This coming Saturday, from 8:30 to 9:30 p.m. local time, more than a billion people will be turning off their lights to help save the global environment.


Earth Hour — an annual awareness-raising event promoted in dozens of countries by the World Wildlife Fund — is becoming one of the biggest environmental movements in history, according to its Canadian project manager, the WWF’s Tara Wood.


“What’s really exciting about working on this project is that Canada usually comes out in the top three countries, worldwide,” she enthuses. “For the past two years, more than half of all adult Canadians have participated in this event.”


For 2010, more than 220 Canadian cities are actively promoting Earth Hour, encouraging citizens and local businesses to get involved.


Critics have charged the amount of energy saved in a single hour is negligible, and power use rises dramatically as soon as Earth Hour ends. Woods sees a larger purpose for this ever-expanding event.

“It’s definitely not about the power we save in that hour,” she says. “It’s about making a strong, symbolic statement, and then taking that message to see what each of us can do – every day – to help live lighter on the planet.”

A lightbulb here, a parked car there, multiplied by a billion people. For Woods, this is an ongoing project, rather than a single event.

“I think, overall, we hear about doom-and-gloom environmental issues, and wonder how one person can make a difference?” says Woods. “I might drive a hybrid and have all energy-efficient appliances, and look out the window and see my neighbour driving to work in his Hummer. But that’s where the beauty of Earth Hour comes in. It’s very positive, celebratory and inclusive. It’s all about people making it their own.”

And while the event has grown exponentially since debuting in Sydney, Australia just three years ago, Woods looks forward to a time when Earth Hour won’t be anything special at all.

“I think the best-case scenario is we get to a point where we don’t need events like this because everybody is so tuned in to what we can do every day to live a little bit lighter on the planet. But until we reach that point, I think it’s important for people to celebrate events like Earth Hour, and encourage their friends to adopt greener behavior and be role models in their own lives.”