Earth Hour returns with recognition for Vancouver

If you don’t have it marked on your calendar, Saturday at 8:30 p.m. marks the start of Earth Hour, when people around the world turn off their lights for an hour to show their concern for climate change.

This is my fourth year to commemorate Earth Hour, and I look forward to the quiet time. I see Earth Hour as a big event, because it is happening throughout the world, but also as a small event, because it is so simple.

Last year, the event’s sponsor, World Wildlife Fund, added a new element called the “I will if you will” challenge. The video-based challenge calls for individuals or groups to promise to do something worthwhile (sometimes big) if a lot of other people will do something else worthwhile (usually easy). You should check out some of the videos.

This year, I must also congratulate our Salish Sea neighbors across the Canadian border, considering that Vancouver, B.C., was named “Global Earth Hour Capital.”

Six finalists were named during this first Earth Hour City Challenge. Besides Vancouver, the other finalists were Forlì, Italy; New Delhi, India; Oslo, Norway; Uppsala, Sweden; and San Francisco, USA.

In announcing the winner, Jim Leape, director general of WWF-International, had this to say about Vancouver:

“Local governments around the world are striving to create attractive, smart cities while tackling a multitude of urgent environmental challenges. Vancouver can serve as a role model for how cities can engage residents in these efforts, thereby accelerating the transition towards low carbon development.

“I applaud Vancouver’s vision and innovation. More cities everywhere need to find inspiration in the bold initiatives of Vancouver and the other finalists and build on them, bringing climate action at the scale and speed necessary to secure sustainable, attractive lifestyles for people across the planet.”

The city was recognized for its “impressive transportation strategy” along with its food and neighborhood energy plans. For example, all new buildings in the city are called on to be carbon neutral by 2020, when more than half of the trips by residents are to be by foot, bicycle or public transit.

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