Opinion » Editorial

Saving the world one light switch at a time



Looking up at Whistler and Blackcomb Mountains around 8:30 p.m. last Saturday was like going back in time — back to a time when lights didn't appear all over the mountain all night long (and believe me, this was no small feat to achieve for Whistler Blackcomb).

The "go-dark hour" at 8:30 p.m. on March 24 was part of the global Earth Hour event. Our mountains, and our community, were not alone. In Paris, the Eiffel Tower went dark; in London, U.K., Tower Bridge, Big Ben, Piccadilly Circus, Buckingham Palace, the London Eye all switched off for the hour. Indeed, participants from more than 7,000 cities and 180 countries and territories took part in 2018.

This is the 10th anniversary of Whistler taking part.

The event, while definitely a feel-good affair, is not without critics who opine that this symbolic activity is doing nothing to actually address the very serious climate change challenges we are facing.

But I would argue that when people switched off their lights for Earth Hour, it was a global call for international unity on the importance of addressing climate change.

In years past, Whistler has been the leader in going dark for Earth Hour, but as of this year, there is no longer any way to compare it to other B.C. communities as BC Hydro has decided not to keep statistics on a town-by-town basis.

And disturbingly, this year there was an increase in electricity use across B.C. during Earth Hour with electricity use up by 0.2 per cent province-wide compared to the same day the previous week.

A recent BC Hydro report entitled Lights out: Why Earth Hour is dimming in B.C. found that only seven in 10 British Columbians intended to participate in Earth Hour—the trend of declining participation continuing for a fifth year.

"From a climate change perspective, Earth Hour seems to lack the gravity in B.C. that it carries in many other places around the world served by fossil fuel-generated electricity," said BC Hydro in its report.

It is true that most of our household energy comes from a sustainable source—hydro-electric power—and that differs vastly from many other countries reliant on fossil fuels. Indeed, 40 per cent of greenhouse gas emissions are produced by commercial and personal transportation here.

So looking out along the calendar of community-activity days designed to raise awareness, perhaps this knowledge makes Bike to Work Week one of the most important to get involved with!

But be that as it may, more countries participated in Earth Hour this year than ever before.

We shouldn't let the fall in participation, or the increase in power use, dissuade us from global goals of using less fossil fuels in every walk of life. This event is not just about turning off a light switch, it's a chance for us to look at how we fuel and power all the technology in our lives with a view to helping to mitigate climate change.

Indeed, the global vision can be seen in the focus of the 2018 Earth Hour by the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), which conceived the event in 2007 in Australia.

This year, the organization wants all of us to think about and understand the link between energy use, sustainability, and our natural environment.

"As our one shared home faces the dual challenge of climate change and plummeting wildlife populations, the world's largest grassroots movement for the environment aims to mobilize individuals, businesses and governments to be a part of the conversation and solutions needed to build a healthy, sustainable planet for all," states a WWF release on Earth Hour.

It is asking all of us to go to connect2earth.org and share what our natural environment means to us. Created in partnership with the secretariat of the United Nations Convention of Biological Diversity, the platform aims to build mass awareness on the values of biodiversity and nature by kick-starting global conversations on issues such as climate action, healthy oceans and sustainable business.

Said Megan Leslie, president and CEO of World Wildlife Fund Canada: "Wildlife loss is real, it's widespread in Canada and around the world, it's happening now and it affects all of us. Declining wildlife populations rely on the same things people need to thrive: Safe places to go about their lives, plenty of food and abundant healthy water. When you turn out your lights this Earth Hour, home by home, street by street, community by community, you're showing that together we need to take the necessary steps to reverse the decline of wildlife."