Claim:   Participating in a voluntary 3-hour blackout on 21 June 2001 is an effective form of protest over how energy policies are being handled by the government.

Status:   Maybe.

Example:   [Collected on the Internet, 2001]

JUNE 21, 2001 THURS EVE,
7-10pm worldwide, all time zones

As an alternative to George W. Bush’s energy policies and lack of emphasis on efficiency, conservation, and
alternative fuels, there will be a voluntary rolling blackout on the first day of summer, June 21 at 7pm – 10pm in any time zone (this will roll it across the planet).

It’s a simple protest and a symbolic act. Turn out your lights from 7pm-10pm on June 21. Unplug whatever you can unplug in your house. Light a candle, kiss and tell or not, take a stroll in the dark, invent ghost stories, anything that’s not electronic – have fun in the dark.

Forward this email as widely as possible, to your government representatives and environmental contacts.

Let them know we want global education, participation and funding in conservation, efficiency and
alternative fuel efforts — and an end to over-exploitation and misuse of the earth’s resources.

Origins:   Energy certainly has been on people’s minds lately, what with higher gasoline prices and soaring power costs in states such as California, and the Bush administration’s response — denunciation of the 1997 Kyoto global-warming agreement, a willingness to allow oil exploration in the Alaska National Wildlife Refuge, renewed interest in “dirty” fossil fuels such as coal — has left many environmentally-inclined folks disappointed. But is the proposed symbolic blackout really a protest directed at changing governmental policy, or merely a means of finding a scapegoat to blame for our own lack of


Nobody seemed to be complaining about a lack of emphasis on “efficiency, conservation, and alternative fuels” when energy prices remained satisfactorily low. Now, prices are higher (for a variety of reasons), the word “energy” is more frequently coupled with the word “crisis,” and the whole issue is suddenly the government’s fault. Whether we agree with the White House’s handling of energy policy or not, we need not wait for official government “emphasis” or approval to implement efficiency and conservation at a local level. Fuel-efficient automobiles are there for the buying, as are energy-saving light bulbs and power-saving appliances. How many of us took advantage of them before rising prices forced us to change our energy-wasting ways? We could easily save more oil through personal conservation efforts than is to be found in the entirety of the Alaska National Wildlife Refuge.

As protests go, the planned blackout is a pretty good one: It harms no one, it makes a symbolic point in a very visible way, and it may better acquaint participants with how dependent upon electricity the average household is. But, as usual, if the only effort we make to affect energy policy is to turn off our lights for three hours one day and then resume our normal habits, we shouldn’t expect much to change. “Rolling Your Own Blackout” offers the average citizen a constructive way of venting, but we suspect far too many people will end up “participating” in it by watching television or surfing the web in darkened rooms, then hopping into their SUVs to go get something to eat.

Barbara “lancelot versus the black night” Mikkelson

Sightings:   “Tonight Show” host Jay Leno rolled his own blackout by taping his June 21 2001 show using minimal lighting.

Last updated:   28 November 2007


  Sources Sources:

    Baum, Geraldine.   “Suddenly, Dirty Old Coal Is the Fossil Fuel of the Future.”

    Los Angeles Times.   27 May 2001   (p. A24).

    Kemp-Spangler, Donna.   “An E-Mail Protest: Turn out the Lights.”

    Deseret News.   23 May 2001.

    Raabe, Steve.   “E-mail Campaign Urges Americans to Conserve Energy on June 21.”

    The Denver Post.   23 May 2001.

    The Associated Press.   “Roll Your Own Blackout.”

    18 May 2001.