On the evening of March 30, the planet plunged into darkness: activists from all over the world turned off the electricity in honor of the "Earth Hour". Every year the action is discussed more and more... and criticized. Society is debating whether it's any good or just a show. We understand together with engineers and ecologists.
Earth hour is an annual event of the World Wildlife Fund (WWF). On the last Saturday of March, activists urge concerned to cut off all sources of electricity from 20:30 to 21:30. So earthlings demonstrate involvement in solving environmental problems.
It all started in Australia when in 2007, two million Sydney residents symbolically plunged their homes into darkness. A year later, another 100 million people on seven continents joined the event. Including Antarctica: at least Australian stations in 2008 de-energized "unnecessary" lighting and lit candles.
Every year Antarctic stations of other States joined the action and lights of sights were switched off as a sign of ecological solidarity of the countries. Began to cut down street advertising and brands. The initiative was supported even in space — the ISS crew in 2018 left only the necessary equipment to work.
Last year, 188 countries took part in the action. Russia also does not lag behind the Western trend: in 2018, the Earth Hour was held in 700 settlements of our country. According to WWF statistics, more than 20 million compatriots joined the event.
Now millions of people know about "Earth Hour". But with popularity came and conflicting assessments of experts. We figured out whether the action is beneficial and whether there is no harm from it.
Theory and practice
The main claim of skeptics — General power outage damages the infrastructure. Imagine: a bunch of lighting equipment goes out at once, to an hour as a crowd to break out. This is a serious load on the electrical system. Valery Litvak, Professor of the Department of nuclear and thermal power plants of the Energy Institute of Tomsk Polytechnic University, explained why "earth Hour" brings one harm:
This action, in my opinion, is based on the belief: turned off the light — so good. In fact, this is not so. Power systems work well under constant load. The smoother the graph of the load, the more economical production of electricity. (...) It turns out that we first unloaded the generators, and now we load them again. To put it mildly, it is a great stress for the entire electric power complex.
Professor of Tomsk Polytechnic University Energy Institute
In theory, it is. Turning hardware on and off EN masse is a heavy load on the infrastructure. However, such situations are foreseen in advance in the schedules of electric networks. In the mornings and evenings, too, there is a sharp jump in energy consumption, but the equipment does not fail. We talked with a specialist TSNII "Elektropribor", Vladimir Lakisova. It turned out that in practice, "Earth Hour" does not threaten any extreme loads on the infrastructure:
The scale of the power outage that is expected to occur will not affect the power supply systems. For such systems, it is dangerous not to turn off the external lighting or light in residential areas, but to turn off large and powerful consumers of electricity, for example, a one-time shutdown of all urban electric transport – metro and trams, or the suspension of large industrial enterprises, but this is a utopia.
Specialist TSNII "Elektropribor"
Our interlocutor also noted another plus of the action: "the People who joined it will once again think about the need for everyday reasonable spending of the planet's resources. And from the point of view of urban infrastructure, I do not see any dangerous consequences." However, here lies the second problem — how fashionable hobby really helps the environment?
Even environmentalists doubt the effectiveness of "Earth Hour". According to experts, this is a fiction: one day of the year people for 60 minutes plunged into darkness, wrote about it on Facebook, thought about the problems of man-made influence, and then turned on all electrical appliances and went on to throw away batteries.
Anastasia compares this with petitions: a person signs an electronic paper, and then thinks that he saved the world. That is why the organizers of the "Earth Hour" one action is not complete: in parallel, arrange other events. For example, in Brazil, people gathered in national parks to look at the stars, and in Russia, organized bike rides as a sign of the struggle for a clean planet.
How does it work?
Roman Sablin, the founder of the Green Driver platform, told that the results from Earth Hour are actually there. According to him, the action not only makes people click the switch but also to think: what next? "Each year a growing subscriber base, WWF, people begin to receive mailings and in some way to help. From personal experience, I realized that the development of eco-thinking is not a fast process. It may take several years for a person to move from some first small stroke to real actions," the expert explained.
There is criticism on the other hand — they say, "Earth Hour" calls on the people to abandon the benefits of civilization and return to the stone age. Ross Mckitrick, a Canadian economist and an opponent of global warming, characterizes the action as "a celebration of ignorance, poverty, and backwardness."
In his opinion, the reason for human progress in the XX century is the spread of cheap and reliable electricity. Any rejection of such benefits is unproductive: "Ashamed to sit for an hour in the dark, as if punished for some fault children — means to accept the point of view that emissions outweigh all the benefits of electricity." However, we note — the Fund has never campaigned for a complete rejection of light bulbs and household appliances.
Finally, the authors of the action are caught in a kind of hypocrisy.
The caveat is that WWF encourages various activities that are carried out in parallel with the "hour of darkness". Their organizers are often used to heighten the effect of lanterns and candles. The first, as you know, run on batteries, and those — terribly pollute the environment. With candles, too, not all right: one thing for one hour emits about 10 grams of carbon dioxide. Save the planet with batteries, and carbon dioxide?
However, experts have an explanation. In a conversation, the representative of the environmental movement "Separate Collection" cited as an example the production of posters: "it is obvious that a certain amount of wood or secondary raw materials was spent to create paper, but often the idea that is conveyed with this tool is much more valuable."
The result? "Earth hour" does not bring instant results here and now. You can't make the planet cleaner if you turn off the TV for 60 minutes. But this action raises the problem of ecology — at least once a year we remember the universal house. It's started.