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Guardian blogborg takes aim at global warming

Saves planet one lightbulb at a time

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For the second week in a row the Guardian has turned the power of the internet onto the problems of the planet - at this rate, it surely can't be long before we're all saved. Last week editor Alan Rusbridger unleashed 15 million readers on Africa; this week environment writer Leo Hickman is trying to shut down coal-fired power stations.

One lightbulb at a time. Presumably only Rusbridger is allowed to actually say the big number, but Hickman does say that if Guardian readers switched to energy-efficient lightbulbs this week, "we could turn off a coal-fired power station for one day, one hour, 46 minutes and one second."

At time of writing around 2,000 Graun readers had pledged to reform their lighting arrangements, and the paper was shooting for its next milestone of downing a power station for 72 seconds. Best of luck, Leo - four days to go.

And the point of the "Tread Lightly" campaign is? Leo gives the example of how just a handful of schoolchildren were responsible for the viral adoption of England's unofficial rugby anthem, "Swing Low, Sweet Chariot". This is, says Leo, "a simple example of how one motivated person can trigger a much wider reaction".

"But many people still have doubts... why should I bother when China and India's emissions will engulf our own efforts? Why should I bother when the US refuses to sign up to Kyoto?" Leo does not answer these questions directly. Or, possibly, at all.

Most Guardian readers, as citizens of a highly industrialised society, have an obligation to begin reducing, he says, pointing out that as the G8 countries have emitted almost two thirds of the CO2 in the atmosphere, "there is a strong argument that the countries who got us into this mess should be the first to act". So, yes, there's guilt, even if the numbers sound just a tad doubtful (see Lovelock on breathing), and even if your own efforts are going to be engulfed by China and India striving for parity in the carbon guilt-trip league table.

But to be fair, Leo does nudge in the right direction by noting that "a quarter of greenhouse gases emitted in China are a result of making goods to be exported to the west". So there is "a compelling argument that we should... make the first bold step ourselves".

But we suspect that the bold step of forswearing shiny gadgetry and consumerism in general is not going to make it into the 11 further pledges the paper has left to unveil. Particularly as the marketing department seems to have secured a gadget built in India as a prize to encourage people to sign up and save the planet. And if you're not the lucky winner of the electric car that looks like a boil-washed Trabant, then complete 12 pledges and, supplies permitting, you'll get a free green shopping bag. You could also just lie about the pledges, but Guardian readers aren't like that (aren't they? What's the boil-washed Trabbie bait for then? - Ed). ®

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