Companies, families to observe Earth Hour

Saturday, March 29, 2008

If her grandchildren come to Cape Girardeau from Farmington, Mo., today as anticipated, Jackie Nielson plans to have a flashlight party. The party will start at 8 p.m. and last one hour. That hour of darkness, christened Earth Hour, is being observed around the globe as a symbolic way of showing concern about climate change.

One organizer has compared the event to the Boston Tea Party.

Some of the most recognizable landmarks in the world will join the party and turn off their lights for an hour. They include the Sears Tower, the John Hancock Building and the Navy Pier among 200 buildings in Chicago, the Golden Gate Bridge, the Bay Bridge and Ghirardelli Square in San Francisco, the Georgia Aquarium, the Georgia Dome and the Bank of America Plaza in Atlanta, and Phoenix City Hall.

In Chicago and Northwest Indiana, more than 480 McDonald's locations will turn off their lights during Earth Hour.

Twenty-five flagship cities around the world are participating in Earth Hour. Among the others are Bangkok, Thailand; Copenhagen, Denmark; Melbourne and Sydney Australia; Montreal and Toronto; and Tel Aviv. In Australia, Parliament House in Canberra will go dark and telescopes will be set up in Melbourne's Federation Square.

In Pittsburgh, the H.J. Heinz Co. is encouraging its 33,000 employees at 70 locations around the world to turn off lights and computers for an hour. The food company is one of more than 11,700 businesses worldwide planning to participate in the Earth Hour.

Nielson said she and husband Jack Stokes heated their house most of the winter with a wood-burning stove rather than using their gas heater. The recent ice storms provided plenty of new fuel in the form of downed limbs. They have saved money but, Nielson said, "We do it because we really are into conservation."

They have computed their carbon footprint online and are doing well, Nielson said, "but the house is too big for the two of us. We should get more people or downsize."

The Farmington grandchildren -- 12-year-old Aberlain and 6-year-old Caylen -- are dedicated recyclers, Nielson said. "They're very much into taking care of the environment." They are two of the couple's 13 grandchildren.

Everyone in the family reuses everything they can, Nielson said. "We send it back and forth to each other. Whoever gets a package from us gets the same stuff we've already used."

Dr. Alan Journet, co-facilitator of the Southeast Missouri Climate Protection Initiative, said turning off the lights for an hour is "a bit symbolic, I admit, but it's making a point."

His organization also advocates contacting state legislators to demand the state adopt a renewable energy standard requiring utilities to generate a certain percentage of their energy from nonpolluting sources. An initiative petition that would amend the state statutes to establish the standard has been submitted to the Missouri State Auditor's office.

The Montreal suburb of Cote St. Luc plans to monitor how much energy was saved by turning the lights off for an hour.

Organizers of last year's first Earth Hour estimated that 2.2 million people took part and that turning off the lights prevented 25 tons of carbon-dioxide emissions.

Earth Hour 2008 is sponsored by the World Wildlife Fund.

sblackwell@semissourian.com

335-6611, extension 137

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