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How I spent my Earth Hour

At eight o’clock every night, I sit in a rocking chair with my son on my lap and read him stories by the light of an electric lamp. Lights out comes around 8:15 p.m. This past Saturday was right on schedule. As Earth Hour approached, my son and I were upstairs while my wife was in the living room trying to get some work done on her laptop—unexpectedly so, since she was supposed to be at work. I had told her at suppertime that I thought we should observe Earth Hour. “Observe” somehow seemed more apropos than “celebrate” or “participate in,” given the event’s religious tint. In fact, the zeal of the daily propaganda in the Toronto Star had kinda put us both off, but we decided to do it anyway.

We lit two candles in my son’s room, and instead of reading him stories, I made one up from thin air—about a boy who lived in the mountains with his horse and his cat, and who set off camping with a gaggle of forest friends including an owl and a moose. He enjoyed the experience of pure imagination so much, he asked me to tell the story again. He then blew out the candles and went down without a struggle. I came downstairs and looked outside. Most people on my street were observing, too. The street lights were brighter and whiter than they’d ever been, but only because the rest of the street and the city had gone dark for once, eliminating the orange glow of light pollution that normally permeates the ether.

In the living room, my wife was lying on the couch, enjoying the stillness and the candlelight. By powering down our perennially busy household, we were able to enjoy our home in a way we normally would not. It reminded me of growing up in Montreal, powered by Hydro-Québec’s notoriously fickle grid. You could always count on two or three nights without power every winter, and I loved those outages because they shut down the bustle—you simply had to stop doing whatever you were doing. The entire family would gather in the living room by candlelight and talk and laugh and play silly games. Electrical utilities are much more reliable today than they were 30 years ago, and that never happens anymore. So, with Earth Hour as a model, I think I’ll just have to schedule them in.

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