Cutting carbon, one hour at a time

By Lucy Pasternak

Canada is leading the world in an initiative to raise awareness about global warming.

Earth Hour 2008 will feature cities and towns around the world switching off their lights for one hour to take a stand against global warming Sat., Mar. 29. Millions of people will unite to send a national and global message that it is possible to take action.

Earth Hour began in Sydney, Australia in 2007 when the World Wildlife Fund and the city campaigned to the effect that 2.2 million people and businesses switched off their lights for one hour.

World Wildlife Fund Canada Earth Hour manager Tara Wood is proud of the fact that Canada is currently leading the world with more people and businesses registered to participate in Earth Hour 2008 than any other country.

“Participation is hard to judge because not everyone who intends to participate will register on the website,” said Wood. “The figures show that 30,000 Canadians have registered so far, but we know that the number who actually participate on March 29 will be in the millions.”

However, critics of the event say that even if millions of people do switch off their lights it will not make a significant impact on global warming. Wood disagreed.

“The point of Earth Hour is for ordinary people to see how their actions can make a difference,” she said. “Mass participation in Earth Hour 2008 will save emissions and it will also send a clear signal to the government and corporations that people care about the environment.”

However, the University of Calgary’s specialist in Albertan politics Dr. David Taras does not have much faith in the youth of Alberta to take action.

“We can see, based on the result of the recent provincial election, that young people don’t vote based on the environment, healthcare or housing,” he said. “University students of today will be grandparents by the time Alberta reaches its emissions control targets and the people of Alberta endorsed this time schedule.”

Earth Hour 2008 has been brought to Calgary rather late in the game. About three weeks ago, Calgary Earth Hour organizer Chelsey McRedmond saw a video about Earth Hour 2007 in Sydney. She explained that she was so inspired by what she saw that she decided to make Earth Hour happen in Calgary this year.

“Although we’re all different people in such a large city, leading different lives, the one thing that we all have in common is this massive threat against our planet,” she said. “We should take this opportunity to unite for a common cause.”

McRedmond had contacted the Mayor two weeks prior to this and received a response explaining that the city would not be participating in Earth Hour 2008. She then contacted her Alderman, Druh Farrell and Alderman Brian Pincott requesting that they lean on the city to participate in the event. Farrell responded to the request saying that she would support a motion for Earth Hour. Pincott then put forward the motion. McRedmond noted this made the difference to her campaign.

“It was a slow start getting people on board in Calgary because there were only two of us but we decided to go for it,” she said. “It all took a turn when the city came on board.”

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