Earth Hour: Make Saturday night electric

By Janisse Ray

Taped next to a light switch in my house is a photo of an Appalachian mountain that has been mined for coal by blowing off its peak. That photo reminds me to keep the light off as much as I can.

This week we have a chance to shut off lights together, to create a massive blackout that NASA will be able to document.

The event is called Earth Hour.

At 8 p.m. on Saturday, March 29, people around the world plan to join together to raise awareness about how human actions affect the planet. Not only does our use of electricity tear down old mountains, it causes global warming and other climate disruption.

Even as we search for alternatives to fossil fuels, we must reduce the kilowatts we consume and get efficient in our use of power.

The world is too bright. It's ablaze. Terrible things are happening.

Sydney, Australia, organized Earth Hour 2007, when millions of Sydney-ites shut off their lights and consequently reduced power consumption by 10 percent.

This year, the event, organized by World Wildlife Fund, is going global, and including Atlanta, Chicago, San Francisco, and cities worldwide. In Atlanta, the list of participating attractions and businesses that will darken is long: the IBM Tower, the Varsity, the Georgia Aquarium. Even Turner Field plans to turn out its lights! Word is that Georgia Power will monitor consumption during the event.

To sign up to participate, go towww.earthhour.org.

Better yet, simply turn out all light in your home at 8 p.m. on March 29 and leave them off for an hour. Turn off all inessential appliances. Turn off computers.

Don't just turn off appliances. Unplug them and leave them unplugged. Many appliances use a small amount of electricity even when switched off, for indicator lights or remote-control signals.

While the lights are out and the television is off, think about ways you can reduce electricity in your life. Replace incandescent bulbs with LED lighting. Turn down your hot water heater thermostat. Turn your washer setting to cold.

If you can see what you're doing, use the time to plant a shade tree — I've been told that each hardwood tree absorbs an average of 25 pounds of carbon dioxide from the air annually.

Together we can make next Saturday night powerfully dark.

Janisse Ray is a writer, poet and environmental activist from Appling County, Georgia. Her latest book is entitled Pinhook: Finding Wholeness in a Fragmented Land

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