Earth Hour and Thoughts on Climate Change

So, it was WWF’s Earth Hour this past weekend. In case you weren’t aware, this is a yearly event in which people turn off all their lights and stop using electricity for one hour, to share the love for our Earth. Here in the Home-ed Heads household we’ve been participating for only a couple of years, but I can unashamedly say it’s one of my favourite annual holidays (OK, it probably isn’t technically a holiday but it should be!). There’s something really relaxing for me about turning off all the lights and shutting out all the background noises, and just hanging out with the family, doing something simple.

During this year’s Earth Hour we all hung out in the dining room with some candles – though Dad and pteroturtle kept turning on their devices :/ – and everyone else played a board game while I did some reading (the game was only up to four players!). Of course we also played with the candle wax as per Earth Hour tradition (well, in our house anyway) and did some good old fashioned talking. The thing I most like about Earth Hour is the mysteriousness the house gets when suddenly it’s pitch black, and you have to stay together to share the candlelight. I just think the whole thing is a bunch of fun. 😀

Another thing that’s great about Earth Hour is that it does help me appreciate the electricity we take for granted and how amazing the natural world is. You may not know this about me but I happen to be a huge nature lover and am very interested in eco-friendliness. There are a couple of things relating to this I wanted to talk about in this blog post, but before we get into that I wanted to quickly mention some courses I’ve been taking on Future Learn. Both of them have finished now but they’re still available for people to take (I’m still only halfway through both of them!) and I’ve been really enjoying them.

The first is Climate Change: Challenges and Solutions run by the University of Exeter. This is my personal favourite of the two and one of my favourite courses I’ve ever taken online. The course starts by jumping straight into exploring what ‘the greenhouse effect’ really means, and whether we should really call it ‘the blanket effect’ – fittingly demonstrated by the lead educator Tim Lenton spending the entire video wandering around a greenhouse wrapped in a blanket! Each week focusses on a different aspect of climate change, for example how our climate has changed in the past, or different ways we may be able to stop it.  My favourite week I’ve taken so far was probably week 4, in which it was discussed whether decreasing our use of fossil fuels is really the way to fight global warming, amongst other things. There’s also a handy round-up video each week where the lead educator answers some of the popular questions from that week in a very clear and friendly way. I will say that I’d recommend having some former knowledge of geography concepts and the like because the course often tries to explain complicated ideas in one ten minute-ish video, which can be overwhelming. Don’t let that put you off though – they do explain most things it just might take you a little longer to get it if you’re not already familiar with the basic terms and principles of this field.

The second course is Environmental Management: Social-ecological Systems run by the University of Leeds. I’m not as far through this course as the other one and so far I haven’t found it quite as compelling or fun, but I feel it covers a more unique subject and discusses things I’ve never thought about before. It focusses on human relationships with nature, what problems these can cause and how they differ between different cultures and time periods. The final week specifically talks about the impact on nature in the midst of human conflicts, which I think sounds very interesting and am looking forward to working through that part of the course.

So, what with Earth Hour happening and working through these courses online, I’ve been thinking a lot about climate change recently. That’s why today I thought I’d try to evaluate my thoughts about it all and bring my perspective to the table.

I don’t know when or why I started getting into climate change but I’ve had a lively interest in it for years and I think it is a fascinating subject and a pressing problem. Maybe it’s just down to fear – the predicated flooding in some places that will be caused by rising sea levels while others face severe drought, the species of animals that will be forever lost to extinction, the enhanced threat of skin cancer as the hole in the ozone layer grows; all these things are terrifying to think of.

But in some ways, I find climate change exciting. It’s not hard to imagine in the far future, somebody teaching in a classroom (or at home, of course), “And here is the early 2000s, when the world’s fossil fuels ran out and humans had to find other sources of energy.” Then of course there’s the possibility that in millions of years, fossil fuels will have reformed, and our ancestors will be using them and they’ll face this problem all over again. I think these are a good ways of putting the issue into perspective, which is something a lot of us forget to do when thinking about global warming. It’s not an apocalypse – the world won’t just explode if we get things wrong. It’s a process, and a continuous challenge. I don’t know how humankind is going to deal with these challenges, but it’s highly unlikely we’ll all die out.

So let’s talk about fossil fuels. They’re running out. It is predicted that the oil supplies will be used up within 50 years. We have 70 years left to use natural gas. Coal is predicted to be all gone in 250 years. Is this scary? In a way, of course it is – any major change is scary. But on the other hand, maybe it’s good. There is countless evidence that use of fossil fuels is one of the main causes of the build-up of greenhouse gases in our atmosphere (up there with deforestation), and so really, isn’t it good that we have a proper motivation to stop using these dirty, polluting substances?

There are definitely hope prospects – we do have alternative energy sources to fossil fuels, there are charities and organisations working to preserve animal species, and there is a chance the ozone layer could repair itself now that CFGs are no longer being used. Who knows, maybe having such a global, universal problem will help bring different cultures and governments together. Maybe we’ll have to inhabit other planets. Maybe it will encourage spectacular scientific advancements.

At the risk of sounding philosophical here, in my view, never has humankind faced a problem that is simultaneously so exciting and frightening, and I definitely think it is not something to be overlooked. Climate change will and is affecting every person on this planet, so let’s try to protect it while we can. Go Earth! 😀