Westmount Celebrates
Earth Hour 2017

Turn off the lights and join this ever-popular upcoming event

By Tony Moffat and Margaret Gundara

Earth Hour is a global grassroots environmental movement celebrated annually at the end of March. At 20:30 local time, across 24 time zones and 6 continents, power is extinguished, lights go out – including the Eiffel Tower in Paris. Initially the goal was to raise awareness of the devastating effects of light pollution on human, animal and plant life, the impact of unnecessary energy consumption on all aspects of our environment, and the wider repercussions of the above on climate change.

Light pollution (LP) is increasing at an alarming rate worldwide: 6% per year. Left unchecked, the exponential increase of LP could reach intolerable levels for humans, animals and plants alike. We need darkness at night! Without it, essential sleep is compromised and many animals lose their orientation. In a broader sense, LP is a symptom of our environmental carelessness, especially the squandering of non-renewable energy sources such as fossil fuels which is contributing significantly to a runaway anthropogenic growth in green-house gases (GHGs), and hence global warming.

Earth Hour WestmountMag.ca

Image: Tony Moffatt

Our initial objective was to alert our fellow citizens to the adverse effects of our unconstrained use of energy on the environment in general…

These concerns galvanized the citizens of Sidney, Australia, into launching Earth Hour in 2007. Westmount followed in 2009. Our initial objective was to alert our fellow citizens to the adverse effects of our unconstrained use of energy on the environment in general and, in particular, the significant contribution that our excessive use of outdoor lighting makes to the pollution of the night sky.

Our first two EH celebrations were held outside at the Westmount Lookout. Amateur astronomers, with their precious telescopes, showed us some of the more brilliant wonders of the night sky. Sadly, more numerous, fainter objects are no longer visible, even through a telescope, due to the brightness of urban night skies. Mayor Trent and his cohorts, including George Bowser and Stan Grossman, played and sang (with frozen fingers) environmental songs. Hydro Westmount doused the lights at the Lookout, which helped greatly. However, the following year, in 2010, a brisk cold wind blew from the North, driving us into the civilized warmth of Victoria Hall for subsequent EH events.

Earth Hour WestmountMag.ca

Image: Tony Moffatt

‘…there will be displays and information around Food – the perhaps unsuspected, and often devastating, consequences of our food consumption on our broader environment…’

This year, in addition to our traditional exhibits relating to the initial goals of EH (Hydro Westmount, the International Dark Sky Association – Quebec branch, the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada (RASC) – Montreal Centre, among others), there will be displays and information around Food – the perhaps unsuspected, and often devastating, consequences of our food consumption on our broader environment, and what we may do to change our habits. The ramifications of the simplest food choices are enormous, from soil degradation, water depletion and air pollution, to deforestation, loss of flora and fauna biodiversity, and of course, energy over-consumption. However, daily we can make informed choices about what we eat that will have a positive, incremental impact on our environment.

The evening programme includes brief speeches by our political leaders, followed by our keynote speaker, Annabel Soutar, artistic director of Porte Parole and nationally acclaimed author of the docudramas Seeds/Grains: Monsanto contre Schmeiser, and The Watershed/Le Partage des Eaux, among others. There will also be shorts talks by L’Autre Choix on The True Cost of Food, by CBAN on Food Choices, Food Sovereignty, and GMOs, and by Les amis du parc Meadowbrook on Preserving Our Green Space.

We are offering Ingrid Birker’s Family Workshop on Bees, and Aux VivresCooking with Tempeh for adults (pre-registration required for both). Aux Vivres will also provide delicious vegetarian/vegan fare at their Café, where you can also enjoy continuous screening of short environmental videos. Beer and wine will be offered for sale.

telescope RASC

Image: Morrie Portnoff, RASC Montreal Centre

Throughout EH, weather permitting, the amateur astronomers of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada – Montreal Centre will be outside pointing their telescopes skyward to provide splendid views of the giant planet Jupiter with its amazing four bright orbiting moons, our Moon and other celestial delights. Hydro Westmount will douse the lights around Victoria Hall for better viewing and as an example of what the whole City could look like with reduced lighting. The RCMP Pipes and Drums Band will announce with great fanfare the beginning of the actual Earth Hour at 8:30 pm.

Come and join us at Victoria Hall, 4626 Sherbrooke W, on Saturday, March 25 from 5:30 pm till 10 pm for this year’s celebration of Earth Hour, along with the growing number of enthusiasts who now participate each year!

Planet Earth image: Saad Faruque via StockPholio.net

Dr. Tony Moffat

Anthony (Tony) F. J. Moffat
An emeritus professor of astronomy at the Université de Montréal, Dr. Moffat was appointed as a fellow of the Royal Society of Canada in 2001. Dr. Moffat’s interests focus on massive stars (Wolf-Rayet stars in particular), stellar winds, binary stars, as well as the structure and dynamics of galaxies.

Margaret Gundara
Margaret Gundara trained at the Conservatoire, Yale Music School and London’s Royal Academy of Music. A member of I Medici di McGill for the past 10 years, Margaret is on the part-time Music Faculty at Concordia, teaches privately, and snuck on to Arcade Fire’s Neon Bible.

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