CANADA: Churches power down for Earth Hour

March 26, 2009

Canadian churches have been encouraged to "power down" and operate without using fossil fuels or fossil fuel-powered electricity for one 12-hour day, as a lead in to Earth Hour, an initiative that aims to see one billion people in 1000 cities switching off their lights to show commitment to the future of the planet.

"Our dependence on fossil fuels is fuelling climate change, deepening human rights abuses around the world, and contributing to conflict and economic inequality," says Kairos, a Toronto-based group of churches and religious organizations that promotes social justice.

Kairos has called on Canadian Christians to dim non-essential lights for one hour at 8.30 p.m. local time on March 28, as part of Earth Hour, a global event to raise awareness about climate change and the threat from rising greenhouse gas emissions.

Kairos has also encouraged churches to hold a "Power Down Day" by not using fossil fuels or fossil fuel-powered electricity for a period of 12 hours.

Many Canadian churches have announced that they will hold candlelight services during Earth Hour, while others will mark the event with dinners, singing, stargazing and, at one Toronto church, a service of reconciliation with Earth.

A World Wildlife Fund initiative, Earth Hour began in Sydney, Australia, in 2007, when 2.2 million homes and businesses switched off their lights for an hour. In 2008, about 50 million people in more than 35 countries worldwide switched off their lights for Earth Hour.

Kairos has made a number of suggestions as to how those marking Earth Hour or Power Down Day can eliminate or reduce the use of fossil fuel energy. They include carpooling, walking or cycling to church, conserving energy by using no stereo, computer, stove or videos, bringing food to Earth Hour events in only recyclable containers, and serving locally produced food and no meat. The pressure group has also urged churches to use beeswax candles rather than petroleum-based candles in their special services, and has posted worship service resources on its website.

St. Catherine's Anglican Church in East St. Paul, Manitoba, will use its Earth Hour Coffee House event to inform the surrounding community about fair trade coffee and tea and eating locally. All baked goods for the event will be made from local ingredients, in keeping with the so-called 100-mile diet, which is another ecological concept aimed at reducing people's impact on the environment. Local musicians will also perform -- acoustically -- at the Coffee House. Meanwhile, St. Cuthbert's Anglican Church in Toronto has planned a candlelight service of reconciliation with Earth through prayer, reflection and music.