On Saturday, March 29, millions of households around the world will be shutting off their lights for one hour, from 8 p.m. to 9 p.m., to draw attention to climate change and how our use of energy contributes to it.
The Resort Municipality of Whistler is one of the participants this year, and is looking at ways to shut off non-essential municipal lights and power during Earth Hour.
“Do we turn off lights on Christmas trees?” suggested Mayor Ken Melamed at the March 3 meeting. “People would notice, and it would create and generate conversation and discussion.”
The municipality and the Association of Whistler Area Residents for the Environment are also encouraging the community to take part, and hope to work with B.C. Hydro to find out how much power was saved during that timeframe.
This is the second year for Earth Hour, after Sydney, Australia hosted the first event last year. The initiative was started by the World Wildlife Fund to raise awareness of the impact of global warming on species like polar bears, which rely on the arctic icepack to hunt for seals.
But while drawing attention to global warming is the main focus for Earth Hour, there are a few side benefits according to Whistler-based astronomer John Nemy. Earth Hour will also draw attention to the issue of light pollution, and how too much light impacts our view of the night sky — something Nemy sees as an underrated attraction for Whistler, especially for visitors that come from heavily urbanized areas.
“As an astronomer (Earth Hour) is a great thing,” he said. “I think we have an overabundance of a lot of amenities in North America, including light. We could live with less, and live just as well if not better, but we seem to embellish everything.”
Four years ago Nemy started a group called Friends of the Dark Outdoors (FRODO) to reduce light pollution in Whistler and reduce the impact of development on the night sky. The group is on hiatus, but was successful in some ways.
“We got an excellent response from Intrawest the municipality, and things did change,” said Nemy. “For one thing, the bright lights that were on the Crystal Hut, 7 th Heaven and the Peak Chair are no longer there, which was an energy and cost savings initiative by Whistler-Blackcomb. The municipality also changed lighting to make it more shielded, and left it out of some projects. People are listening and interested, and care about waste and the night sky.”
For more information, visit www.earthhour.org.