Turn on your turn off: Rossland museum hopes to win Earth Hour challenge

Allyson Kenning
By Allyson Kenning
March 17th, 2011

Two cartoon googly eyes against a black background on Fortis’s PowerSmart pageaccompany the question, “What would you do with an hour in the dark?” Do not panic. It’s not about an imminent power outage in the area! It’s about Earth Hour, this year to be celebrated on Saturday, March 26th at 8:30 PM.
The power company is encouraging the public to make an Earth Hour pledge on its web site telling what you’d do with one hour in the dark and is offering the prize of a Kelowna getaway for the most original answer.
Fortis’s pledge program is part of a worldwide this World Wildlife Fund initiative to raise awareness about climate change and carbon emissions by doing something very simple: turning off non-essential lights and electronics for one hour. 2011 marks the fourth annual Earth Hour, which started in Australia “when 2.2 million individuals and more than 2,000 businesses turned their lights off for one hour to take a stand against climate change.” The next year saw over 50 million people in 35 countries and territories turning off their lights for one hour, turning this movement into an international phenomenon.
In 2009, 4000 cities in 88 countries and territories participated, and last year 128 countries and territories turned off their lights in support of the cause. Some very well-known landmarks have shut things down for an hour during the previous events as well, including Toronto’s CN Tower, Rome’s Colesseum, and San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge.
Locally, last year the mayor of Castlegar issued a challenge to that city’s neighbouring municipalities after winning the top spot the year before in the West Kootenays with 56% of citizens turning off their non-essential lights and electronics for the hour. Nelson followed with 25% and Trail came in third at 19%.
Challenges of this sort are becoming de rigueur when it comes to Earth Hour, and this year the City of Rossland is encouraging its citizens to participate in a challenge, too, one that might help the museum earn a $5000 energy upgrade from Fortis.
“[Fortis] set up this challenge,” explains museum board president Libby Martin, “and you have to get as many pledges to turn off your electricity and electronics for an hour on the 26th [as you can]. Should Rossland win the challenge, then the museum would receive a $5000 energy upgrade.”
The community is asked that they pledge, on the Fortis site, to turn off their electricity for one hour. “The more we get, the better,” Martin continues. “It’s done in terms of the number of pledges per the size of the population. It’s a ratio.”
Intriguingly enough, Martin isn’t sure who suggested to Fortis that the museum become the beneficiary of the energy upgrade should Rossland win the challenge. It seems that the nominator is anonymous, and all Martin knows is that at the beginning of the month, Fortis contacted both her and museum director Joyce Austin to let them know their organization had been nominated. “We’re a little bit in the dark as to who [the nominator] might be, but we’re quite happy that they did so.”
As far as the energy upgrade is concerned, the museum officials are also in the dark on this front because Fortis hasn’t revealed details of what this might entail to anyone at the museum. Says Martin, “If the energy upgrade means it would cut the cost of our power bill, then I’m all for it.” The power bills at the museum are significant even though the facility is closed during the winter because a certain temperature must be maintained in order to preserve the artifacts.
For myself, my Earth Hour plans are very modest and a little weather-dependent. If it’s a nice clear night, I might go out and try to take some shots of the starry sky and the half moon that will hopefully make an appearance. If the weather is crummy (and given the pattern so far this month, that is highly possible) I’m going to light some candles and indulge in some aromatherapy and relaxation time.
For that matter, it’s a Saturday night in Rossland: I might just do the very exotic activity of going to bed early and not turning anything on after Earth Hour ends at 9:30 PM.
What would you do with an hour in the dark?
To register for the challenge, please click this link.

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