The World VOTES Earth!
More than 285 cities and municipalities from every Canadian province and territory participated officially—including Toronto, Vancouver, Montreal, Halifax and Edmonton. Others simply switched off their lights in ad hoc demonstrations of solidarity. Globally, organizers had hoped 1,000 cities would join Earth Hour’s global call to action on climate change. Over three times that number responded to the call, with 3,937 cites having reported in so far.
As many as one billion people may have participated worldwide, including a predicted 81% of Canadians according to a pre-poll. In all, 88 countries took part, with Canada recording the third-highest number of darkened cities. Reports and statistics will pour in during the days to come, but as global events go, Earth hour 2009 has already made history.
“We’ve just watched millions of Canadians use their light switch to vote for action on climate change,” said Gerald Butts, President and CEO, WWF-Canada. “That’s a landslide. Clearly, Canadians support action on climate change and are anxious to see their country take a leading role in finding a solution.”
More than 2,500 Canadian businesses also shut down the lights on Saturday night, including national companies like Fairmont Hotels& Resorts, MacDonalds and Winners. Sears Canada, Coca Cola Ltd and the CBC were signed on as official sponsors.
“We’ve had indications suggesting that as many as four out of five Canadians observed Earth Hour on this year by turning off their lights,” said Butts. “It goes to show how clearly people understand that 2009 is a pivotal year in Canada’s commitment to solve climate change”
Days before the event, UN Secretary General Ban prepared a videotaped address (watched around the world on YouTubehttp://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6nu4gYSOJn4 ) in which he linked the significance of Earth Hour to the international climate negotiations in Copenhagen next December.
“People will be telling their representatives to seal a deal in Copenhagen,” said Ban, “a deal at the climate change talks that will protect people and the planet. We need an ambitious agreement, an agreement that is fair and effective—an agreement based on sound science.”
“The connection’s being made in Canada too,” said Butts. “Recent polls show that 74 per cent of Canadians believe Earth Hour is increasing awareness of climate change. 84 per cent think the federal government should be taking action to prevent global warming.”
Although Earth Hour was conceived as an expression of collective concern—a way of symbolizing that action on climate change really is possible—it also succeeded in demonstrating how these actions do work. The numbers are still coming in but according to Toronto Hydro electricity use dropped a whopping 15.1 per cent in Toronto and across Ontario the IESO reported a more than 6 per cent drop. BC Hydro reports that the provincial drop was 1.1 per cent and unofficially, Nova Scotia Power reported a 15 megawatt drop in power demand across the province, nearly double last year’s level.
While millions of people observed Earth Hour by switching off the lights at home, there were hundreds of events in towns and cities coast to coast to coast. The City of Toronto hosted a free concert at Nathan Phillips Square featuring Suzie McNeil and Karl Wolf, and Vancouver held an Earth Hour celebration in conjunction with JunoFest. In Halifax, and Edmonton there was free music and star gazing during community celebrations and, in Montreal, Earth Hour got creative with Ideas in the Dark—an event featuring art in the dark and a flashlight mob concert with the National Parcs.
WWF-Canada will track results as they come in from across the country and around the world. See www.earthhourcanada.org.