Earth Hour’s shadow moves across Canada
In this two photograph combination downtown Vancouver, B.C., is pictured before Earth Hour, top, and during Earth Hour, bottom, on Saturday. People around the world turned off their lights for an hour Saturday night to reduce energy consumption and bring awareness to climate change.
Updated: March 28, 2010 10:27 PM
Earth Hour’s dark shadow moved across the country Saturday night as millions of Canadians switched lights off to support the call for action on climate change.
They joined scores of others in more than 120 countries around the world who flicked off lights at home between 8:30 and 9:30 p.m., attended events illuminated by candlelight or watched iconic landmarks fall dark for the global environmental campaign that started three years ago in Australia.
“It’s a small gesture, but if everyone does it, it’s going to make a difference and show governments that we care,” said Carl Morisset, a 32-year-old from Montreal who was enjoying a candlelight dinner at a Vancouver hotel.
“Environment and Stephen Harper, they’re two different things. I doubt (the government will listen), but at least we tried.”
As Earth Hour spread across Canada’s time zones, the lights were cut at some of the country’s best-known landmarks, including the bridges that span Halifax’s harbour, Toronto’s CN Tower, the Parliament buildings in Ottawa and the sails atop Canada Place in Vancouver.
There were acoustic concerts, such as one in Toronto headlined by Chantal Kreviazuk, house parties in the dark and even amateur stargazers took advantage of the event, peering through telescopes with the usual light pollution that hovers above Canadian cities dimmed.
The World Wildlife Fund, which started Earth Hour in 2007 in Sydney, Australia, said more than 300 Canadian cities and municipalities had pledged to take part.
“It’s an important statement to make,” said Susanna Zachara, who watched the Earth Hour concert in downtown Toronto. “It does raise awareness. . . . It’s invigorating to see how many people participate.”
That statement, organizers say, is that governments around the world — and Canada’s in particular — are failing to do enough to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and combat global warming.
Josh Laughren of the World Wildlife Fund said Ottawa should take note at how many people participated in Earth Hour.
“Canadians have done their part showing that we want action, and now the onus shifts to our political leaders, especially at the federal level,” he said.
Even the federal government — which environmentalists often chide for not doing enough to address climate change — was eager to show it was doing its part, shutting off the lights not just at Parliament Hill but at government-owned buildings across the country.
Laughren said he welcomed Ottawa’s participation — providing the government is taking the issue seriously.
“We don’t begrudge anybody participating,” he said. “But I would say that as the federal government participates and claims participation in Earth Hour, then they raise the expectation from the Canadian public to what they’re doing tomorrow to act on it.”
The organization plans to conduct polling to determine how many people participated this year, but says more than half the Canadian adult population took part in 2009.
About 4,000 cities in more than 120 countries — starting with New Zealand — switched off lights Saturday, organizers said.
The white-shelled roof of the Sydney Opera House fell dark after Taiwan’s skyscrapers dimmed and Beijing’s Forbidden City became, well, a little more forbidding as darkness descended on the former imperial palace.
Europe’s best known landmarks — the Eiffel Tower and the Arc de Triomphe in Paris, the Colosseum in Rome, the Leaning Tower of Pisa and Big Ben in London — all fell dark.
It was lights-out too at other London landmarks such as Buckingham Palace, the Parliament building, St. Paul’s Cathedral and the Royal Albert Hall — as well as Edinburgh Castle in Scotland.
In Canada, some suggested our cities didn’t go dark enough.
“There’s a ton of lights and you can still not see any stars because most of the buildings are lit up,” said McGill University student Hillary Angus in Montreal. “Not a lot happened really.
Oxana Kolenchenko was thinking the same thing in Toronto.
“It’s a good start but I think it could be way more effective — just looking at all the lights in the office buildings that are still turned on,” she said.
In Edmonton, the 60-minute reprieve from the usual light pollution over the Alberta capital allowed John Macnab, 49, a much better view of the moon and Mars through the telescope he set up at city hall.
“We simply light up the night sky rather than lighting up our streets,” said Macnab, as a lineup of people waited to take a peak through his telescope.
“Lighting up for safety is one thing. Wasting light is wasting electricity, resources and is ruining the night sky,” Macnab said.
Montreal city councillor Alan DeSousa joked about other possible consequences of turning the lights off for an hour.
“I’m sure that nine months from now, we probably are going to see a good baby boom in Montreal as people use Earth hour to the best of their ability and use their imagination to make sure it’s a lot of fun,” he said.
Power companies were already busy tallying up the dent Earth Hour made in power usage.
Nova Scotia Power reported an 18-megawatt reduction in power consumption — equivalent to more than 1.4 million 13-watt compact florescent light bulbs.
The Independent Electricity System Operator said demand for electricity across Ontario fell by about four per cent, or 560 megawatts.
Still, organizers said the campaign isn’t about saving power for such a short time.
“It’s definitely not about energy saved for that hour — lighting is a very minimal portion of overall energy use,” said Tara Wood of the World Wildlife Fund.
“Earth Hour is all about bringing global awareness to this issue.”