Earth Hour and the Overview Effect

“Everyone who has been into space and looked back at Earth have noted a sense of wonder and awe, unity with nature, transcendence, and universal brotherhood”, says the book Psychology of Space Exploration: Contemporary Research in Historical Perspective. This level of consciousness is termed the Overview Effect, coined by Frank White in 1987.

Not many have looked back at earth as an isolated, vulnerable, negligible, closed ecosystem, but everyone has, at least once in their lifetime, looked into the blackness that lies beyond – into space – and the universe, through the eyes it has created – your eyes – has looked back upon itself. As Carl Sagan has rightly put it, “we are a way for the cosmos to know itself”.

Yet back on Earth – we defile nature – consciously or subconsciously – and to attain the level of consciousness, to understand the scale of destruction of this only place where we can live, one has just to sit in one place, imagine this planet as your own, your neighbours your own, your neighbouring plants and animals your own. One need not visit the space to experience the overview effect. One needs simply to reflect on the fact that we’re one without anywhere else to go.

Towards the end of the month of March every year (March 23 this year), we pay tribute to our planet by turning off the unnecessary electricity for just one hour (8:30 to 9:30 pm). I have been observing it every year whenever I’m home since 2007. And there is no time such as on that night to sit and reflect.

Or sit and talk about this: a world without electricity. In this age of technology we know a scenario where electricity will cease to exist – does not exist. But to imagine it is to live a city dweller’s worst nightmare. And if you cannot live without switching on the flow of electrons through the circuit in your homes – you’ve got to, at least for the sake of an adventure, turn it off – and the Earth Hour is your time.

But be warned – using candles instead of the incandescent bulb is no help either – you’re again inadvertently adding carbon dioxide to the environment, and even though it is negligible, Earth Hour is not just about switching off man-induced electricity, it is a time of giving back to nature what we don’t most of the year – giving Her the time to be her former self, which I’m sure She sorely misses.

Let lightning and volcanoes light up the Earth.

Sit out in the balcony and gaze up.

You are the universe’s eyes.

And the universe does not require incandescent lights to rekindle life.

Earth Hour is observed every year from 8:30 PM to 9:30 PM. This year it will be observed on March 23, Saturday.