At 7:55 last night I was telling my eight-year-old son a bedtime story about climate change as I paused to go switch off the circuit-breaker. Candy Planet was under water, and Tigger was looking for a boat. We had our wind-up flashlight ready. It was fun, a little adventure, and we looked out the window to see if any of our neighbors had turned their lights off too.
But even if it was fun, we were taking part in a serious action: giving the planet a five minute break from our energy demand. In Rome the Colosseum and the Capitol were dark. In Spain the Puerta de Alcala arch, in Athens, the parliament, and in Paris, the Eiffel tower.
Critics of this effort had warned that power surges after the lights went back on might lead to brown-outs and black outs. Didn't happen. Some wondered if the action didn't send the wrong signal, as the solution to climate change doesn't actually require us to freeze in the dark as many skeptics would have us believe. Greenpeace's own energy [r]evolution report demonstrates how a combination of investment in sustainable energy, radical efficiency measures, and changes in the way we use energy can mean keeping C02 in check without crippling economic prosperity or growth.
But turning off the lights for five minutes is a nice reminder that all of us have to play our part in the solution to climate change. We do need to stop *wasting* energy.
At my household, that means a 100% conversion to compact flourescents instead of incandescent bulbs (only 4 to go!). It also means not leaving lights and appliances on when they're not needed.
I've got a mini-campaign going in my family. Every time I turn off an unnecessary light, I say "Save the polar bears." I explained to the kids how polar bears are having a hard time, and could someday disappear, because lights left burning are melting their ice. (The science is a bit beyond them yet, so stories have to fill the space).
My two year old no longer says "lights off" when he wants to turn off a switch (and every two year old wants to be the one to turn off the switch.) He just points and says "poluh buhs, poluh buhs!"
So when Tigger set off last night to save the polar bears in his boat, he got asked why HE left lights burning at the superhero house. Because as any wise talking polar bear knows, this is humanity's common fate and humanity's common problem: we all own it. Even Tiggers.