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Darkness to descend for today’s Earth Hour

Residents of planet Earth will get a chance to show their support for their only home today (Saturday), as the world gets set to take part in the second annual Earth Hour at 8:30 p.m.

Last year the World Wildlife Fund event, which got its start in Australia in 2007, grew into a global sustainability movement, bringing together some 50 million participants from around the world as they switched off their lights to raise awareness of climate change.

For at least one hour, governments, homeowners, residents and landmarks worldwide stood in the darkness.

This time around, organizers of the Earth Hour campaign are hoping to go even bigger and better, with the goal of seeing a billion people switch off their lights.

While the fact that Earth Hour is on a weekend might make it difficult for local governments to participate, municipal workers will likely do their parts from home.

“Staff are doing things on their own. Because it’s Saturday and we’re not operational, a lot of staff are doing a lot of things [at home] to conserve,” said Woolwich Township’s Christine Broughton, noting that during the week staff were encouraged by their peers to take on the one hour challenge by either shutting off the lights, turning off the television or lowering the thermostat.

“They’re always enthused about … anything like that: they’re gung-ho to get going.”

For many of last year’s participants, Earth Hour turned into a longer, social event as families and friends gathered around their living rooms for a chat or broke out the guitar for a session on the front stoop.

While municipal efforts to shave off energy consumption tonight might yield relatively insignificant savings, Earth Hour is more about adopting an environmentally responsible conscience than it is about the units of energy saved in one hour.

“We’re agreeing that this is a good thing to be done: it’s good for the morale, it’s good for the environment and we will do what we can to support it. The net impact might not be significant but at least the moral support is there – it’s a good concept,” said Wellesley CAO Susan Duke, noting that as time passes the township is looking to reduce its ecological footprint.

In that vein, the newly renovated township administration building was switched off a gas heating source to geothermal energy this summer and features other energy saving features such as more efficient insulation.

This spring, a storm water detention basin and fire reservoir will be installed. The township hopes this project will become a prototype for others in the community as well as a significant natural element for various ecosystems.

“The idea is that a fully mature storm water management area – and this is where the ecosystem comes into it – you won’t know the difference between a fully mature storm water management area and a fully mature swamp area,” said Wellesley public works director Will McLaughlin. With time, the approximately 150-foot-wide area is expected to provide a natural habitat for everything from cattails and trees to birds, bats and rabbits.

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