30 Mar 2014

More Than Just Lights Out

So Earth Hour flew by last night. Didn't really bother to join in the "festivities". Besides, most of the lights in the house were turned off, as they usually are anyway.

Oh I know, Earth Hour chooses to use the action of turning off the lights as their "Earth-saving" activity, mostly because it's the most visible. The effects are easily translatable through before-after pictures. But I always find it kinda funny that at the same time, the Earth Hour concerts still use quite a fair bit of electricity to power the speakers and microphones. And there were still quite a few non-essential lights left on that night.

I'm not sure if the intended messages of Earth Hour are truly getting through to the global audience. You have loads of people coming to the event venues in darkness, enjoying the company of peers and relishing in the festivities of the events. And then you discuss about saving the environment and cutting down on pollution and wastage. But how much do we follow through with that afterwards?

I mean, the whole point of Earth Hour is to show that helping to protect the environment doesn't imply having to jump straight into huge ambitious projects. We can start right within our small local circle. Implement simple resource-saving habits like reducing lights usage or reusing water. Coupled with awareness of the situation of Earth's condition right now, and the other ongoing related projects that we can support, then stopping further damage to our environment isn't too big or far-fetched of a goal. Maybe we could even reverse the damage before it's too late.

But I think some just get swept up in the social hype around Earth Hour, and afterwards still fail to adopt the resource-saving routines, or remain skeptic that such simple implementations would really do much.

So I wonder whether the Earth Hour, or the other semi-related Earth Day, is quite enough to raise awareness? What about actual competitions? Like, challenge people to make as many resource-saving / pollution-reducing changes around them as they can, for at least that month? And then report the results at the end of the month online? That could make the positive effects more visible to everyone, perhaps lending for a more convincing argument for making even these small individual changes.

Of course there already are existing challenges of such nature, though of various designs. This one encouraged schools in the USA to collect textiles for recycling. This one went broader and encouraged students to complete energy-related tasks. And on a larger scale, some competitions get participants to further seek out novel ways to cut down on pollution and wastage in the world, or find ways to boost environmental awareness even more.

So why not we have more of such competitions? Humans like a good contest every now and then. Sometimes a little pressure is needed to spur innovation.

Come to think of it, humans like playing games too. And we already have games that enlist the power of the gamers to do good. So if we can have a game that can help scientists figure out mystery protein structures, or a game that can win both the victorious gamers and their supported causes money, why not a game that can aid in saving the environment? Not just teach players about saving our planet, but actively help in the saving too.

Problem is, I don't really see such games yet. At the most I've found games that put players in hypothetical scenarios, perhaps devising solutions or producing insights that might have been overlooked by environmental specialists. But they don't quite serve as active of a role as the previous examples above.

Maybe that's an area that game developers could explore?

So basically, what I'm saying is that there can still be more ways to engage the public in more active and productive action in the cause of saving the environment. Contests and games seem to be good ways to draw people in. The trick now is designing in such media for this purpose. Not saying that Earth Hour is useless. In fact maybe Earth Hour could integrate such competitions/games for added effect!

Then maybe for most of us, saving the environment will feel more exciting and meaningful than just merely switching off lights for at least an hour.