, India and elsewhere.
We are all connected; no one person, no one country can face this threat or solve it alone. Cognitively this can still feel scary at times, rather than joyful. “Will we succeed? Can the change come fast enough?” But being present and awake, letting go into the truth of our interconnection, unfailingly leads to greater ease and more often than not joy. Even climate joy, as we come out of our protected skin and rely on each other to move into this uncertain and exciting future.
Another wondrous truth: from this place of connectedness and joy, action comes. For Earth Hour this means using the Hour to let yourself discover what you want to do next. From the small steps of signing up for an energy audit to reduce waste, cost and carbon or finally looking into that green energy program your utility offers. Or somewhat bigger steps like rooftop solar panels for your home (I haven’t paid for electricity since mine went on the roof last year) or looking into an electric car. But most importantly, becoming a force to break the climate silence, the social taboo around speaking about climate change. When we wisely speak from a place of love, we can disarm awkward conversations and expel the emotional barriers to discussing climate action.
Get started at www.worldwildlife.org/EarthHour. Tweet at a few remaining landmarks to encourage them to participate (Freedom Tower anyone?) And during the day, tune in to watch Earth Hour Live and revel in watching the children’s faces in Uganda, India and Italy as the lights go out and the party starts. And when the lights come back on, take the next step.
So this night, March 28 at 8:30 pm, wherever you are, join in, lean in and let go. Your climate joy is waiting.