Earth Day: a planned lights out

Last Saturday evening many lights went out for an hour to mark Earth Hour. In the past few days some also went out because of power problems linked to the airport.

The Earth Hour action, involving turning off lights for the hour between 8h30 pm and 9h30 pm, is intended to raise people's awareness of climate change (the new name for what many people have been calling Global Warming!). According to reports, Geneva is one of 30 towns and cities in Switzerland which took part in this action: in total, some 5000 towns and cities in the world, spread accross 135 countries, took action which was seen by over a billion people.

In Geneva, the most notable places affected were perhaps the St Pierre cathedral and the Jet d'eau, for which switching off the normal illumination left them in (relative) darkness for the hour. However, many other places joined in the action.

This "lights out" flollowed on two recent unscheduled power outages, both of which were related to the airport, but which had little impact on the passengers flying into and out of Geneva. In the first of these, on the 16th February, passengers in the airport terminal were left in half-darkness for about 90 minutes starting at 9h30. According to the papers the following day, the cause of this outage had not been determined: I have not yet seen any subsequent explanation anywhere.

Last Friday evening, 29 March, at 5h10 pm, the failure of a circuit-breaker at the end of the airport runway caused the power to be cut over a wide region (there was even a small fire, but the airport firemen would have been very rapidly on the scene). Many communes north of the airport were wholly or partially affected, including both Meyrin and Versoix. One of the effects was to stop the computers which are used by ARAG to track airport movements and measure the noise around the airport.

All of this reminds us of how reliant we are on electricity, which in turn forces us to face the question of how the country can continue to provide sufficient electric power to all residents, especially with the future of nuclear power stations being questioned. Part of the answer may be more investment in renewable power sources, especially new generations of solar panels, but another part will certainly involve all of us trying to reduce our own power consumption.

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