Toronto counts down to Earth Hour

Earth Hour offers a chance for concerned citizens of the world to learn how they can help out Mother Earth in her time of need.

Between 8:30 and 9:30 p.m. today, (March 28), Toronto will join the rest of the world and turn off the lights for one hour in an effort to raise awareness of the effects of global climate change. Celebrations are being held around the city to mark moment, with the main event, a concert, planned for Nathan Phillips Square tonight.

Franz Hartman, the executive director of Toronto Environmental Alliance, hopes the dialogue generated by Earth Hour will initiate change.

“I think a lot of people think of Earth Hour as a chance to talk about what they can do and change in their daily lives,” Hartman said.

Hartman has been at the forefront for global change for more than a decade. He has been advocating since the early 1990s and since then has earned a PhD at York University in environmental politics afterward becoming environmental advisor to then city councillor Jack Layton, now leader of the federal NDP.

Hartman is well aware of the severity of global warming and climate change. He is no stranger to the light-hearted nature in which some people contemplate global warming and seriously condones the cynically labeled ‘anti-earth hour’ parties, small parties generally hosted to those who do not believe global warming is a real threat.

“People who question the validity of global warming need to go to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) website and see the science around the global warming and the conclusions reached,” Hartman said.

The IPCC is a United Nations panel of scientists and policy makers who have been studying global warming for many years. With the information discovered by the IPCC, Hartman warns global warming is no laughing matter.

As seen in Toronto Hydro’s reported five per cent reduction in electricity consumption during Earth Hour 2008, Earth Hour does make a difference. However, reducing electricity worldwide for a mere hour will not hold global warming at bay. Nevertheless, Hartman and the Toronto Environmental Alliance hope that people will begin to make changes on an individual basis.

“It starts as simple as what we can do at home, what lights we can turn off, go out and buy energy efficient appliances,” Hartman said. “It’s a question of what can we do in our work lives, can we leave the car at home and take TTC or bikes or walk.”

Hartman fears that if people do not get the message about the gravity of global warming, whether it be from Earth Hour or other globally conscious campaigns, our Earth will be host to a laundry list of brutal environmental challenges such as severe weather events, drought and famine.

“The cost to deal with global warming will be phenomenal,” Hartman said. “Is Earth Hour going to solve it? No. But it’s a useful beginning.”

Filed by Jenna Conter