By Barbara Kesslerearth-hour.jpg

Get ready to go dark for the Earth this Saturday. “Earth Hour” advocates are urging cities and individuals around the globe to make a “statement about climate change” by turning off their lights a 8 p.m. on March 29. The deliberate rolling blackout, created by the World Wildlife Fund in Sydney in 2007, is going global this year. The Earth Hour website reports that nearly 200 cities have promised to participate, about half of those are in North America, including the U.S. “flagship” cities of Atlanta, Chicago, Phoenix and San Francisco and the Canadian cities of Ottawa, Montreal, Toronto and Vancouver. Several Australian cities, Bankok, Copenhagen and others in Denmark also are participating.

Last year, Sydney reported a temporary 10 percent drop in energy usage as a result of the inaugural Earth Hour, the equivalent of taking 48,000 cars off the road for an hour, according to the Earth Hour website.

Not a bad feat, but the organizers say that Earth Hour’s main value is as a symbolic event. The 60-minute black out is not intended to wage war on kilowatts so much as to raise awareness about living lighter, while turning off the lights (and adjusting the thermostat, and using appliances judiciously, and driving less etc.).

The event should get participants talking about global warming and finite energy sources as they grope about their homes and yards. Unfortunately, it seems to raise many sticky questions: If one hour, why not all night? If one night, why not all year? If large city office towers (or backyard patios and closed mall parking lots) weren’t needlessly lighted at night, how much energy could be saved?

The FAQ on the Earth Hour website answers other questions, but not those. It focuses on how participants can demonstrate their “collective concern” and “willingness to do something about it (global warming),” (not a bad starting point) and it fills us in on family friendly activities that can be done in the dark at 8 p.m., like having a flashlight dinner or battery lantern camp out with the kids. So remember folks, TiVO those 8 p.m. shows!

(Picture of Dallas, a city not officially participating in Earth Hour.)

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