Last Friday curiously took an Australian flair. While I was having dinner with Aussie friends in San Francisco, several cities were joining Sydney to turn lights off for one complete hour. Almost 300,000 homes and more than 20,000 businesses, mostly in Australia, signed up for the Earth Hour. For once, the rival cities of Melbourne and Sydney did not try to outshine each other! Quite to the contrary, Melbourne gathered wide support and saw a %10 drop in energy use across the city. It represents a reduction of 30 tons of carbon dioxide but less than 10 vehicles off the road for a year.
Pathetic attempt to reduce our gigantic consumption of energy, one might say. Earth Hour is still a strong symbolic gesture that gathered more support this year than last year, its first installment. It also preludes the Earth Day in three weeks. Earth Day 2008 is expected to be the biggest to date, with campaigns and activities scheduled around the world. Both events illustrate the increasingly wider support to fight global warming. Fortune 100 companies are announcing their green plans, one after the other with Wal-Mart joining the ranks no later than last week. Some argue it is PR hype that will fade away; others think it is part of a fundamental and necessary change in public opinion and corporate behavior.
As an entrepreneur, I ask myself the same question looking at all the new clean-tech startups popping up in the valley: is this for real or is this another bubble? A green one, I grant you. Business models are yet unproven; many start-ups will fail and large corporations are better positioned to make a difference. I believe though that the new clean-tech market will create sustainable wealth despite the usual economic cycles that other technology revolutions experienced in the past. I think technology is the ultimate solution to Global Warming — what is the alternative — provided the necessary regulatory framework and a change in our consumer habits.
Raising awareness and changing our habits: this is definitely where the value lies in such events as Earth Hour. They help us comprehend the impact of our actions and realize the fact that we are all connected. Next time I will buy a car or I install new bulbs, I will look at green options and do my best to limit my energy consumption. WWF organized the Earth Hour originally to address a simple question: how can we inspire people to take action on climate change? Well, it did it for me. I am looking forward to Earth Day on April 22; that is the day after my birthday so I have no excuse to miss it.