Columbia groups plan two electricity-free events for Saturday's Earth Hour

Friday, March 27, 2009 | 12:01 a.m. CDT

COLUMBIA – The second annual citywide Earth Hour will be taking place downtown Saturday.

There are two events aimed at increasing awareness about sustainable living and climate change issues.

The first event, "Lights Out," starts at 8:30 p.m. and is sponsored by MU and the Columbia Climate Change Coalition.  It will consist of turning the lights out on Jesse Hall and the Columns. Organizers will be meeting at the Columns at around 8:15 and are advising attendees to come a few minutes before 8:30 that night.

The second event, the "Multi-Faith Earth Hour Service," also starts at 8:30 p.m. and will be held at Missouri United Methodist Church, 204 S. Ninth St. It is sponsored by the Interfaith Care for Creation organization. There will be readings showcasing different religions positions on the environment.

After the two events are over, there will be a flashlight walk during which the groups from each event will walk toward each other until they converge.

Monta Welch, president of the Columbia Climate Change Coalition, said the international Earth Hour event began in 2007 when 2.2 million people and more than 2,000 businesses in Sydney, Australia, turned off their lights.

"They were trying to call attention to the fact that we have a problem,"
Welch said. "They thought 'how can we send a message to the world?' and they turned their lights out. I think it was effective."

She said that reducing one's carbon footprint not only makes sense from an environmental standpoint, but it also makes sense financially.

"Green living keeps more money in the bank, whether it's an individual household or a business," Welch said. "There are a lot of good reasons to do this, but climate change and creating a sustainable future are at the top of the list."

Although there was no organized event last year, people still found ways to celebrate.

"The Columbia Climate Change Coalition is urging people to participate wherever you are, whether that's at home or with friends," Welch said. "The global event is a call to action that says we support saving energy. We can still live comfortable lives, but we also must curb our waste."

Welch urged attendees to reduce their carbon footprint and take environmentally friendly transportation to the events. People will also need to supply their own flashlights.  In case of bad weather, the two events will be combined and moved to Missouri United Methodist Church.

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