Earth Hour 2009 is almost upon us. What will you be doing and, more importantly, why are you doing it?

On Saturday, March 28, between 8:30 and 9:30 p.m., we are asked to turn off all non-essential lights and other power-using devices for the third annual Earth Hour event.

Earth Hour started in 2007 in Sydney, Australia. By last year, other countries had jumped on the bandwagon, including Canada, where more than 150 cities signed up to participate, which is one of the highest participation rates in the world. The Toronto skyline dimmed noticeably and hydro usage dropped 8.7 per cent. In Ottawa, they showed a four per cent decrease in hydro usage.

This year, Earth Hour events are planned in many cities across Canada. These events include a free Earth Hour concert in Nathan Phillips Square. For more information about these and other events, go to

This year, Canada looks poised to outdo its 2008 performance with more than 200 cities already signed up to participate. Canada currently ranks No. 1 in the world in terms of cities signed up for Earth Hour, with 208 participants. We are followed by Greece (185) and Australia (172). Lights on the CN Tower, as well as other major landmarks, will be dimmed as Canadians vote with their light switches to show that climate change is important to us.

Speaking of voting, we find it ironic that Canada has more cities than any other country signed up for Earth Hour; however, our government’s policy on global warming is luke-warm at best. We have backpedalled on our ratification of the Kyoto Protocol, and now with a new forward thinking administration in the United States we face the prospect of trailing behind even that traditional digger-in of heels on climate change, the U.S. of A.

We need to decide if we are serious about combating climate change. Are we just participating in Earth Hour for the “cool” factor because it’s endorsed by celebrities, we like free concerts and lighting candles is fun anyway? Or are we willing to put resources into sustainable energy generation and helping existing industries cut their carbon outputs? Meeting our Kyoto obligations is not going to be painless. Are we willing to deal with the pain?

Most importantly, are we willing to tell Ottawa that in spite of all our economic woes, we still care about climate change and about the environment and that we will not accept them turning their backs on it?

Or will we just turn the lights back on at 9:30 on March 28 and go about our lives?

Sophia Dore is an environmental scientist with Conestoga-Rovers & Associates. Andrew Laursen is an assistant professor at Ryerson University;