Organizers hope Earth Hour continues to pressure Ottawa on climate change

The Canadian Press ~ The News
Send to a friend

Send this article to a friend.

Joy Hellinger plans to spend an hour on Saturday evening doing the same thing she did last year about this time: sitting with her husband in their home in Chilliwack, B.C., in the dim glow of candlelight with nothing but their conversation to pass the time.
"Turned everything off, we had candlelight and we just talked - which was really difficult," Hellinger, a 55-year-old self-described homemaker, recalls about last year's Earth Hour.
"You're not used to that. You're used to all the other attractions around you that keep you busy, and then you have to take the time for that hour to reflect on everything around you and why you're doing it."
She'll be one of millions of people across Canada that organizers hope will flick off their light switches at 8:30 p.m. local time on Saturday for Earth Hour, a global campaign created by the World Wildlife Fund designed to show support for action on climate change.
Some will fire up the candles or lanterns at home, others are planning candlelight parties to mark the occasion and events are planned in cities across the country to let people party in the dark.
The iconic sails on Vancouver's Canada Place will go dark, as will Toronto's CN Tower and Halifax's harbour bridges, and municipalities are preparing to power down government buildings and other public spaces.
Canadian musician Chantal Kreviazuk is headlining an unplugged concert in Toronto's Yonge-Dundas Square, and there are similar concerts and events planned in other cities.
For Hellinger, who says the campaign has encouraged her to find ways to save power, such as washing her clothing in cold water or making sure lights are off when they're not needed, taking part in Earth Hour was a no-brainer.
"It's so that everybody will be aware and paying attention (to the environment)," she says. "So that our grandchildren will have that in the future."
Earth Hour began as a local gimmick in Sydney, Australia, in 2007, when an estimated two million homes went dark.
The following year, Earth Hour was exported to nearly three dozen other countries, including Canada.
Tara Wood of the World Wildlife Fund says it's a chance for Canadians to send a message to the Canadian government that they want more done to combat climate change.
"When millions or billions of people turn out their lights for one hour, we want to use that to show world leaders that the people want action on the climate and they (politicians) are out of step," says Wood.
"We've seen very little action from the federal government, especially this year, so hopefully this is a way for the pubic to show their support and their concern."
The World Wildlife Fund says its Canadian polling indicates slightly more than half of respondents say they participated last year.
Every year, Earth Hour is followed by news stories tallying up the energy saved for 60 minutes, usually as a percentage of energy use in a province or estimates of how many light bulbs were shut off.
But Wood says the point isn't to reduce power consumption over an hour - a feat that, no matter how impressive the numbers, wouldn't amount to much in the larger picture.
"It's definitely not about energy saved for that hour - lighting is a very minimal portion of the overall grid and energy use," she says.
"Earth Hour is all about bringing global awareness to this issue."
As for its influence on Canadians' habits, the group conducted polling earlier this year asking Canadians to grade their energy-saving habits - most respondents gave themselves a B - and will repeat the survey to see if there's any change.
Earth Hour has also turned into an attractive marketing ploy, with a long list of corporations lining up to announce they'll be powering off the lights they don't need on Saturday night.
And after the hour's up, of course, they'll turn those non-essential lights back on.
Even the federal government, which environmentalists have assailed for failing to do enough to curb greenhouse-gas emissions and combat climate change, is eager to show it's doing its part.
Some of the lights on the Parliament buildings and the clock face of the Peace Tower will be shut off, and federally owned buildings across the country will also become dimmer.
Ian Bruce of the David Suzuki Foundation, which has no official role in Earth Hour, said Ottawa should see growing participation in Earth Hour as a wake-up call.
"We're seeing Canadians from all walks of life want to see leadership from our government on climate-change, and I think many Canadians are embarrassed that our emissions have skyrocketed," said Bruce.

Organizations: World Wildlife Fund, David Suzuki Foundation

Geographic location: Ottawa, Canada Place, Chilliwack Toronto Vancouver Halifax Yonge-Dundas Square Sydney Australia Tara Wood

  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5

Thanks for voting!

Top of page

Comments

Comments

Recent comments

  • Grace
    July 02, 2010 - 13:27

    A note to Graham: It is clearly stated in the article that the purpose of Earth Hour is NOT the small reduction in energy usage for that one hour. Everyone involved is aware of that. The purpose is symbolic and is about showing that we want our governments to begin taking climate disruption seriously by committing to real GHG reductions. So far Canada has done very little to address the problem, and has even stalled action at the international level. The more events we have like this one which show that Canadians want action now and are willing to make changes in their own lives, the more likely that policy makers will have to pay attention.

    Last point: I'm not sure why you're making the assumption that the participants in Earth Hour are only trying to save energy once a year. Many, many people that I know make an effort in their daily lives to cut their energy consumption, drive less, eat locally and so on. They just don't make a media stunt about it every time.

    Thanks and Happy Earth Hour!

  • Graham
    July 02, 2010 - 13:26

    Yeah, how dumb is this. Turn off all your lights which only accounts for about 4% of your electricity consumption. But it's going to be -5°C this evening/tonight with 10-20cm of snow in the forecast with the baseboard heaters trying to keep the house at a livable temperature. How many people here understand how many kWh this will consume ? Maybe we should just throw the cutoff switch to the electrical panel to remove all power to the house. I practice efficiency all year around, the other make-myself-feel-gooders just find it to be a once a year novelty, the closest they will ever get to camping. Pure hypocrisy.

  • climate change
    July 02, 2010 - 13:18

    unless the US pass a cap and trade then there will be no green economic incentive which wont spill into Canada. Of course in either country environment and common sense needs to come ahead of profitable business propositions by huge lucrative companies.

  • Graham
    July 02, 2010 - 13:10

    I see what you are saying Grace, but a symbolic gesture by us will only lead to a symbolic gesture from the government (actually, it has already).

    I see so many people on a daily basis who do not even exhibit the slightest form of energy conservation or carbon footprint reduction.

    We have groups talking about Earth Day now and still many people have not even heard of Earth Hour.

    This is one of those few cases where an individual can safely assume (a$$-u-me, I know it well) that few people conserve energy outside this family indoor camping day. I doubt anyone reading this built a carbon neutral fire (wood burning is carbon neutral) to toast their bread for breakfast this morning. Again, pure hypocrisy.

    Thanks for your concern though.

  • nonsense
    July 02, 2010 - 13:09

    Earth hour, total nonsense, I will not be participating in this foolish new age hippie bull. I will be at home watching tv with the lights slightly dimmed as per usual for a relaxing evening, greeies be darned.

  • Grace
    July 01, 2010 - 20:15

    A note to Graham: It is clearly stated in the article that the purpose of Earth Hour is NOT the small reduction in energy usage for that one hour. Everyone involved is aware of that. The purpose is symbolic and is about showing that we want our governments to begin taking climate disruption seriously by committing to real GHG reductions. So far Canada has done very little to address the problem, and has even stalled action at the international level. The more events we have like this one which show that Canadians want action now and are willing to make changes in their own lives, the more likely that policy makers will have to pay attention.

    Last point: I'm not sure why you're making the assumption that the participants in Earth Hour are only trying to save energy once a year. Many, many people that I know make an effort in their daily lives to cut their energy consumption, drive less, eat locally and so on. They just don't make a media stunt about it every time.

    Thanks and Happy Earth Hour!

  • Graham
    July 01, 2010 - 20:14

    Yeah, how dumb is this. Turn off all your lights which only accounts for about 4% of your electricity consumption. But it's going to be -5°C this evening/tonight with 10-20cm of snow in the forecast with the baseboard heaters trying to keep the house at a livable temperature. How many people here understand how many kWh this will consume ? Maybe we should just throw the cutoff switch to the electrical panel to remove all power to the house. I practice efficiency all year around, the other make-myself-feel-gooders just find it to be a once a year novelty, the closest they will ever get to camping. Pure hypocrisy.

  • climate change
    July 01, 2010 - 19:59

    unless the US pass a cap and trade then there will be no green economic incentive which wont spill into Canada. Of course in either country environment and common sense needs to come ahead of profitable business propositions by huge lucrative companies.

  • Graham
    July 01, 2010 - 19:47

    I see what you are saying Grace, but a symbolic gesture by us will only lead to a symbolic gesture from the government (actually, it has already).

    I see so many people on a daily basis who do not even exhibit the slightest form of energy conservation or carbon footprint reduction.

    We have groups talking about Earth Day now and still many people have not even heard of Earth Hour.

    This is one of those few cases where an individual can safely assume (a$$-u-me, I know it well) that few people conserve energy outside this family indoor camping day. I doubt anyone reading this built a carbon neutral fire (wood burning is carbon neutral) to toast their bread for breakfast this morning. Again, pure hypocrisy.

    Thanks for your concern though.

  • nonsense
    July 01, 2010 - 19:45

    Earth hour, total nonsense, I will not be participating in this foolish new age hippie bull. I will be at home watching tv with the lights slightly dimmed as per usual for a relaxing evening, greeies be darned.