Saturday, March 29, 2008

Earth Hour...Day

Well, I blew it. I signed up for Earth Hour over a month ago, went on my merry way, then a week or two later committed to attending a pro wrestling event on the same night.

Earth Hour. Pro Wrestling. Oddly enough, the former didn't jump to mind as I confirmed I would be going to the latter.

Mrs THIT will be participating, if you can call it that, in my place, as will the Official THIT mascot, Oscar.

I must admit that initially I thought this thing would be a bomb here. Most of the editorials I'd read about the event were negatively slanted, focused on making the entire endeavour appear to be a useless, unimpactful waste of time.

Then I heard that the city announce that "we" would be participating. About two weeks ago, riding the bus home from work, I spotted that city hall had a huge Earth Hour banner across its front. Then arriving for work earlier this week, I saw that a sign had been erected in the lobby announcing the building's (and company's) involvement.

All right! Now the day has arrived and this article in the Ottawa Sun seems to indicate greater participation than I'd anticipated.

Earth Hour advocates are hoping the city will be plunged into darkness tonight as part of a global effort to reduce energy consumption and battle climate change.

Mayor Larry O'Brien jumped on board the eco bandwagon last month, urging residents to flick off light switches between 8 and 9 p.m. tonight.

"We flicked a switch on in our own heads and it caught on like wildfire," O'Brien told reporters at city hall, where a giant Earth Hour banner was unfurled last week.

Experts predict actual energy savings will be negligible, but applauded the symbolic movement that highlights a surging demand for power in the province that contributed to rolling brownouts and blackouts during peak consumption periods.

"Most people remember where they were during the (August 2003) blackout," said Peter Love, chief energy conservation officer with the Ontario Power Authority. "We're hoping people will rethink their electricity consumption in their homes, their workplaces and in their daily lives."

The corporate community, which often shoulders much of the blame for wasteful consumption, is also joining the cause.

McDonald's restaurants across the country will observe Earth Hour by extinguishing their iconic "Golden Arches," and many other retail chains, shopping centres, banks and office complexes will follow, dimming all non-essential lighting for the hour.

"There was a lot of interest expressed when we talked to our members," said Richard Clayman, chairman of the Ottawa Chamber of Commerce. "We look at this as a trigger to increase general awareness about how people can conserve energy, not only in their businesses but in their homes as well. It costs nothing to turn off your lights for one hour and participate."

The movement started last year in Sydney, Australia, where more than 2 million homes and 2,100 businesses combined to reduce energy consumption by 10%.

This year, word has spread worldwide, with hundreds of communities participating, including 150 in Canada.

Yesterday, more than 500 Ontario schools showed their support by cutting lights for one hour. Even Parliament Hill will join the cause by dimming the lights on the Peace Tower.

Parliamentarians are predictably jumping on the event as political leverage.

Liberal Leader Stephane Dion and Green Party Leader Elizabeth May both seized the opportunity to blast Prime Minister Stephen Harper's environmental record.

Before, during and after Earth Hour, Hydro Ottawa will monitor the impact on power consumption in the region.

A poll on the paper's website would indicate that about 40% of people plan on playing along. I consider that pretty high. Not exactly scientific data, I know, but still...

I could get in the habit. Two weeks ago, when we were hit with almost two feet of snow, the power went out here around 10PM.

So what did I do? Well...I went out to shovel the driveway. It was a snow storm. Pay attention! ;-)

But prior to that, Christine and I went through the standard conversations when something like that happens.

"Where the hell do we keep the candles?"

"Damn it, the lighter's out of fluid!"
"I think we have another one"
"In the bathroom"
"...What the hell is it doing in the bathroom?!"

"Don't we have, like, a gazillion flashlights?"
"Yeah, they're in the office closet"
"Christ, I'll never find them in that mess..."
"Wouldn't matter anyway, we don't have any batteries for them"

I don't think the above is unusual. But aside from making it a semi-regular habit for the sake of preparedness, when I was out there shovelling until nearly 11PM with no lights on, I was struck by how peaceful everything was. I could hear a few cars in the distance and that was it. And I was basically working by moonlight.

I liked it. Of course, it may be a little extreme to attempt to knock out power in the entire neighbourhood but perhaps I can recreate it at home.

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