Earth Hour 2011 in Toronto the worst yet
Earth 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.
But 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)
Second image by Patrick Molicard-Chartier.