Power down for Earth Hour

In 2007, Earth Hour started in Sydney, Australia. That’s it, just one city. The organizers of that first event tried to make it a national event for the next year and failed — sort of.

In 2007, Earth Hour started in Sydney, Australia. That’s it, just one city. The organizers of that first event tried to make it a national event for the next year and failed — sort of.

Instead of being restricted to Australia, word had spread around the world and 371 cities in 35 countries signed up to participate. That grew to 4,000 communities in 88 countries for 2009 and again in 2010 to involve cities in 128 countries.

2010, however, was not a banner year for Penticton’s participation, with only 6.8 per cent of the community participating, far behind Summerland, who won a valley-wide competition sponsored by Fortis B.C.

“They had over 50 per cent participation and we had 6.8 per cent according to Fortis. It’s actually part of the reason why we formed this Okanagan Network for the environment, was to increase environmental awareness here,” said Dale Bonke, cofounder of ONE. “That’s why we wanted to do this event at the Shatford. Hopefully we gets lots of people coming out and, at the end of the day, lots of people turn out their lights between 8:30 and 9:30 p.m. That’s the ultimate goal here.”

The concept of Earth Hour is a simple one, turning off the light switches for an hour. Cities around the world will turn out the lights on landmark sites like the Sydney Opera House or the Eiffel Tower, as will millions of households and people. But there is more to the event than saving a little on electrical bills. Organizers say it is a chance for people to engage in a world-wide community action against climate change as well as to think about what else you can do to make a difference when the lights turn back on.

“We wanted to have a bigger event this year to beat last year’s poor participation in our community,” said Bonke. To reach that goal, ONE, in participation with the Shatford Centre and the Health Action Network Society has organized a fun event to be hosted in the heritage building, starting at 1 p.m. with displays, practitioners, exhibits, face painting, speakers and environmental fun.

Free movies begin at 1:15 p.m. with Dirt, then Power of Community and 3:15 p.m. and Transition Town at 5:15 p.m. Each movie will be followed by a discussion period.

At 4 p.m., Kiki the Eco-Elf and Curly will have a family-oriented, environmentally-friendly performance. Tickets are $10 at the door, $5 for three to five-year-olds and three and under free. Later, there will be more adult-oriented entertainment at 7:30 p.m. as Ken Barron of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada speaks about light pollution abatement before he and Chris Purton offer some stargazing time through their telescopes, weather permitting.

Bonke encourages everyone planning to participate in Earth Hour to go to the Fortis website and make a pledge. Fortis is running a contest in concert with the event, where a non-profit group in the winning community will win a $5,000 prize for energy efficiency upgrades.

“They are going to give a $5,000 grant to the non-profit that they have listed … for our community it’s the Sicamous society. If we win it then Fortis will pay $5,000 towards making the Sicamous more energy efficient,” he said. “So there is sort of another incentive this year to try and win the competition.”

Each participating community has a non-profit that has been nominated. Should Summerland win again, the Harold Simpson Memorial Youth Centre will benefit. Oliver has put forward their Senior’s Centre, while Keremeos is supporting the Royal Canadian Legion and Osoyoos, the Childcare Centre Society.

“At the end of the day, our goal is to get more people to participate in Penticton,” said Bonke.