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Notes from Vancouver: Earth Hour just in the attitude?


The results are in: Earth Hour was a success—mostly. As I have already mentioned, our family has been walking around gloating about our 85% reduction during Earth Hour.  (We know this because we are taking part in a real-time energy-use monitoring pilot with Pulse Energy.)

Earth Hour is called by its sponsoring organization, the World Wildlife Fund: “the planet’s largest collective leadership for climate action.” The idea is simple: at 8:30 p.m. local time on the last Saturday of March (March 27th in 2010) people and businesses and governments are asked to turn off their lights.

The results can be dramatic. B.C. Hydro says that the province’s electricity load dropped by 1.04% during Earth Hour this year.  The community of Burns Lake got a 7% reduction. Vancouver and Victoria tied at 1.4% reductions.

The WWF says that the point of the event is not the energy or carbon reduction, but rather an opportunity “to encourage individuals, businesses, and governments to take accountability for their carbon footprint and show leadership in climate solutions.” And, indeed, as great as the numbers in energy reduction were this year, they actually paled in comparison to 2008 when the province got a 2% overall drop.  Yet, participation and awareness are going up. This year a record “126 countries and territories, over 4,000 cities, towns, and municipalities, and hundreds of millions of people” across the globe participated. That is a big increase from 2007 when it was just Sydney, Australia.

The success factor seems to largely have to do with creativity. Each businesses or institution can see it as a challenge to be creative and have fun or as a burden. For those having fun: they make it memorable and easy for others to participate. For instance, numerous restaurants in and around Vancouver  offered special Earth Hour candlelight dinners and some even had menu options that included raw or low cooked foods.  I, however, was at a big theatre downtown where when the concert started (right during Earth Hour) the house lights went up rather than down: “so the audience could read the translation,” I was told by one of the ushers who also informed me that the staff all had their breaks in the dark.  (It was Bach! What fun they could have had with dim lights.)

Isn’t this the way with all things though?  As a nation, a world, and individuals we will either see climate change as a reason to get creative while reducing our resource consumption or we will fight it the whole way (making ourselves and others miserable). Earth Hour is a chance to test out our strategy.

Written by Manda Aufochs Gillespie: The Green Mama. Photo courtesy of WWF-Canada. Credit: © Jeremiah Armstrong.

This article is reprinted with permission from The Vancouver Observer where it first appeared.



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