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Environment

Earth Hour 2011 in Toronto the worst yet

Posted by Derek Flack / March 27, 2011

Earth Hour 2011 TorontoEarth Hour 2011 in Toronto was a bust. Although the lights went out on the CN Tower and the billboards at Yonge and Dundas Square, aside from the former, surveys of the skyline offered little indication of the collective effort made by those who did participate in the annual event, which was founded by the World Wildlife Fund in Australia back in 2007.

According to Toronto Hydro, energy consumption between 8:30 and 9:30 p.m. last night dropped 115 megawatts. That sounds okay — until you compare the savings to past efforts. Last year, which we also deemed a disappointment, witnessed a decrease of 296 megawatts. Thinking in percentages, that's about a 10 per cent savings, while 2011 was a little less than half that. In 2009, on the other hand, the city experienced about a 15 per cent decrease in energy consumption.

Colder temperatures do play a role in all this. Checking back through historical weather records reveals that it was roughly 10C in 2009, just above the freezing mark in 2010, and about -5C last night. Those differentials alone are bound to skew the energy consumption data considerably.

Earth Hour Toronto 2011But the primary reason the event was so disappointing this year wasn't even about the numbers. Insofar as Earth Hour is symbolic more than anything else, it's significant to note, for instance, just how few local photographers bothered to capture images of the darkened skyline. In past years, Flickr was quickly stocked with before and after photos when the lights went back up. This year, there are just a handful of uploads tagged and/or titled with "Earth Hour Toronto."

This alone might not be surefire proof that interest is waning, but the relative lack of buzz on other social media sites was obvious as well. That's anecdotal evidence as well, but I'd be thoroughly surprised to hear someone claim that the event hasn't lost some of its luster around these parts.

So despite the fact that more and more countries are participating globally, perhaps it's time to change things up or re-brand the event somehow. As much as it's true that cutting one's power for an hour each year isn't a license to burn energy the rest of the time, if the main goal of Earth Hour is to foster awareness of our energy consumption, it'd be nice to see it regain some steam.

Earth Hour over the years (check links for more images)

2010
Earth Hour Toronto 2010

2009
Earth Hour Toronto 2009

2008
Earth Hour 2008Second image by Patrick Molicard-Chartier.

Discussion

59 Comments

Cub Scout / March 27, 2011 at 04:07 pm
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As one Redditor succinctly put it: "We did it! Toronto smartens up a little from this stupid exercise in slacktivism"
Jacob / March 27, 2011 at 04:16 pm
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As much as I consider Earth Hour to be an empty gesture, is this any surprise, considering SUV-heads are in charge at City Hall right now?
annakarenina / March 27, 2011 at 04:27 pm
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earth hour is dumb... thanks australia, better luck next time
Sam Smith / March 27, 2011 at 04:28 pm
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Just face the facts folks that in this day and age of wars and political madness along with everyone living to survive and worrying about their own problems, no one cares about this Earth Hr which was born out of a 'FAD' to begin with.
bob / March 27, 2011 at 04:35 pm
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I don't understand why people see Earth Hour is stupid. The point is to spread awareness (I don't think people will ignore how every office building was most of the lights turned off). The event is not supposed to create some magic miracle. Besides, everything helps, and if only a couple hundred or even dozen megawatts are saved, that's still something.
W. K. Lis / March 27, 2011 at 04:40 pm
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With all the enthusiasm and support that the current mayor shows to all things environmental, what does one expect?
earthy / March 27, 2011 at 04:45 pm
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I don't understand why Toronto won't turn off the street lights for at least one evening in the year. Think of it is disaster preparedness training.
choppery replying to a comment from bob / March 27, 2011 at 04:45 pm
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There is already more than enough awareness to go around. What we need is action. But hey, if you're content to pat yourself on the back for being *cognizant* that an issue exists, good for you.

Without substantive action, the tiny temporary gains of "Earth Hour" are functionally negligible. Any given corporation can undo the benefits of Earth Hour a hundred fold within five minutes.

Chemical dispersants, anyone? I haven't had enough nosebleeds today.
daniel replying to a comment from bob / March 27, 2011 at 05:21 pm
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But there's already earth day. One day is enough, who does the earth think they are? Jesus??
mark / March 27, 2011 at 05:28 pm
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Don't see how Rob Ford or the 'SUV-heads' at City Hall have anything to do with average people turning their lights off for an hour, but hey, any excuse for BlogTO readers can find to bitch about them sure isn't surprising.
Get a life chumps.
Greg replying to a comment from earthy / March 27, 2011 at 05:32 pm
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Get more familiar with the responsibilities of other demographic groups. This may help with understanding why people choose, or cannot do this. There are a million and one similar get-awareness campaigns. If you miss, or do not participate in but one, you fall into the boat of people of whom you do not understand/ are evil.
WhoCares / March 27, 2011 at 05:32 pm
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It is a stupid idea, clearly the majority of people like me in Toronto, could give a rat ass about it.
Jake / March 27, 2011 at 05:37 pm
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everyday is earth "day" in my home...no lights on while Hydro's time of use rates are at their peak.

Then on top of that I gotta do that on the weekend for earth hour?- on the one day I can afford to have the lights on?
Sir Celebritaire / March 27, 2011 at 06:32 pm
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It sort of defeats the purpose when news choppers are flying around in the dark, wasting fuel, trying to get shots of the TO skyline in the dark.
Becky / March 27, 2011 at 06:38 pm
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I hope the numbers were low this year because people are finally coming to the realisation that the way Earth Hour has been observed is actually worse for the environment than if we just kept on the way we usually do.

It's supposed to "raise awareness" of environmental issues, but it encourages activities that are just so bad for the environment, it's rather disgusting.

As I said, I hope the numbers are low because people are smartening up... but my experience with people leads me to believe that in actuality, people are bored with the exercise and never really cared about the issue to begin with.

But I take the TTC every day, so I've become rather cynical about people.
Peter / March 27, 2011 at 06:47 pm
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First of all, I suggest the author do a little bit of thinking about his paragraph regarding the temperature playing a role in energy consumption for Earth Hour. One can safely assume that the energy consumption drop numbers from Hydro reflect the change in consumption relative to, say, the hour before Earth Hour. And the hour before Earth Hour was pretty much the same temperature (within a degree or two) as Earth Hour itself. So it's not like all of a sudden, during Earth Hour, the temperature went down enough to justify increased energy consumption for heat generation. And then there's the fact that lighting is not used for heat generation..what world are you living in, Derek?

But all that is an aside. Back to the real point. Should we really care if Earth Hour is failing? Is it the best way to substantially increase awareness and induce real, lasting change in people's consumption habits?

I consider myself an environmentally-conscious person. I don't have a car; I walk and talk public transit. I compost, recycle and reuse stuff as much as I can. I use CFL's, dimmers and power bars on timers. I use my major appliances in the off-peak hours. I don't keep my lights or electronic devices on necessarily.

Now I participated in Earth Hour as I always do, but I found myself actually unable to do much, besides turn off two lamps in my family room, for the hour itself. That is, I'm already so environmentally-intelligent ALL THE TIME that the token gesture of turning off two measly lamps during Earth Hour seems pretty insignificant to me.

Now I know Earth Hour isn't really about reducing energy consumption just for one hour, but about increasing awareness of being environmentally-conscious/intelligent. And, I realize they are preaching the choir with me, so to speak, since I have already committed to being sensitive to these issues.

But, I can imagine that many people would reach the same conclusion as me: what's the point of turning your lights off for one hour? I KNOW for a fact that people that are skeptical about this thing say ask questions like that. They say "who cares about one hour, when there are hundreds of coal-fired power plants coming online in China every year?"

What really matters is the thousands of OTHER hours in the year. Are people being intelligent about their energy usage all the time? What is Earth Hour doing to substantially change people's habits in a real, productive, permanent way? Can anyone actually answer this? What is the success of Earth Hour, beyond just the Hour itself?

Judging by the non-stop increase in greenhouse gases, and obviously the decreasing participation in Earth Hour, I highly doubt it is inducing actual change.

For that reason, I think we shouldn't shed a tear for the demise of Earth Hour. In my mind, other more substantive efforts are producing real change...like the Smart Meter program, like the move by the Ontario gov't to renewables, like gov't rebates/incentives to buy hybrids...these are REAL impact changes.

If Earth Hour will stick around, it needs to have more teeth. It needs to be more ambitious and more substantive.

How about Earth Commute Day where people leave their cars at home. Or maybe next year we should try Earth Week and we should include more than just turning off your lights for an hour.

I think by improving the event to show more substantive change that is accessible and achieveable by the average person, people will hop back on board.
mark replying to a comment from Peter / March 27, 2011 at 06:51 pm
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One time, at band camp...
Eliz / March 27, 2011 at 06:56 pm
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What is so difficult about turning electricity off in your home for 1 small hour. It's like asking people to stop breathing in this city. It's an event that is supposed to make us think about the environment! To take an hour and consider, 'do I need to drive 1 block to the store, or could I walk' 'do I really need every light on in my home, or just the room I'm in'! To you people that think it's a waste of time, think about your kid's kids! It's not just about 'YOU'
Tom replying to a comment from Becky / March 27, 2011 at 07:08 pm
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I fail to see how it is "disgusting." Making people turn off all of their appliances and gadgets can only help the environment. Maybe a couple of candles burn some smoke I suppose, but in the long run, I'm sure any negative aspects of this would be trumped by turning off lights and gadgets in homes, and in huge office buildings.

However, that is just one small part of a bigger picture. The whole point of earth hour is to step back and see just how much energy we waste on needless things. It isn't about measurable energy savings for one hour, it is about conserving energy 24/7; this hour just lets people acknowledge this.
Greg replying to a comment from Peter / March 27, 2011 at 07:12 pm
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Actually, Peter, temperature plays an enormous role in the degree to which people participate in EH, and the folks at Toronto Hydro are on the record as saying that this is the case. I'm not sure what world you live in - though surely you're not poor- because tens of thousands of people use electric heat in Toronto. It might not account for an enormous difference in power consumption, but it obviously affects the numbers, and that's not to mention that when it's warm out, people are WAY MORE interested in taking part in this electricity free business.
Becky replying to a comment from Tom / March 27, 2011 at 07:21 pm
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Candles are a lot worse than electric lights. It makes sense to encourage people to cut down on their energy consumption; it doesn't make any sense at all to, at the same time, encourage people to use candles instead of light bulbs. If the whole idea is to increase awareness of how to be kinder to the earth, then why aren't we encouraged to choose the kindest option?

I'd say it's a step in the right direction that we didn't have a rock concert this year.

nt / March 27, 2011 at 08:03 pm
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the problem is ... you cannot have Earth Hour when there is a hockey game going on ... it'll never fly
Taylor / March 27, 2011 at 08:23 pm
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Edison Hour wins. Let's not go back to the dark ages.
neonshaun / March 27, 2011 at 08:50 pm
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What I find ridiculous is looking out to all those empty skyscraper financial buildings with lights blasting in every office, and every room, 24/7. That shit doesn't need to be on at 4am on a Sunday morning.
James / March 27, 2011 at 09:46 pm
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...because it is stupid. Hopefully next year we can drop this silliness and not pretend we are living in the 19th century.

I'm not buying Toronto Hydro's press release - if you check the Ontario electrical grid on Sygration the usage actually went up during the hour.

Yawn / March 27, 2011 at 09:54 pm
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Earth Hour = pointless bullsh*t with ZERO follow up action by anyone who turned their lights off.

I'd love to hear what any Earth Hour participants here have done/are going to do in the next week to curb their energy consumption.

Earth hour is more useless than a SUPPORT THE (INSERT NAME OF TROUBLED GROUP HERE) facebook page.
JUCA / March 27, 2011 at 10:26 pm
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I turned 100% lights on for 48 hs so my landlord can pay more and more. He already charges me $1400 for a one bedroom it is more than he pays for the mortgage. I leave all on 100%.
Ruffie / March 27, 2011 at 11:15 pm
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I'll bet the people who observed "earth hour" are the same naive and gullible people who actually believe that wind turbines and solar power are actually going to to provide you us with relable affordable power while reduceing our collective carbon footprint.Such stupidity is amazing.
m / March 27, 2011 at 11:20 pm
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Actually I work in facilitys for the City of Toronto and we used to get notice of this day and what the procdure is to be. This year there wasnt even a mention of it at all
Darryl / March 27, 2011 at 11:26 pm
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JUCA / MARCH 27, 2011 AT 10:26 PM

I turned 100% lights on for 48 hs so my landlord can pay more and more. He already charges me $1400 for a one bedroom it is more than he pays for the mortgage. I leave all on 100%.
-----------

yeah, because landlords shouldn't be allowed to profit from their properties

hey it costs nike 4 dollars to make those shoes how come they cost 200 dollars

ow my tiny brain hurts
yeahyeahyeah / March 27, 2011 at 11:45 pm
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i turn all my lights off when I sleep at night. 8-9 hours. I observe it every night. pretty impressive hey?
Gabe replying to a comment from bob / March 27, 2011 at 11:49 pm
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OK it was a success then.
the lemur / March 27, 2011 at 11:50 pm
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There will continue to be indifference and incomprehension when it comes to energy conservation unless the discussion really turns to what we can be doing all the time, not just in an annual gesture to show what our world looks like with slightly less electricity being consumed. There's a lot of non-essential lighting that could stand to be off at least more of the time than it currently is.
Chris Orbz replying to a comment from earthy / March 28, 2011 at 01:59 am
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Rape, for starters.
lonewolf / March 28, 2011 at 03:08 am
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Talk about jaded,I bought into a 1 year old LEED silver certified condo.,and the unit doesn't have an adjustable thermostat,sound proofing,or properly insulated windows! The building has had to "update"the lighting for energy savings.You'd think this stuff would be a baseline for LEED certification? Legislation has to incent consumers to be environmentally conscious first,not businesses where they meet "minimum"codes,or specifications.
Jer / March 28, 2011 at 04:55 am
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Everyday thousands of people are guilted into making stupid, empty gestures. If you think this is irritating and pointless, copy this into your status update.
mr. hood / March 28, 2011 at 05:38 am
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i dont think people will turn out the lights or power down for an hour when the leafs are playing in a playoff spot hunt on a sat evening..

the idea of earth hour is good, but will never succeed.

the only sure fire way for people to appreciate power/conservation/ etc would be to force a citywide blackout much like the blackout in 2004.. which although caught everyone off guard, after 2 days, it was a great way to get "off the grid" for a bit... but safety reasons would hamper the effort!
Ryan L. / March 28, 2011 at 08:45 am
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"Earth Hour = pointless bullsh*t with ZERO follow up action by anyone who turned their lights off."

I was going to pick less flowery language, but that pretty much hits the nail on the head.

The symbolism of Earth Hour is completely pointless without people following up on that hour of darkness with further changes in their lifestyle.

To make matters worse, many people switch to candles during earth hour which, news flash, are worse for the environment than the most inefficient incandescent bulb. Even official events were using candles everywhere. Talk about missing the point.
Ryan L. / March 28, 2011 at 09:04 am
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"you’re taking paraffin wax, in the form of a candle, and burning it, very inefficiently, at a low temperature. This stuff is pure hydrocarbon – it’s a heavy alkane fraction distilled straight off crude oil. "

"Light bulbs don’t produce greenhouse gases – burning fossil fuels to generate electricity does."

<b>"for every candle that is burned to replace electric lighting during Earth Hour, greenhouse gas emissions over the course of the one hour are increased by 9.6 g of carbon dioxide."</b>

FYI:Those numbers are based off of Australian power generation which gets 80% of its power from fossil fuels. Ontario only gets about 37% of its electricity from fossil fuels (Coal+oil) So the numbers end up being <b>far</b> more significant.
Ryan L. replying to a comment from Ryan L. / March 28, 2011 at 09:21 am
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If you lived in Australia, you'd have to have 10 <b>incandescent</b> light bulbs turned off for every candle you burn, just to break even. In Canada that number is closer to 20.

If you're using fluorescent bulbs, then that number rises to 80 bulbs that need to be turned off to equal the carbon footprint of ONE CANDLE. (It's over 200 bulbs if using LED)

Lets put it this way, I use CFLs in my apartment. I'd have to have every single bulb turned on for 10 hours to equal the amount of carbon released by having one candle lit for an hour.

Don't get me wrong, I appreciate the symbolism, but surely there is something better we can do, or at the very least discourage people from using candles.
zxc replying to a comment from yeahyeahyeah / March 28, 2011 at 09:42 am
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well i turn my lights off 8 hours when i sleep plus 8 hours when im at work plus....ha...beat that.
Nick replying to a comment from Ruffie / March 28, 2011 at 12:27 pm
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@Ruffie: my downtown Toronto house is powered by solar power and wind turbines and hydro-electric power, as well as by biogas, for a total carbon footprint of zero. It is possible, you just have to pay a bit more if you give a crap. Or you can be completely cynical and do nothing. The stone age didn't end because we ran out of stones. Our railroads are no longer powered by coal, and some of our cars are no longer powered by oil.
agentsmith / March 28, 2011 at 02:20 pm
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Oh hey, look who left the lights on... David Miller, Ontario Energy Minister Brad Duguid, and president of Earth Day Canada Jed Goldberg.

http://www.thestar.com/news/article/962523--the-lights-were-on-but-they-weren-t-home
Lowdy / March 28, 2011 at 02:29 pm
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Who cares? It's a meaningless gesture, it solves nothing. Wow, thanks for turning off your lights for one hour a year, like, totally just soooo, like, saved the earth... Really did your parts for the environment.

None of it matters anyways, the earth was doomed the minute us humans, who consume and create waste to live, became part of it. Any effort to fix it is a delay of the inevitable and futile at best.
agentsmith replying to a comment from lonewolf / March 28, 2011 at 02:29 pm
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The whole LEED thing is at least partially BS... buildings can get credit for bikeracks and such, then use that to offset their inefficient designs.

For example, my employer's building got credit for installing public showers, with the rationale being that bicyclists can use them to shower the sweat off, so it encourages people to ride bikes. As if people are going to go to the trouble of showering at work. So they're literally almost never used, except maybe as a private spot to sneak off and make out in. What a great use of resources.
lonewolf / March 28, 2011 at 02:50 pm
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@agentsmith. I understand now LEED's not what it "appears" to be.Wasting 6 figures to find out,I want a refund from LEED!I believe using green roofs in an urban setting's a good example for cleaner air,and offers insulating factor.Solar panels can also help a building use less of the "grid."We need long term solutions,not just a tax break.WWF is behind earth hour? They should use their funds to lobby for accountability with home builders for starters.
agentsmith / March 28, 2011 at 03:14 pm
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Earth Hour is a sham, started by candle and flashlight manufacturers. You heard it here first!
James replying to a comment from Becky / March 28, 2011 at 04:58 pm
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I could be wrong, but wasn't the concert powered by solar power or something?
Abu / March 28, 2011 at 06:54 pm
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There was a nice article in Metro about David Miller leaving his lights on in his house for Earth Hour.. what a douche.
breathe deeply / March 28, 2011 at 11:41 pm
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There is no energy crisis. There are more than enough alternatives to ween global energy supply off of hydrocarbons. Eventually, the price of oil/gas/coal will be higher than less efficient alternatives (nuclear, wind, solar). The transition from horse and buggy to automobile will begin. Profit-seeking will end this crisis in the same manner as it has others. Corporation's behaviour is only is response to its customer's preferences. Fundamentally, we don't yet care enough about environmentalism to illicit change. But do not despair, eventually our preferences shall evolve, and behavioural changes will come. Supply and demand, not altruism, will, as always, rule the day.
complainer / March 29, 2011 at 12:34 am
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BLAH BLAH TORONTO I HATE EVERYTHING BLAH BLAH
electric / March 29, 2011 at 12:38 pm
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Yep.

BLAH BLAH i turned my lights off for an hour! Nobody else did, the sky is falling. Yes i'll get back to doing laundry every day and running the AC at 21C all summer.... SO WHAT! At least i did something and raised awareness! Yup.
blarg / March 29, 2011 at 01:39 pm
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Earth hour?

Should be renamed sex hour. That would encourage more people to turn off the lights...

Where have all the good marketing people gone?!
Niall replying to a comment from earthy / March 25, 2012 at 12:56 pm
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You wonder why they won't turn off the streetlights for an hour? Maybe because they would have to visit each and every one of the 140,000 lights just to turn them off. It is impossible to do this beyond the fact it would be unsafe.
jackd / March 31, 2012 at 08:53 am
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For Ontario, do you know what this will cost us. McFly would have to pay someone to take out excess electricity for the hr. Can we afford ' Earth Hr'?
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