Thursday, September 18, 2014

From the desk

In a voluntary, rolling blackout, thousands of cities across Europe, Asia, Australia and the Americas flipped their switches to complete darkness as a symbolic gesture of support for the planet.

The World Wildlife Fund (WWF) reported that cities such as Paris, London, Hong Kong, Sydney, Beijing and even the Vatican shut off their lights from 8:30 to 9:30 p.m. in each of their respective time zones Saturday, March 23.

My house was one among them.

After participating in this event, I could not help but wonder, why do we shut off our lights only on this special day?

Turning off the power in my house did not hinder anything that I had planned for the night. In fact, my friends and I had more fun sitting together and telling ghost stories, singing and reminiscing than we ever had watching an overplayed movie.

While it is not plausible for every household, business or agency to turn off their lights each night, it should be considered more than one day a year, and it should be done without consistent prompting from the WWF.

Since most of us have heard at least some sort of argument about global warming, the impact that the consumption of electricity has on the planet should not be foreign to us. Still, being reminded of the numbers every so often has a sobering effect.

The U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) reported that on average, an American home uses 940 kilowatthours per month. This equates to 2,166 million metric tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions leaking into the atmosphere per home, according to the EIA.

The CO2 emissions, according to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), have significant environmental impact. One consequence is the trapping of heat within the earth’s atmosphere, which can contribute to global warming.

Yes, CO2 is a part of a natural cycle on earth. Still, EPA reports show additional human activity has contributed to more CO2 being released, altering the carbon cycle.

As witnessed on Saturday, shutting off the lights for just one hour each night is not a difficult task for cities, homes and agencies. If businesses would pledge to go light-free during non-operational hours, then the fossil fuels saved and the environmental benefits would be endless.

While my small house in Lynchburg, Va. does not contribute much to electrical use across the United States, and while I cannot keep my lights off every night of the year, I will start making an effort to cut back my electricity usage to make my time on earth a little less polluted.

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