Nightfall seemed to arrive early Saturday night, as lights around the world were shut off to highlight growing environmental issues.
London was just one of hundreds of communities participating in Earth Hour, a worldwide event to raise awareness about energy consumption and environmental sustainability.
While more enthusiastic environmentalists deemed the project an unprecedented success, others remain skeptical of the event’s impact on climate change.
The campaign, founded by the World Wildlife Fund, asked businesses and individuals to turn off lights and other electrical appliances between 8 and 9 p.m. on Saturday to promote electricity conservation.
“We’ve sent a message that we’re deeply concerned about climate change,” Julia Langer, director of climate change for the WWF, said. “[Earth Hour] shows every bit you do adds up and amounts to something ... it’s part of a global movement.”
Jamie Skimming, manager of air quality and climate change at the City of London, echoed Langer’s enthusiasm. “It has certainly been successful,” he said. “Compared to this time last year, [London] used 2 per cent less electricity — the equivalent of 117,000 incandescent bulbs.”
While London managed to cut energy consumption by 2 per cent during the event, other cities from across the globe boasted even better results.
Toronto Hydro reported an 8.7 per cent decrease, while Melbourne, Australia was down 10.1 per cent.
Skimming said different cities used different methods to measure Earth Hour’s impact. “Whereas London measured the pure electricity number for the entire hour, other cities measured the lowest consumption point.”
Numbers aside, EnviroWestern co-ordinator Will Bortolin said talking about climate change was the main goal of the project.
“Earth Hour wasn’t about excessive artificial lighting or making an ecological impact, it was about raising awareness.”
First-year social science student Danya Atta was one of many Westerners who participated in the event. “At home we turned off our electricity for the full hour. There were also people going door-to-door in our neighbourhood, telling people about Earth Hour.”
Atta was impressed by the amount of promotion the environmental event received. “They had posters in the mall and on Facebook,” she said. “It felt good to be a part of the movement.”
Tommy Roberts, a third-year management and organizational studies student, said he was working during the event and could not turn off the lights. He questioned the overall impact of Earth Hour.
“It’s a good start, but there are larger issues at hand,” he said, noting there were probably plenty of gas-guzzling SUVs on the road during the event.
Bortolin agreed Earth Hour was not a solution to sustainability issues. “Events like Earth Hour are certainly not enough on their own, but they’re valuable components of a more cohesive approach to campus sustainability,” he said.
“We still have a tremendously long way to go, but this is one of many steps forward,” he added.
With a year to go until the next Earth Hour, many environmental advocates expressed hope for more global and local participation.
Bortolin joked: “It’s game on Toronto, for 2009.”