by Freddie Bruhin-Price
Every year the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) encourages communities, individuals and businesses to turn off their lights for one hour, across the world, on the last Saturday of March. The event is called Earth Hour. This year we celebrated Earth Hour on the 28th of March. Perhaps you went the extra mile: you took your bins out, or recycled that pile of old copies of Top Gear magazine that had been looming large by the garage door since long before the evil Archduke Clarkson was dismissed.
But you weren’t alone. Even the bigger fishes joined in. Across the world, in 172 countries, Earth Hour was honoured by people, schools and companies with sustainable consciences. There were also a series of events curated by a the WWF in collaboration with sustainability organisations. One event of particular interest to Futures was the “Everyday Things” conference, organised by Do The Green Thing and WWF-UK. The conference carried an important message of collaboration, which is essential for us to tackle sustainability issues effectively.
Naresh Ramchandani, who is co-founder of Do The Green Thing, has seen many great men and women produce pieces for the event over the years, including designer Paul Smith and illustrator Quentin Blake. This year was no different.
However, there were some new conditions for the pieces which were shown this time. “We wanted to create pieces that could be in the real world rather than on a screen;” said Naresh, “that could be physically worn, touched, held, sat on, used; that could give a better sense of what a sustainable life would actually look and feel like.”
Pieces varied in their composition and effect. There were socks bearing the slogan “Born to Walk,” a chair made from wood lying around an artist’s studio and a set of Hawaiian beach lights made from bottles of detergent, presented by American artist Sophie Thomas. Fitted with low voltage bulbs, they give off what the artist calls “the most beautiful red glow, turning their downcycling disadvantage into a beautiful reuse asset.”
As Naresh said on the night, “It’s not just the government and media’s responsibility to take action. It’s a responsibility that lies with all of us. And that’s what these things are – an expression of collective action. In the end, these wonderful, beautiful and subversive pieces are symbols of the way we all need to care, and all need to respond, to the greatest crisis of our generation.”
One piece which was particularly striking was the Bank Note created by visual artist James Joyce. In the revolutionary spirit of his namesake, the London artist whose approach is described as “bold and witty” presented a defaced five pound note including an image of the queen taking a selfie whilst holding a Chanel shopping bag. The note was intended to awaken us to the dangers of over consumption whilst introducing the concept that we continue to buy, despite having more than we need.
Joyce’s message is relevant to all of us. As a whole the exhibition Earth Hour raises awareness of Environmental Issues across the globe, and for this reason it should be celebrated. Though critics often point to the minuscule difference made by just sixty minutes per year of environmental awareness, the symbolic importance of Earth Hour is enormous.