Lights down, awareness up

With climate control and carbon dioxide emissions as one of the major topics on the agenda for the annual G8 summit meetings which are taking place in northern Japan this week, the Education, Science and Technology Ministry has been calling on Japanese households to join in a new “Tanabata Light Down” event this evening. The message has been spread primarily through primary, middle and high schools throughout the nation. For this country to achieve the emission reduction targets set out under the Kyoto Protocol, household emissions, which have been rising dramatically, have to be cut. Some estimates suggest that if every home in the country turned off their lights for two hours, greenhouse gas emissions could be reduced by 15 000 tons, equivalent to the amount of emissions from one million households in a 24 hour period.

The idea is not an entirely new one. In 2003 the Environment Ministry began calling on people to turn off their lights for two hours from 8 p.m. to 10 p.m. on the summer solstice each year. As the Japanese people are very aware of and concerned about the issues of climate control and emissions reduction, many have already been taking part in that event. This year the decision was made to introduce the July 7 event as well to coincide with the G8 summit.

With the exception of the bathroom lights, we have fluorescent lighting throughout the apartment. The kitchen is lit by an overhead light fixture as well as one over the sink. The other two rooms have overhead fixtures that each have three settings. On the brightest setting, two circular tubes are lit. On the lower setting only one of them is lit and on the lowest, a tiny night light bulb provides just enough light to prevent one from stumbling in the dark. It’s now just a few minutes past 8 p.m. and as I look out the windows, I still see plenty of light coming from homes around the neighbourhood and I’m not one to get overly excited about this issue but I’m going to do my part by keeping the lights on the lower setting and using only the light over the sink to cook by this evening. Trying to cook in complete darkness would be foolhardy. If I can figure out a way to light the candles that we were given as promotional gifts by a shoe store where Richard bought a pair of sneakers, perhaps we’ll also eat by candlelight tonight. We don’t have any matches though so that could be tricky!

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