Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Earth Hour: Is it Slacktivism?

For better or for worse, Mindful Echo will be switching off the lights at 8:30pm on Saturday, March 29th, 2014.

What is Earth Hour?

Earth Hour is a worldwide grassroots movement uniting people to protect the planet, and is organised by WWF. Engaging a massive mainstream community on a broad range of environmental issues, Earth Hour was famously started as a lights-off event in Sydney, Australia in 2007. Since then it has grown to engage more than 7000 cities and towns worldwide, and the one-hour event continues to remain the key driver of the now larger movement. 

Earth Hour aims to encourage an interconnected global community to share the opportunities and challenges of creating a sustainable world. (source: 

How can I participate? 

Although Earth Hour originated as simply turning off the lights for an hour, the cause itself seems to have expanded to be more all-encompassing of the WWF mandate. A quick look at their website provides plenty of links to various crowd-sourcing and crowd-funding campaigns, as well as a feature to view how the event is taking place in your own country.

Criticism: Is Earth Hour "slacktivism?"

Slacktivism is a term with which I've only recently become familiar. Essentially, it means that the participant in a cause is doing so with minimal effort and contributing even less impact for the cause. While I love me a good portmanteau, slacktivists can be detrimental to an important cause as their primary motivation for participation is the "feel good" feeling.

Earth Hour has been criticized as being a slacktivist campaign, but after careful refection, I don't think it would qualify as such for the following reasons:

1. Participants do have to make a sacrifice, albeit small, to contribute to the cause. Yes, it's only an hour, but I'll be the first to admit that--at least when I'm indoors--I'm actively consuming power either by way of my phone, computer, television, x-box, lights, etc.

2. The ease of participation in this particular campaign makes it accessible to a wide range of individuals regardless of their age or level of ability. In general, when accessibility is a barrier for participation in any type of event, it detracts from the effectiveness. (Read how to adapt Earth Hour for your wee ones here.)

3. The action of the event is clearly linked to the cause itself. Recently, I posted in my own blog about the Facebook Bare-Face Selfie challenge that has been going around. When my FB feed filled up with the au natural faces of my friends, I had no idea that it was motivated by a campaign to raise awareness about cancer. Further to the point, I'm still not clear how wearing or not wearing makeup is linked to cancer awareness.

I think it's clear how turning off your power is connected to awareness about our power usage. I also think that the cause has a well-articulated mandate and easy-to-navigate website that limits the potential for details to be lost in translation.

Regardless of whether or not you decide to participate in Earth Hour, it's important to think critically about our impacts on the environment, how we can reduce them, and how we can help others do the same.

Here are a few others who have raised valid questions regarding Earth Hour:

Be aware. Be critical. Be deliberate.


Green Bean said...

I ask myself that question every year when Earth Hour - or Earth Day roll around. It is somewhere to start, though. Thanks for reminding me - and for Slacktivism. I'm totally stealing that word.

Betsy Escandon said...

Love the term slactivism. I probably fall into that category myself much of the time. I think Earth Hour and Earth Day are probably like Black History Month. Not great, since it should really be incorporated into our regular lives year-round, but better than nothing. Hopefully, it leads to something more...

Christy said...

Yes, it is a bit slacktivist to participate. But each time I participate it raises the issue with my kids and forces me to talk about energy consumption, ways to reduce it, why we should reduce it, which reinforces why I nag them to turn off lights when they leave rooms, put on a sweater when they are cold, etc.


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