Tonight (Saturday) at 8.30 pm lights will go out all over Brighton and Hove, and 7,000 other towns and cities across the world. Hopefully this won’t be due to a massive power outage caused by extreme weather or the gas running out, but WWF’s Earth Hour, the world’s largest environmental campaign. Lights will be extinguished on the Houses of Parliament, Buckingham Palace and the Brighton Wheel.
Earth Hour aims to focus attention on the kind of energy we use and the impact it has on our planet and demonstrate that we can manage by using less. This year we are encouraged to get together with family and friends for a candlelit dinner. Celebrity chefs including Jamie Oliver and Raymond Blanc are providing recipe suggestions.
Some energy experts say that a mass turning on and off of power risks upsetting electricity supply systems as power demand drops and then surges at the same time. Others say the levels of usage are not sufficient to have any impact. The french have no reservations about turning the lights out. A law passed in France in January will require that from July shops and unoccupied offices will have to turn off their lights overnight – saving enough energy to power 750,00 households each year.
Given a recent increase in interest in the stars, stimulated by popular science programmes like Stargazing Live, another bonus of reducing night lighting is that (given a clear night) more people can see more of the night sky.
Here in Brighton and Hove the city council are supporting the event, and last year 300 people joined a lantern walk on the seafront. This year a higher turnout is hoped for with, music, singing and a walk from the bandstand to the Brighton Wheel. However, given a rather extreme spring weather forecast, a candlelit dinner appreciating the comforts our energy sources have to offer could prove a more attractive option.