By KAREN KALPAGE
For any parent with a young child, the answer to this question is a no brainer – it’s ‘to sneak in some sleep. I’m a parent, I’m sleep deprived. Dark: good, light: bad.’
The next common answer, I believe, would be ‘to hide from my child’. My rambunctious, cheeky son, Max, is four and sometimes we refer to him as ‘Lucifer’ or ‘Damien Omen’ (Part I, II, or III. Take your pick). Why wouldn’t we hide from him in the dark?
For those that are young, newly in love, they may even answer “to get some boudoir action”. Candles, romance, Marvin Gaye … you know the song I mean, don’t pretend you don’t.
But maybe, just maybe, we turn out our lights (and TV too!) to allow us to see things differently.
On one level, turning your lights off for Earth Hour is a symbol of environmental and social action. It was an idea born from a need to act, to do something, to rally and to connect. To take a moment to consider the environmental challenges we’re facing (they’re big ‘uns like climate change) and the part that we can play to overcome them.
But it’s more than symbolism. It has to be.
So how does a symbolic act translate into action? Well, in the case of Earth Hour, it’s a conversation starter and a prompt to consider, and even change, how we live. And that’s why we see lots of Earth Hour participants taking on other environmental projects. Because Earth Hour was a prompter – it got them thinking.
For me, on a daily level, Max is my very own walking, talking Earth Hour. Recently, encouraged by the Other Half, he began following me around saying, ‘Turn off the lights, Maaaamaaa, you forgot to turn off the lights’. Then we started talking about why we need to turn off lights, what electricity is and how it works (thaaaank you Google!). And it made a difference – when moving from room to room I now remember to turn off the lights. Yep, that adage about ‘old dog, new tricks’ is not always true.
But conversations like these have led to other changes at home.
Maybe it’s a getting older thing but I’ve become more and more aware of sustainability and being a bit more self-sufficient. We garden, we plant trees, and we try and grow our own veggies with Max (when the weeds don’t take over). We’ve also recently been looking into solar panels for the house and rainwater tanks – to really make the best use of what we’ve got.
Together, we try to work out the best way to lessen our environmental footprint. While I’m still a long, long way from becoming Amish, exploring how our little home can be more sustainable is strangely satisfying.
But for me, Earth Hour goes beyond that. It’s a tantalising opportunity to both disconnect and reconnect.
Contradictory? A little bit. But here’s what I mean.
It gets crazy busy at our house. We both juggle full-time work, then run home to make dinner, pick Max from daycare, walk and feed the dog, play rocketships, planes or any other transport game du jour, and try not to react to the current Max favourite – inserting rude words into nursery rhymes (which, between you and I, is absolutely hilarious). Often by the end of the day, after Max is in bed, flopping on the couch to watch catatonia-inducing TV is all we’re capable of.
In this crazy day-to-day life, Earth Hour is an oasis. It’s the chance to connect with family and the important things in life, away from the cacophony of the TV, computer, iPad and mobile phone.
Maybe for us, Earth Hour is really about a bit of old-fashioned family time. No, not night time hide and seek from cheeky child– but games, chatting and fun by candlelight.
So on Saturday 23 March at 8.30pm, whether you plan to switch off for the planet, to catch up on sleep, connect with family and friends, or get jiggy with it in the dark, switch off the lights for Earth Hour. And enjoy!
Karen Kalpage works in communications at WWF-Australia. She is Mama to Max, a chocoholic, a story teller, and usually the only one laughing at anything inappropriate.
This year for Earth Hour, Australians are asked to pledge to switch off for good and switch on to renewables – there’s never been a better time. To find out more go to www.earthhour.org.au. Also check out the website for more information about Earth Hour activities in your town.