It started with a question: How can we inspire people to take action on climate change?
The answer: Ask the people of Sydney to turn off their lights for one hour.
On 31 March 2007, 2.2 million people and 2100 Sydney businesses turned off their lights for one hour – Earth Hour. If the greenhouse reduction achieved in the Sydney CBD during Earth Hour was sustained for a year, it would be equivalent to taking 48,616 cars off the road for a year.
With Sydney icons like the Harbour Bridge and Opera House turning their lights off, and unique events such as weddings by candlelight, the world took notice. Inspired by the collective effort of millions of Sydneysiders, many major global cities are joining Earth Hour in 2008, turning a symbolic event into a global movement. – Earth Hour
It’s amazing how much of an impact something as simple as turning off the lights for an hour can have when a group of people set their minds to something. Major Canadian cities listed at the Earth Hour website include the capital (Ottawa), Montreal, Toronto and Vancouver. I was reading the paper today and there are supposed to be 170 Canadian cities alone signed up for Earth Hour. Apparently Canada’s being the largest participant this year with the number of cities and that is supposed to reflect the amount of concern in this country for climate change. And considering there’s a large chunk of the Arctic ice cap melting and not reforming and so much wildlife that depends on a cold climate in order to survive, it’s something to be concerned about.
Global warming seems to have the most detrimental affects on places where we don’t have a lot of cars or people. The Wilkins Ice Shelf in Antarctica has been melting, with a 410 km² (160 sq mi) piece that has completed melted. The oceans? Carbon dioxide dissolves into the oceans and reacts with water to produce carbonic acid. Pretty much most living things on this planet have adapted only being able to survive in a very narrow range of acidity. For example, if our blood inside of us is too acidic or basic, we will die. Likewise, the surface of the oceans have decreased from a pH of 8.25 to 8.14. This may not seem like very much, but you have to consider how much carbon dioxide that has to react with the water in order to create such a difference and to make the water more acidic. Of course, it is not all negatives. For example, British Columbia? Has been having some of its best harvest seasons for grapes (to be made into wine) over the last couple of years. I’m sure people have been pleased with more sunshine and more vitamin D at the expense of skin damage.
But just to throw some numbers out at you all… Germany reduced greenhouse gas emissions by 17.8% from 1990 to 2004. France shut it’s last coal mine in 2004 and 80% of their electricity comes from nuclear power (which has low carbon dioxide emissions, I just hope everyone who works at the plants doesn’t go home glowing like a night light). Norway reduced by 18.7% from 1990-2004. U.K. also reduced by 14.8% of carbon dioxide emissions. Sweden uses hydro, nuclear, wind and various bio-fuels, however the country is also hell-bent on no longer being dependent on nuclear or fossil fuels and plans to be the very first country to be completely oil-free in terms of power use. (Of course, this pledge was made in 2005 and they plan to do with within 15 years, so before 2020. Guess we’ll see, now won’t we?)
So what will you be doing at 8:00pm (20:00) local time? For me, it depends on how much natural light is still out at 8pm. And if it’s raining. Or snowing. (It snowed today. And hailed. And yes, I do not believe the weather realizes yet that next Tuesday is April 1st. I think it’s an early April Fool’s Day joke.) But I’ll have lights off. Local restaurants have been advertising that they will be having candlelit dinners available from 8:00-9:00pm. Also local city halls have plans to turn off all their interior and exterior lights, leaving on security cameras (of course), but participating in Earth Hour nonetheless. I will possibly just unplug my laptop from the outlet and go write up a few pages of content for the hour. With the lights off, of course.
Earth Hour is March 29th, 8:00pm local time.