— Pratima H
EARTH: What started as a simple lights-off incident in Sydney, Australia in 2007 has sparked so much debate and attention alike all these years, that it is hard not to miss this year’s date – Saturday 28 March. The time – when the clock strikes 8.30 pm in your local time zone.
You could belong to either of the two polarized sides – One group would munch popcorns/tacos/potato chips till 9.30 pm to shred the idea to pieces with lines like – Oh! How does my switching off a tube light help when big giants and grids keep going on? Won’t it lead to much more and a skewed power uptick and chaos for power transmission after the earth hour compared to other normal evenings? What about those farmers who still spend every evening without electricity in my neighborhood village? Wait, isn’t today’s genre of electricity a better environmental and efficient alternative than burning coal?
The other group would be munching popcorns or chips too (in darkness for an hour but never mind). Peer pressure, media drum roll or personal sense of responsibility could have been the cause and the result will be a blank or silent huddle of people wondering when the clock strikes 9.30.
As to those who are staunch advocates of the initiative, well, they surely won’t be swallowing anything (words included) when they are busy preaching and inspiring others, so we will leave them comfortably out of this schism.
Our focus continues on the latter group and if we can let the debate hang in the air for a while, we get a moment to think of Earth Hour beyond the precincts of ‘environmental heroes vs. villains’ plot. What if we think of Earth Hour as that much needed-downtime that our technology-hijacked-lives seldom allow for? After all, which BC or AC year was it when you actually paused and took some time to stare at the stars?
Grab this time to blink away from neon signs, TV soaps, whatsapp beeps, Facebook alerts, email pings and stare at something else. Like really, really – sit and stare.
And once you start moving those eyeballs in utter blackness you will find that it’s so much fun to be in the dark for a change. You don’t even need to pay for dining (and band-aids for your bruised toes) at some eccentric all-dark restaurant for this one.
You just need some candles, or a tarp or a make-shift tent, a blanket, a dice, papers and scissors or may be nothing to have some fun during the Earth Hour.
So which one of these ideas catches your fancy?
1. Picnic! Yes, remember your past life when you actually sat down, without any unsolicited gadget-guests and had a relaxed bite with your loved ones? You don’t – right. That’s precisely why you might want to spread a blanket and gather some cup noodles, marshmallows, sandwiches and mugs together. Ascend that forgotten terrace or find a spot in the park near your office/house. And just sit tight.
2. Would you want to let children in your house or neighborhood know that things like lanterns exist? Have a silly lantern-making and lantern-flying class then. Go for a night walk or roof-trek with all those lovely birds ready to be blown towards the sky.
3. How about daring your friends for a glow-in-the-dark dance performance or a truth-and-dare or a face-painting poke game? You never know what you get to see when the lights are switched on again? Hey, is that a naughty twinkle in your eye?
4. Just kindle some beeswax/non-toxic candles and dine by candlelight to see the other silhouette and a more beautiful side of your spouse or date? Chat about pointless things for a change and forget those bills/calendars/battles.
5. Organize a potluck dinner where friends can knock in with a special ‘Earth Hour’ dish. You can add a dash of challenge with rules around using local/organic /sustainable ingredients only. Like it goes – You never know!
6. Make a pledge board and think together on all those seemingly-simple actions that we can take for a better planet when the hour is over.
7. Enjoy a good round of non-plugged jazz or Karaoke or Antaakshri or bonfire music in that beautiful silence.
8. Go to that iron gate of your building or house and explore its hidden function. Perch your feet on the base and see if you can swing to the other side. Warning – once you start, your security guard or Mom will have a tough time getting you back in.
9. Light some candles/blow them off too for extra fun as you challenge everyone to a game of making a drawing or ‘something from scratch’ in the dark. Crayons, papers will hypnotize people before you know and there is no measuring the giggles, ‘can’t-believe-you-drew-that’ guffaw once the lights are on.
10. Do a snack-swap party and get to know your neighbors better. There is more to them than a name plate as you might find out.
11. Try stupid games like an ugly cake contest or a candy-poker or a worst-poetry contest
12. Make a Bucket list with your spouse or best friend. If not, just cuddle (that’s for the spouse part, buddy).
13. Try a lights-out treasure hunt or hide-and-seek game with friends, family members. Enjoy the spooky side of that Uncle you thought only reads the Politics page in newspapers. See how quickly your sweet niece can change into a tough Jack Sparrow.
14. Board games of course.
15. Contemplate. It surely must have been a long time since you had the serenity for a good conversation with self. So how, about having a Little Chicken Soup for the Soul (make that Macaroni, if you a veggie). Remember the purpose, remember the occassion, appreciate the way things have turned on the Blue Marble, and then thing of how you can save the tiny little cosmos in the vast spread of universe, by things like, switching off stuff regularly and not once in a year. Now that’s an Earth Hour.
There are umpteen and much/many more creative ways to add this list. And that makes for a number 15th to indulge in during the Earth hour.
On a serious side, the ninth edition of Earth Hour is just months away a new global Climate deal that is expected to be agreed and its organizers call it a revolutionary movement completely powered by you – your ideas, interests, ambitions and actions. It beseeches people for turning off lights within their vicinity as a symbolic gesture, but there is great cause to go beyond just ‘lights out’, as the campaign enlightens.
It can be a stupid, too-small an idea as critics say. Or it could be a good tiny, symptomatic step that makes room, in parallel, to imagine life beyond the boundaries we have boxed it in.
Earth Hour is for a serious cause if you are on that side of the table, but that doesn’t mean it has to be sombre. May be you can even woo in naysayers from the other side of the table as you celebrate the lights-out time in a new way. Who says fun is ever bad for health?