Earth Hour in Toronto

City of Light

Earth Hour took place yesterday around the globe, locally at 8pm. By early afternoon yesterday, the first photos and stories were coming in from New Zealand and other countries on the far side of the world from here. Ours, of course, took place at 8pm our time, and I nearly forgot about it even after all the lead-up earlier in the day. We shut down our lights and then I headed down to a spot on the lakeshore to check out the cityscape.

The above photo was taken last fall, showing a city of light and colour, brightly illuminated. The spotlights are coming from the Air Canada Centre, home to the Toronto Maple Leafs and Raptors. All of the downtown office buildings are lit up, despite that it’s nearly 10 at night and one would presume even the overtime workers would have headed home. At one point I think I heard that building owners and/or the businesses renting space left the lights on as a security measure or something like that, but there’s got to be a better solution.

Toronto during Earth Hour

This is the skyline last night, taken at about 8:50pm. When I was down there I recall being underwhelmed by the difference at the time. There was still considerable glow from the city illuminating the sky, though it did seem reduced. I could still see the beaver I’d disturbed from the shore swimming across the water a few metres out, in clear silhouette. I really got the best sense of the difference when I came home and opened the two files side by side on my monitor. I know that streetlights remained on during the hour, as did businesses that were still open at 8pm, for security and safety reasons. There were a few planes and a helicopter circling over the city while I was there, presumably news stations getting shots of the event from the air.

On the other hand, the camera settings have a huge influence on how you perceive the scene. The below photo was taken only five minutes earlier, also during Earth Hour. Yet it looks like the city’s as bright as ever. The above photo was taken at F/8.0 for 20 seconds, the below photo was at F/4.0 for 30 seconds. The slightly wider aperture and longer shutter makes a huge difference in the image. I’d say my perception of the scene, by eye, was probably between the two, but closer to the first photo.

Toronto during Earth Hour, wide aperture

The Toronto Star reports that energy consumption during that hour was down nearly 9% from comparable late-March Saturday nights. It was only down 5% from levels just prior to the start of Earth Hour, but that was likely because a number of businesses and buildings, such as the CN Tower and some of the office towers, had already turned their lights off earlier in the afternoon. Across the province as a whole (bearing in mind that many cities and rural areas didn’t actively participate the way Toronto did), energy draw was down 5.2% from normal.

The Earth Hour’s launch point, Christchurch, New Zealand, had a 13% lower consumption during the hour. In Sydney, Australia, it was down 10%. I did get the impression that a lot of people didn’t participate, though, through numerous valid reasons but also some half-hearted excuses.

The Toronto Star states, “Ireland’s more than 7,000 pubs elected not to take part – in part because of the risk that Saturday night revellers could end up smashing glasses, falling down stairs, or setting themselves on fire with candles.

Likewise, much of Europe – including France, Germany, Spain and European Union institutions – planned nothing to mark Earth Hour.

That didn’t dismay organizers, who said there’s a powerful message in the fact that the usual powerhouse countries aren’t leading the way, and that even in wealthy places like Canada it’s very much a grassroots phenomenon.”

The Toronto Star had a great slide show of scenes from the different participating cities around the world. Many are very subtle before-and-afters, but I liked a number of them, including one of Sydney Harbour, from across the water. It doesn’t seem to let you grab the address for the individual images or I’d post a linked one here.