Earth Hour: Is it Slacktivism?

This post was originally published at www.greenphonebooth.com where I contribute as the Mindful Echo. It’s a great blog for those of you interested in environmental issues of all sorts. Check it out!

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: earthhour.org) 

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.

Earth Hour Digital Logo

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 I 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 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:
http://www.lifehacker.com.au/2010/03/forget-earth-hour-and-do-something-useful-instead/
http://www.alive.com/articles/view/23434/go_beyond_earth_hour
http://www.thecommentator.com/article/3080/the_misery_of_earth_hour

Be aware. Be critical. Be deliberate.

Krista

2 thoughts on “Earth Hour: Is it Slacktivism?

  1. I love WWF Canada and I am a fan of their awareness campaigns. We celebrate Earth Hour each year and will continue to do so. I think it is a *very* effective way to get people thinking about wasted energy, carbon footprints and more! We make a night of it with the kiddos and lots of good comes of that!

  2. I wouldn’t consider Earth Hour a slacktivist activity. It is not like sharing a link on social media, it requires some level of action, and a reminder that our consumption is the biggest reason for most of the environmental concerns we have. So taking some time, even if it is only an hour to stop consuming energy is a good reminder.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s