Today’s blog this week is about Earth Hour, an annual campaign marked every year to get the people of earth to turn off their lights for an hour. In so doing, in the words of the official website, they will “make their stand against global warming.” As I’m anti-global warming and pro-stand making I’ll have a bash myself. Lights go off at 8.30pm local time.

Earth Hour started three years ago in Australia and has taken off pretty substantially. The website reckons last year hundreds of millions of people took part, with 4,000 cities in 88 countries officially pledging to switch off landmark buildings. I’ve registered on the site so I can be one of them there stats for 2010.  At the time of writing I was one of 5,661,461 official supporters.

You could easily look at Earth Hour and call it meaningless symbolism that will achieve nothing but… actually I don’t have a decent rebuttal to hand.

Look, if the publicity surrounding it makes new people engage with the subject, and if campaigners who have actual power can point to the stats and say millions of people around the world want climate change to be taken seriously then… actually I’ve got nothing for the end of this sentence either. Is Earth Hour a bit rubbish?

I fear the old cynicism is taking hold. Let me try again. Like all symbolic campaigns Earth Hour does risk looking vague and ineffectual, and if it’s the only thing people do on climate change all year then it’s a bit cack. But as I sit here typing in the dark – they don’t tell you to turn off computers after all – I do have a strange sense of humanity around me. My lights are off. My brother’s lights are off. The lights at the university and museum round the corner are off. The lights in the Houses of Parliament are off. The lights in China’s Forbidden City are off. The lights at Nepal’s Boudhanath Stupa are usually off thanks to 16-hour power cuts but tonight there’s a candlelit vigil there. These things are happening because millions of individuals are taking part.

And their symbolism is good for something: the major news sites are all running Earth Hour stories which force them to mention climate change talks in Copenhagen. It’s been a point of focus for campaigners, letting the WWF bash out a press release with politicians’ support for more action on climate change. And tonight the six wealthy industrialists who regularly walk past my window will look in and see only darkness. That’ll send them a message.

Sorry, I’m back to piss taking. Still, I had a good run.

Photo credit: The Zero