Environmental Campaigns and Public Participation: A Theme for Analyzing Communication and Information Theories (Personal Experiences with the Earth Hour campaign)

Before going further, I would like to inform you that this post simply aims to illustrate, rather than to comprehensively point out why, since 2011, I stopped participating in ‘Earth Hour’ events.

And! I would like to assure you that I’m still conscious about a variety of environmental concerns

And! I would also like to assure you further, that, in no way am I advocating the “stoppage” of celebrating Earth Hour.

And! Also! I’m not gonna assure you anything further, but rather provide a brief background of Earth Hour, for it may as well be the reason why you’re reading this article.

Earth Hour

In 2004, World Wide Fund for Nature [WWF] Australia began conceptualizing various strategies for taking climate change in mainstream media. It was initially termed as “The Big Flick” for a large scale switch off [presumably of anything electrically-powered]. After three years, WWF-Australia inspired Sydney citizens, around 2.2 million individuals and more than 2,000 businesses, in turning their lights out for one hour as a symbolic campaign against climate change. The campaign became a global phenomenon in 2008, wherein around 35 countries participated by switching their lights of from 8-9 pm in their respective time zones. [refer to Earth Hour website]

More than 5,200 cities and towns in 135 countries worldwide switched off their lights for Earth Hour 2011. That year also ushered in a new era with the “Beyond the Hour” concept, by asking supporters to think about other ways, aside from switching off the lights, of helping save the planet. [refer to Earth Hour website again]

This 2012, Earth Hour Executive Director and Co-Founder Andy Ridley, states that, “Earth Hour’s challenge is no longer to connect people; the challenge is to offer a reason to connect. Any movement of change begins with symbolism – it’s a needed step to prove enough people care about an issue.” [Retrieved from: yes, what else but the Earth Hour website]

What Went Wrong?

So what went wrong (for me at least), that even after internalizing Earth Hour’s goal of bringing the problem of climate change in mainstream thought, I stopped observing Earth Hour? Or maybe even more precisely, is there anything wrong with my decision in the first place?

I first celebrated Earth Hour in 2009, together with fellow young ones at our local square. I was volunteering in a USAID funded program back then, and together with other organizations, we did a simple but meaningful program about why there is such a thing as Earth Hour, and how switching off lights can help reduce green house gas emissions. On a personal level, the primary goal for the event would be to raise awareness about climate change. Creating this awareness however would need a ‘bonggang’ [Tagalog] or an attention seeking event in order for the general public to notice what that thing is all about.

We assembled around 7:00 pm, as various local musicians were singing their pieces before and during the ceremonial switching off, which was from 8:30-9:30 pm. We participated in the event by singing a song, which was practiced [for what seemed like] night after night, singing the same tune, the same lyrics, with the same ear-wrecking voices. It was a miracle though that when we finally  sang our piece in March 28, people commented as though they’re hearing something so extra ordinary, angelic and inspiring. [That must be the effect when I’m NOT singing.]

Various talks were also given about climate change and Earth Hour. A covenant signing, on how one should respect and care for the earth ended the program.

The following year [2010], I made a video clip [sorry about the quality]  about how I perceived the rationale and essence of the activity, as well as inviting others in celebrating Earth Hour.

That year was also my last Earth Hour celebration.

This year proved to be the same, as I stared at various tarpaulins, printed with a “60” and some panda, posted at major roads in the city last Saturday. And here I am, four days since then, blogging about these things when all I want to say could just be simply illustrated using Kuznets curve [just changed the variables]:


Environmental Campaigns and Public Participation: A Theme for Analyzing Communication and Information Theories

Yes, there’s really nothing wrong about not celebrating Earth Hour. Isn’t it that the goal in the first place was to inform mainstream media – in other words, people –  about climate change?

Apparently, what went wrong may be better understood when we think about the game also known as telephone, grapevine, broken telephone, whisper down the lane, KISU KISU (Tamil “grapevine”) Развален телефон (Bulgarian for “broken telephone”) gossip, secret message, Le téléphone arabe (French for “Arab phone”), Stille Post (German for “Silent Mail”), Gioco del Telefono (Italian for “Telephone Game“), Telefono senza fili (Italian for “Cordless Phone“), Telefone avariado (Portuguese for “Broken Phone”), Głuchy telefon (Polish for “deaf telephone”), Зламаний телефон (Ukrainian for “Broken telephone“), Глуви телефони (Serbian for “deaf telephones”), Telefonul fara fir (Romanian for “Cordless phone”), Глухой телефон (Russian for “deaf telephone”), Rikkinäinen puhelin (Finnish for “Broken telephone”), Viskleken (Swedish for “The whispering game”), Tichá pošta (Czech and Slovak for “silent mail”) and pass the message. [Whew, thanks to Wikipedia!!] As you all know how the game goes, a miscommunication occurs as the message is passed on.

Reviewing the elements of communication reminds us about senders and receivers of communication. It is very clear in Earth Hour’s history that all they had wanted to communicate was to bring climate change in mainstream media. And fortunately, we had received that message. HOWEVER, how we interpreted the message had created diverse [ranging from confusion to outright apathetic] reactions.

Yes I know, looks like the work of our kindergarten neighbor. :p

On a critical perspective, a lot of theories can be cited to explain how various environmental campaigns have affected our behavior, and its subsequent impacts on environmental quality. Such arguments can go on and on, and unfortunately, my time is up, and I have to go on a lunch break. All I know is, climate change exists, and to help minimize its adverse consequences, I would… [need I say more!?]

😉

Here’s a WordPress blog about Pass the Message, as talked about earlier:

Pass the Message: A rather simple blog for a little exercise

A pessimistic critique of Earth Hour:

A Criticism of Earth Hour

Further discussions of Earth Hour:

http://www.rappler.com/move-ph/3415-earth-hour-hype-or-hope

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4 thoughts on “Environmental Campaigns and Public Participation: A Theme for Analyzing Communication and Information Theories (Personal Experiences with the Earth Hour campaign)

  1. Sony Fugaban says:

    As a silent environmentalist, posts like this are truly worth reading evethough the meat of it is somewhat not what I expected. Well, everyone is entitled to say what we think as long as we know our limits (certainly you know your …).

    At this point, I’d like to think I am agreeing with you since making one aware about climate change doesn’t only require participation to EARTH HOUR. There are a multitude of other ways that don’t entail arguments or debate anyway.

    • danbacana says:

      Well, sorry to hear that I broke your expectation. And yes, what I’m implying is the irony that, in campaigning for Earth Hour, a lot of wastes and resources are spent, like tarpaulins and other printed materials. At any rate, salamat sa pagbasa! 😀

  2. Sony Fugaban says:

    PS

    Were you the one singing the background?

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