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Thursday, 2 April 2009

Earth Hour 2009

Toronto Skyline with the CN Tower and Rogers Centre - click for larger view and more info
<<-Toronto Before Earth Hour - Click for Info
Ron and I spent most of last year's/our first Earth Hour strolling through our residential neighbourhood being impressed by the number of homes that had turned off their lights - the darkness inside being interrupted only occasionally by a flickering candle. We weren't the only ones out for a walk. It seemed a lot of people were. Everyone we met spoke to us as if the new-found darkness somehow made them feel safer, that even passing strangers were friends all at the same party. The favourite conversation topic of course was the darkness and the stars that could be seen in the skies above - a rare sight anytime in Toronto. But we also all wondered at a house that seemed to be making some sort of reverse statement, as not only were their lights on inside the house but there were many strands of lights hung outside lighting up their house like Christmas. Earth Hour of course is about making a statement. No one actually believes that shutting off lights around the world for just one hour once a year is going to stop global warming. Rather participating is a symbolic act - a collective statement that action is needed daily by each of us and our governments. That's why we decided to spend the symbolic event of Earth Hour 2009 taking pictures of a Toronto symbol - the CN Tower.

Normally the CN Tower is lit with coloured lights in the evening and March 28, 2009 was no exception. The pictures shown above left and below were both taken a few minutes before the start of Earth Hour. Note that both the CN Tower and the Rogers Centre are washed in a purplish light. The Rogers Centre (the domed stadium above formerly called the Skydome) and the Royal York Hotel (the lower building in the centre of the cluster of high-rises below) as well as other buildings have their names lit-up on signs at the top of the buildings. Most lights in the individual suites in the various high-rise towers already seemed to be off - perhaps like ours they had been turned off much earlier in the day in anticipation of the event. In fact Toronto Hydro reported that Toronto's average use of electricity was already down by 10% prior to the countdown at 8:30pm. Toronto Skyline Including the Royal York Hotel - click for larger view and more info
Toronto Skyline Pre-Earth Hour - click for larger view and more info

When 8:30pm ticked by the exterior lights on the CN tower and the dome shut off as well as various buildings' signs and it became much harder to pick out each building. The majority of the lights that remained on were the ones required for safety - like street lights and the small flashing lights to warn planes about the CN Tower and the crane spotlights on the buildings under construction. Also the camera's slow shutter speed captured the headlights and tail-lights of passing cars on the highways. From a distance it does indeed look like a much darker city and a statement of Toronto's desire to do something about global warming.Panoramic Image of Earth Hour in Toronto - click for more info
Earth Hour in Toronto - click for larger view and more info

In Ontario the power reduction during Earth Hour was reported at more than 6%. In Toronto it was almost twice last year's reduction at 15.1% - enough to power 300,000 homes. That is an impressive statement that we each can do something. And to me it is also a statement of hope - hope that something can be done!

But what happens if we take a closer look? If we look under the darkened dome of the Rogers Centre we would discover that the stadium was hosting a weekend-long motocross event. Perhaps that fact becomes even more ironic when it is learned that later that night when the races were over about 300 people had to evacuated from the dome and some of its attached venues due to carbon monoxide fumes.

It is good even honourable to shut off our lights and join in statements of solidarity against global warming. But we need to look closer - need to go beyond turning out our lights once a year. Ron and I drove downtown to get these images. Our excuse for not taking transit was all the gear we had to haul and our neighbourhood's lousy bus schedule. But really that is just an excuse. We could perhaps - even should have done better. We have been trying. Since I posted It's Not Easy Being Green! on this blog last year we have continued to try and reduce our carbon footprint. We have reduced our natural gas consumption by 25% over last year's by installing a new high-efficiency furnace and tankless hot-water heater in our home. We've also had most of our windows replaced by new energy efficient ones. No doubt there is still more that we can do without having to sit home in dark rooms - something that won't cost us much but will still let us enjoy our lives - like taking transit more and driving less.

So what's next for you? What are you personally going to do to reduce your carbon footprint and help in the fight against global warming? Let's make every hour a time to do something for the earth.

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