Lights Out

lightsI decided to observe Earth Hour tonight (http://www.earthhour.org/) turning off the lights between 8:30 and 9:30, local time. Actually, that was slightly confusing for me, since I’d already advanced all my clocks by an hour in anticipation of the onset of alleged British Summer Time. I thought that I’d miss an hour less during the afternoon, as opposed to waking up deprived.

Anyway, Earth Hour, same time for me as everybody else, except my clock said 9:30. My house is remote from streetlights, so I’ve always had my own substitute: automatic lights on the front of the house. They create a cheerful ambience and provide a beacon for drivers passing on the road. I turned them off.

No electric lights inside either. Instead, I lit a candle and an oil lamp. Slightly ironically, of course, since both are powered by petrochemicals. While it’s possible to run a lamp off olive oil, or even animal fat, in the nineteenth century they discovered that paraffin was cleaner, brighter and less offensive to the nose. It’s a “mineral” oil from the oil wells. Candles too are mostly synthetic these days, although if I remember correctly, church candles have to contain beeswax for some obscure theological reason.

With the Moon just short of full, it was a very bright night anyway, but the brighter stars were still vivid. Orion was directly outside my french windows. I’ve always liked Orion. His left shoulder (as we see it) is Betelgeuse, an M-type supergiant, visibly red. On the opposite corner, Rigel is a blue supergiant. Then, the three bright stars of the belt point (more or less) to Sirius, the brightest star in the sky, but mainly bright because it’s a near neighbour, only eight light years away.

The effect of all that was temporarily spolied when my nearest neighbour, two fields away, put on his outside lights to investigate a car that had stopped at the end of his lane. The car roared away. Maybe burglars, maybe teenagers trying to find a private spot for sexual endeavours. Gone anyway. All quiet again.

I’m green. I support things like Earth Hour. Actually doing it doesn’t save significant amounts of energy, but it’s more about raising awareness. You’ve read this: now you’re aware too.

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