Some 26 cities around the world were plunged into darkness last Friday—and deliberately so. These cities were participating in Earth Hour, a global initiative that persuaded millions around the world to switch off the lights at their homes and offices for an hour.
Participation from India was negligible. But while the coordinated switch-off got a more enthusiastic response in the rich countries, even a city like Bangkok took part. It reduced its electricity usage by around 165MW. That meant some 100 fewer tonnes of carbon pumped into the air.
We have few illusions about the direct impact of such initiatives. An hour of darkness and a few thousand tonnes less of carbon output is not going to make a big dent in the global warming problem. But initiatives such as Earth Hour do drive home the larger point that while climate change is a global externality, responsibility is eventually personal.
Inspired tokenism of this sort can work wonders. We know how, many decades ago, a fistful of salt at Dandi shook the British empire.