Saturday, March 27, 2010

Earth Hour Lights Up Need to Be Green

Tonight, cities and towns around the world will go dim for an hour, in show of support for our planet. I remember last year, I was chilling in front of the television, flipping channels, when I came across The Weathernetwork, which was covering the event live.

Immediately I ran to my balcony – I live on the upper floors of a high rise in Toronto, Canada – and I witnessed an amazing thing.

The usual Toronto skyline, with the CN Tower, bank towers, and other tall structures which light the night’s sky were dark – all except their airplane warning lights. It was an eerie darkness, as all I could see was the occasional flash of red warning lights, where there usually are well lit buildings. If you stared long enough, you could make out the silhouettes of the buildings. In the dim moonlight, my eyes started to get sore from the strain.

I looked down closer to home, and the neighborhoods around me were also quite dim. You could see the bluish flicker of lights emanating from windows, as people were watching television, but all the other lights in their homes were off.

Earth Hour – an event organized by the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) – takes place across the globe, from Canada and the United States, to across the pond in Europe and elsewhere.

Although chances are you won’t notice much of a drop in your electricity bill from shutting off your lights for the one hour event, as people across your area shut off their lights, you do see a difference.

Last year it was reminiscent of when I was a kid up at the cottage in Georgian Bay. Sure we had electrical lights, we weren’t that far removed from the benefits of modern life. But when I was a kid, spending much of my summers up north, I could see something you don’t often get to see in the big cities – stars.

I am lucky living in an area where I can still see the stars every so often. But up north, the whole night’s sky is ablaze with stars. Here in the city, generally I see just the brightest stars, such as the Big Dipper cluster, the North Star, and occasionally a handful of others. But up north, you’d swear you were seeing the entire galaxy.

During the Earth Hour event last year, I could see far more stars than I had ever seen in the city before. It was spectacular. Maybe it was our reward for turning off our lights.
Reducing energy by cutting our lights for Earth Hour won’t prevent global warming – but it isn’t a bad way to start.

The whole genesis of Earth Hour, according to the WWF is to show our support for energy reduction in the fight against global warming.

Global warming is just a natural part of our planet’s life. Throughout all of time on this blue-green dot in the Milky Way, the Earth has gone through regular climatic changes. Due to the Earth’s orbit around the Sun, our planet is constantly either warming or cooling.

Our planet’s orbit around the Sun is elliptical, meaning some orbits bring us closer to our gas giant Sun, which causes the Earth to heat and warm, while other orbits take us further away, creating colder periods, often resulting in ice ages.

For the past decade, our orbit has been one of closer proximity to the Sun, which is why we’re experiencing a global warming.

However, we are not completely innocent either – thanks to our love affair with the car, with heated homes in winter and cooled ones in summer, thanks to well lit homes at night, and even thanks to beer fridges for keeping the suds chilled, our use of fossil fuels to heat, cool and power our lives has put more Carbon-based elements into the atmosphere.

Carbon-based elements, such as Carbon Dioxide, acts like a blanket, keeping the heat our planet receives from the Sun around us, which creates a greenhouse effect. A greenhouse traps hot air inside it, keeping the area warm.

This trapped heat is in addition to the increases of heat we receive from our closer orbit to the Sun. The effects are devastating – our polar ice caps at both ends of our globe are melting at an alarming rate. As these ice masses melt, sea levels around the world rise, causing flooding in low lying areas.

Water pressures on the Earth’s crust increase as ocean and sea levels rise. This added pressure builds, until it is too much, and it is released with such force, earthquakes and tsunamis are the result.

Earthquakes and tsunamis change the global landscape literally – look at the devastation from the recent earthquakes in Hati. Plants and animals are displaced when their natural habitats are uprooted. People die in buildings that collapse, and lives are disrupted when homes, workplaces, schools and other buildings are destroyed.

Turning off the lights for one hour won’t make much of a difference – but if we take the time to practice energy efficient practices year-round, we can all make a big difference.

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