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British Expat Newsletter:
2 April 2008

Hello, and welcome to those who have joined up since our last newsletter.

In this issue

  • This week: Earth Hour
  • Virtual Snacks
  • Bizarre Searches
  • Quotation and joke

This week

Did you notice that Google’s home page went black last Saturday? No, this isn’t a late April Fool’s joke. Along with 24 cities – and many private citizens – around the world, Google marked Earth Hour on 29 March. For one hour from 2000 to 2100 local time, these 24 cities turned off the lights to draw attention to the threat of climate change posed by human energy consumption.

The event’s organised by WWF, the World Wide Fund for Nature (previously the World Wildlife Fund, but it changed its name – except in North America – and expanded its remit in 1986). It was first held in Sydney last year as something of a test run; the organisers didn’t know exactly how tricky it would be to co-ordinate such a big event and didn’t have the resources to run it worldwide! Sydney was a significant choice, partly because it’s something of an icon for youthful endeavour, and partly because Australians are among the world’s largest per capita carbon dioxide generators.

With the success of last year’s event (and reports that many people elsewhere had taken part unofficially) the event has now become global. The first lights went out in Christchurch and Suva, followed by Canberra and all seven state and territory capitals in Australia; Manila; Bangkok; Tel Aviv; Copenhagen and three other Danish cities; Dublin; Santa Cruz in Bolivia and Bogota; and four cities each across Canada and the US, finishing in Vancouver and San Francisco on the western coast of North America.

No cities in the UK, you notice. But that doesn’t mean that the event went ignored there. 26 councils around the UK switched off the lights for an hour, as did Prince Charles at Highgrove. In London, which didn’t officially observe the event, the lights went out at City Hall. And Welsh Assembly Government offices across the principality were plunged into darkness.

Critics say that the event is no more than a gesture. It’s true that the amount of energy saved by it was negligible – for Sydney, a city of 2.2 million people, it was equivalent to having six fewer cars on the road at any given time for one year. But the organisers point out that the aim of the event wasn’t simply to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, important though that was; it was to promote awareness of the problem, the need to do something about it, and the ease of doing just that in relatively small ways.

Another criticism was that 20:00 local time is twilight for some cities in the Northern Hemisphere. True enough, if you’re far enough north (though the fact that North America starts daylight saving in early March, rather than the end of March as in Europe, doesn’t help matters – and Russia is on permanent daylight saving, which is even worse). But you can’t have it both ways – and holding the event as close as possible to an equinox, and as soon after dark as possible when people are still up and doing (and thus using energy) is as good as can be managed. There’s no pleasing some people.

It did seem a trifle odd that the Earth Hour website was encouraging people to burn candles and hold barbecues – after all, isn’t that releasing carbon dioxide into the atmosphere? But if you read a bit more closely you find that they’re specifically recommending beeswax candles (which contain carbon fixed from the air by bees). And charcoal from a sustainable source is similarly carbon-neutral.

As for us? Well, we had the lights off – but we were watching the telly…

Do you have anything to say about this topic? Or do you have some suggestions for other issues we might discuss in our weekly email? Why not comment and tell us?

Virtual Snacks

Just a few suggestions if you have a little time to spare:

We mentioned that there was an Earth Hour website. You can read up there on all the details of where it happened, how, and why, plus how to get involved in next year’s event.

If you’re interested in things environmental, or about earth sciences in general, why not try the Encyclopedia of Earth? It’s a resource intended to make environment science accessible to the lay reader, written by experts, with stated policies of fairness, balance and neutrality. Worth a look.

And finally, in keeping with the event but a bit more lightheartedly, how about H2G2 on lightbulb jokes?

Bizarre Searches

Some strange search terms which have led people to visit British Expat recently:

  • working in austrailia as an electrician with spiders
  • why people make banitza
  • lace slip stories
  • his friends are now excluding him
  • animal shaped dildoes
  • what is it called when teens put pesher on other teens
  • humour planning for pension
  • peter the online mind reader
  • brits defecate
  • grimsby strip club

Till next time…
Happy surfing!

Kay & Dave
Editor & Deputy Editor
British Expat Magazine

Quotation

“It will mean either there will be pubs without beer or the cost of beer will go up.”

– Jim Salinger, climate scientist at New Zealand’s National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research

Joke

Q: How many accountants does it take to change a light bulb?

A: How many did you have in mind?

PG Author: Kay McMahon

Kay has been an expat for nearly 30 years. She set up the British Expat website back in early 2000, whilst living in London and missing the expat life. These days she spends much of her time lugging computers and cameras around the world. (Dave gets to deal with all the really heavy stuff.)

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