Tucson CitizenTucson Citizen

Lights out for Earth Hour

Area residents are urged to turn off lights and electric devices for one hour this weekend to help save the planet.

Earth Hour – a global event where lights will be extinguished from 8:30 to 9:30 p.m. Saturday in more than 1,800 cities – has expanded local activities this year, said Beth Gorman, program manager at the Pima County Department of Environmental Quality.

Last year’s inaugural Tucson Earth Hour saw a slight decrease in power use, but Tucson Electric Power Co. officials were unable to credit the drop to the event.

Astronomers at Kitt Peak National Observatory and other local sites failed to see a major difference in sky darkness here during Earth Hour last year.

Earth Hour organizers hope for broader participation – and more dramatic results – Saturday.

This year’s event has expanded beyond downtown to include Fourth Avenue, the University of Arizona and other parts of the city, Gorman said.

Star parties will be held during Earth Hour on the UA Mall and at Sabino Canyon. During lights out, the public is invited to look at celestial bodies through telescopes provided by the Tucson Amateur Astronomy Association.

Some Fourth Avenue merchants will celebrate Earth Hour with music, candlelight dinners, food and beverage specials.

Turning off lights and appliances for one hour is a largely symbolic gesture, Gorman said, but can teach people how to save energy and preserve the region’s dark skies that are important to the local astronomy industry.

“The whole purpose of the event is to get people thinking about their actions on a daily basis and how their actions are affecting the health of the planet,” she said. “It’s a symbolic hour, but hopefully it will turn into a change in people’s attitudes toward their use of electricity and will pass on through to other actions they can do.”

Earth Day began in 2007; Tucson began participating last year, she said.

“It started in Australia with 2 million people switching their lights off. Last year, it grew to 50 million around the planet, and this year,” said Gorman, “we are hoping to reach 1 billion people.”

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