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Why ‘Earth Hour’ was a waste of time

Why ‘Earth Hour’ was a waste of time

At 8.30pm on Saturday night, everyone was supposed to turn off the lights, in a statement against excessive energy consumption. In Saudi Arabia, few people bothered.

March 28, 2010 10:41 by

The lights are on but there’s no one home.

That was the message following Saudi Arabia’s attempt at ‘Earth Hour 2010′, the global call for action on climate change.

At 8.30pm last night, the lights of famous landmarks and ordinary people’s homes went out, in a mass statement about our excessive energy consumption. People from the remote Chatham Islands in the far West, to those in Egypt, India and Australia, took part.

But in Saudi Arabia, few people bothered.

It was, admittedly, the first time the event had been held in the Kingdom. And it has been slow to take off in other Gulf countries: Kipp remembers that a few years ago, Dubai’s Earth Hour was advertised on a huge message board at the entrance to The Palm, which featured a message in blazing electric light, advising people to, er, turn off the lights. Which kind of missed the point.

But things were better in Dubai this year, with lights of the famous Burj Khalifa and Burj al Arab being switched off for over an hour, and numerous other commercial and residential blocks participating. So perhaps more Saudi residents will take part in 2011.

The question is: will it do any good?

Raising awareness of our energy consumption probably doesn’t do any harm. But in the Gulf, initiatives like Earth Hour probably don’t do much good, either. That’s because ‘people power’ is rather impotent in the non-democratic societies of the Gulf.

But hopefully someone in government will be listening. Because even a small change in policy could result in massive energy savings.

One of Kipp’s personal bugbears is the scarcity of motion-sensing light switches in this part of the world. As the name suggests, these sense when humans are present, and turn the lights on and off accordingly. These are incredibly common in public buildings and office blocks in other countries, but very rare here; in a region where toilets flush for you automatically, taps are operated by a wave of the hand, and trains do not require drivers, it’s remarkable that these simple devices are not more widespread.

Why bother with Earth Hour, when a minor change in legislation to make these devices compulsory could deliver such massive energy savings?

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  1. sahar on March 29, 2010 9:21 am

    Actually, DEWA’s answer to helping people change their energy consumption is by: INCREASING THE TARIFFS!!!!

    Something as silly and almost primative as Solar enegry, is not even a thought or option since it requires finances to invest and implement. But why think of innovative solutions that would encourage people to save, when you can rob them some more. Oh and i don’t think it helps that the local community are almost exempt from paying their consumption bills. If, according to DEWA, increase tariffs so people can feel their consumption levels and reduce, then how will that affect the local community if we don’t even pay our own bills!

  2. Antoine on March 29, 2010 11:06 am

    I think that Gulf laziness affected people’s understanding of what supporting a cause means. The article suggests that such initiatives are only intended to directly pressure Gulf governments and authorities to make a move against climate change. And that said people’s power is deemed impotent. However let us remember that people can still do their part of the work and save energy. Living green is not far fetched so if people believe in that, they are free to do it. On another note Earth Hour is a global phenomena intended to support associations that work on a global scale to pressure leading governments to come up with a worldwide pact re regulations regarding industrial pollution and energy consumption. In other words governments in the region will eventually follow suit if enough support is given to NGOs and people can start saving energy from their homes no need to wait for a change in legislation to move. My 2 cents…

  3. ven on March 29, 2010 11:26 am

    These appeals do not seem to be appropriate here.

    This part of the world has the most wasteful. most crass and crude display of wealth.

    Air conditioners running everywhere..
    huge 4 wheelers guzzling oil floating all over the place..

    ANyone heard of solar energy which is free and blazing all around?

    Is this not like the grand display of flowers in bloom before they decay?

  4. Miss Anne Thropic on March 30, 2010 10:30 pm

    All the power not used during Earth Hour in the UAE was diverted to Meydan for the World Cup…

  5. Andrew on March 31, 2010 11:55 am

    I spent Earth Hour turning everything in my flat on. The rest of the year I prepare papyrus manuscripts by candlelight

  6. Ronald on March 31, 2010 1:47 pm

    As long as the power stations are running to provide the electricity when Earth hour is done, then there is no need for earth hour… unless the electicity production that is sourced from fossil fuel is shut down then i say threre is progress….
    but do you know how complex it is to shut off a generating installation and restarting it? it’s not a the flick of a switch…

    the answer to the earth hour should be earth year… i think… the use of low intensity and more efficient light bulbs and LED should be more widespread. motion and pressure sensing light switches, as well as smart climate control in homes could be but a fraction of the solutions that are possible…
    Solar energy in the GCC is very attainable as well. but i ask all of you here…

    if you were given the choice to drive a V8 rangerover for a relatively good price where gas is dirt cheap, or drive a Toyota Prius; which one would you go for? no honestly….

    people in the M.E have the purchasing power to buy Hybrig Porsche CAyenne, and Chevy Tahoe, and other models, why is it that they never do? because gas is cheap….put the price of fuel up by like 4 times and i will assure you that residents and expats in the GCC will react very very fast…that should apply to energy bills as well.

  7. Miss Anne Thropic on March 31, 2010 3:27 pm

    How about making the UAE the world leading location for solar power research? That’d give this place another reason to exist apart from oil, a half-baked tourist industry and a place for failed expats to escape to.

    The Pacific Controls green building shows that it can be done, we just need to find ways to make solar power as simple as possible so the whole country can come off the grid.

    Sunlight is the one thing this place will never run out of.

    Naysayers claim that it’s too hard to make solar power as easy to produce and use as other forms of electricity but if every invention or concept never progressed past its original form, we’d still be driving Model T Fords and using candlestick telephones.


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