Sunday, March 30, 2008

turning out the lights

Last night people around the world powered down in a symbolic gesture of support for the environment.

WWF claims that Canada had one of the highest participation rates in the world - 150 cities - an estimated 55,000 people - participated in Earth Hour by turning off the lights between 8 and 9 p.m.

Ottawa symbolically got on board, with the Parliament Hill turning off all exterior lights (except a spotlight on the flag) - although Prime Minister Harper kept his lights burning at 24 Sussex (how surprising). At least our Governor General had Rideau Hall in darkness, as did St├ęphane Dion at Stornoway.

Ottawa Hydro noted a 4% drop in energy consumption, compared with the same period last week. So while that's not huge, it is notable.

What has surprised me with Earth Hour is the backlash. A Facebook group calling themselves 'Waste electricity for Earth Hour' were just some of the reactionaries. Critics accuse Earth Hour of being a gimmick with no significant impact. ("Go to the bathroom with the lights on, bike to work" read one comment on an Earth Hour news story).

But Earth Hour organizers don't deny that this is symbolic. It is a gimmick, but market analysts agree that gimmicks are often effective to raise awareness. If anything, all the debate that Earth Hour has raised is a sign of it's success.

For my part, I don't think that our lights out for the night is enough to make us green - I'm more proud of our carbon-free Bullfrog powered home, our daily efforts to consciously tread softly on this earth. But I can thank the Earth Hour organizers for an excuse to have a cozy night in with my sweetie. I filled the living room with candles, cushions and flowers; V made a tasty dinner. We lounged in warm candlelight, talking and sipping wine long after the hour was up.

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