Earth Hour 2008 has come and gone. Canada as a country did well, with more than 150 cities signed up to take part, which was one of the highest participation rates in the world.
The Toronto skyline dimmed noticeably and between 7:59 p.m. and about 8:30 p.m. hydro usage dropped 8.7 per cent. In Ottawa, the city measured its hydro consumption drop by comparing 8 to 9 p.m. on March 29 to 8 to 9 p.m. the previous Saturday, which showed a 4 per cent decrease in hydro usage.
Since Toronto and Ottawa reported their power decreases in different ways we can’t tell whether they ended up about the same. In Halifax, power usage stats have not been reported as yet but the McDonald Bridge, City Hall and Grand Parade Square all went dark.
Our personal Earth Hour went well. Despite the best efforts of one member of this writing team to hook the TV up to the stationary bike, we ended up turning off the lights, having some family over, lighting candles and chatting.
What did it all mean? Did it really make a global environmental impact? Was it, as some have claimed, mere tokenism?
If we think of it in terms of cutting power usage it really meant very little. The amount of energy saved during Earth Hour was not enough to make an impact on worldwide energy budgets. However, if we think of it in terms of what may yet be accomplished then maybe it meant more. Many companies that cut their power usage did so by turning off unnecessary lights. Presumably, in the run-up to Earth Hour, they examined their energy usage in order to determine which lights, etc., were unnecessary. This increased consciousness that some of their power usage is unnecessary may lead to some decisions to keep unnecessary lights off on regular, non-Earth Hour nights.
Perhaps Earth Hour also made us realize that a little darkness is not necessarily a bad thing. Some lighting is essential for safety but it is not necessary to make night as bright as day. In our own home, we realized that when sitting and chatting, it is not necessary to have a lot of light on. This is a lesson about minimal lighting that we will try to carry through the year.
Earth Hour also raised awareness about the need to conserve energy and, it seems, upped the “cool” factor associated with energy conservation. All of a sudden, neon lights were out and candles were in. Bright was out and dark was in. If we could apply this minimalist thinking to other aspects of our lives then maybe we would be on our way to some of the fundamental shifts in our lifestyles that are going to be required in the coming years.