Thursday, March 03, 2011
Earth Hour and 2011 Secular Spring Holidays
It’s March and with longer daylight hours things are thawing things out. I look forward to the change of seasons and some secular festivals options that this offers. It's interesting, for example, to look at the list of Holidays listed at http://www.timeanddate.com/holidays/. The enumeration there includes 138 "holidays" in the US. At a glance there are roughly equal numbers of religious and secular holidays. Some are well known and many others are small ones such as Wright Brothers Day and Maryland Day 2011, coming Friday, March 25, 2011.
To me the Spring equinox is an obvious secular Spring event, Celebrate -The Renaissance, The Enlightenment, and Astronomy. There's a nice write-up on how to celebrate at http://www.secularseasons.org/march/spring_equinox.html.
Earth Day on Friday April 22nd (which is also Good Friday this year) is another secular event I look forward to. With an estimated half a billion people around the world celebrating Earth Day, is one of the world's largest secular holidays (some people count New Years as a bigger one). In light of the recent oil gusher in the Gulf it’s interesting to recall that senator Gaylord came up with the Earth Day idea after witnessing the environmental consequences of the Santa Barbara Oil Spill of 1969. Perhaps this will make the 2011 one a reflective reminder of what we celebrate and what we dread. See http://dc.about.com/od/specialevents/a/EarthDay.htm for Earth Day events in the DC area.
Recently I was surprised to learn of one other secular environmental events in the same environment spirit as Earth Day. The United Nations holds a similar event known as the World Environment Day held on June 5th(http://www.unep.org/wed/intro/intro.html). World Environment Day is one of the UN's principal vehicles through to:
stimulate worldwide awareness of the environment and
enhance political attention and action among the member nations.
This year the World Environment Day theme is: "Forests: Nature at Your Service". For ways to get involved see http://www.unep.org/.
Another event is coming even sooner. March 26th we have the 2011 Earth Hour(8:30pm-9:30 local time). Earth Hour started in 2007 in Sydney Australia when an estimated 2.2 million individuals and more than 2,000 businesses turned their lights off for one hour to take a stand against climate change. It has become an annual global event, organized by the non-profit World Wildlife Fund. In 2008, for example, it became more of a global sustainability movement when over 50 million people who own homes and businesses across 35 countries participated by:
"switch(ing) off their lights and to stop using electrical equipment for one hour in order to raise awareness about the effects of global warming and climate change." See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Earth_Hour
It's a nice, focused effort to make our world a better place and a platform for collective action, although not much energy can be saved or CO2 reduced in an hour. The real value is symbolic and personal. I take it this way as a suburban Maryland dweller. I'm not in the city to see the big lights go off, but I can darken my house and take a slow walk around the neighborhood seeing some darken houses and meeting neighbors walking.
This year the effort aims at building personal commitments that go beyond just the hour with an emphasis on sharing personal acts with the world - see http://www.earthhour.org/About.aspx.
The WWF folks are asking people to make pledges about they will do to make a difference after the lights go back on. Each day the core group is sharing people's self describe inspiring actions with friends on Facebook and Earth Hour followers on Twitter as well as other Social Media. You can see more about what people have already pledged and http://beyondthehour.org/.