Columbia businesses, landmarks go dark for Earth Hour

Saturday, March 26, 2011 | 10:37 p.m. CDT
Sycamore bartender Maria Seiffert pours a glass of champagne during Earth Hour on Saturday. Sycamore participated in Earth Hour by turning off the lights and illuminating the main dining room with candles.

COLUMBIA — The neon lights of The Tiger Hotel and Jesse Hall's dome were two of the familiar city sights that disappeared into the dark Saturday night.

The World Wildlife Fund designated the Earth Hour from 8:30 to 9:30 p.m., and for a fourth year the Columbia Climate Change Coalition encouraged residents to turn off all nonessential electrical devices and join a worldwide movement to raise awareness about sustainability efforts.


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Among several Columbia businesses that participated in the event, the Orr Street Studios hosted an evening of painting by candlelight. Five or six candles were placed in a circle in the center of the studios' floor, highlighting the textures in the artwork hanging on the walls. Others were picked up by the visitors trickling into the studios to guide them through the darkened hallways and provide a warm escape from the chilly outdoors.

Catherine Parke, an artist at the studios, said this Earth Hour event brought forth ideas about art and environmental consciousness.

"It's something to explore," Parke said. "Combining sustainability and using our resources in a more thoughtful and meditative, conscious way, and also just exploring some possibilities for painting."

Parke said the sole use of candlelight to create artwork inspired an artistic environment from a different era.

"Of course, there's a long tradition of painting by candlelight before there was electricity — we're not just thinking this up," Parke said, laughing. "It's a marvelously rich component of art history, both the practice of art history and the subject matter of painting."

Along other downtown streets, the light from rows of candles reflected on glass windows in Sycamore restaurant and Uprise Bakery. At MU, the dome of Jesse Hall, the Columns and Stankowski Field were eerily dark. 

Begun in 2007 in Sydney with more than 2 million people and 2,000 businesses, Earth Hour grew to include more than 128 countries and territories in 2010, according to the event's website. Monta Welch, president of the coalition, noted that Columbia's participation in the event has expanded over the past four years. 

"It's growing each year into a much larger sustainability movement that focuses on all the issues of sustainability, but especially climate change and the impact that it’s having on our nation and around the world," Welch said.

Welch said the list of participating businesses grew from last year's. 

"We’ve added a number of new names that we didn’t have last year, and we hope to continue to do that," she said. "We hope to add more and more businesses as they see this as a more viable opportunity for them to show how they’re going green."

The coalition has petitioned and worked with city departments and organizations to boost event participation and "take our game to the next level," Welch said of the sustainability efforts. She said the coalition has asked Boone Electric Cooperative and Columbia Water and Light for help in measuring the impact of Earth Hour.

“It’s about realizing that we’re in solidarity with other people doing this — 88 other countries or more possibly by now, over 4,000 major cities around the world,” Welch said. 

Welch said she hopes the event will connect residents with a larger effort.

"In order to not stalemate the conversation, it’s important to know that if we take care of the environment and the undeniable pollution right in front us, that would go an awfully long way to making a difference in every area," she said. "If we just do what we see right in front of us, we can make a big difference not just for this hour but beyond the hour."

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tim anderson March 27, 2011 | 9:45 a.m.

Isn't this the ultimate hypocrisy?
The same Columbians living in the 3500 SQ homes and college students living in spacious dorm “suites” are trying to feel better about their energy bigfoot print by turning off the lights for an hour once a year – give me a break. We raise our own beef, chickens, eggs, and use their manure to fertilize our fields and harvest our own hay. How does one in a 3500 SQ Foot home really justify their energy foot print with a chemical treated 200x200 foot lawn.

(Report Comment)
stephen maxey March 27, 2011 | 11:12 a.m.

Tim, the purpose of this exercise is to bring awareness of the energy usage and our dependence. I don't believe that any of us plan on raising our own food, and/or living on a farm. I participated in this because it helps me appreciate how much electricity I have been using and how attached to it I have become. Its a symbolic decision to turn off the lights for this one hour. Awareness, appreciation, and action. that's what its about, we have to make the first steps.

(Report Comment)
Michael Williams March 28, 2011 | 3:02 p.m.

I see little use in this stuff. Folks participate and feel good about themselves, then go back to what they were doing before. One of the funnier photos on this topic appears in the Tribune; it shows a 4-some at dinner and....two of the women are looking at what appears to be an Iphone or somesuch by candlelight.


In the Missourian photo I see wax candles ("Where does wax come from?" I ask. Can you say, "Let's breath soot indoors?") and glass (energy intensive to make). In a heated building. The "effort" would have made much more sense if the bars/restaurants would have turned off their heating units for an hour. Can't have that, would make folks too uncomfortable while they were trying to Turning off the lights is "business correct"...after all, it creates a mood rather than discomfort...which is A-ok.

Well, turn off the heat and we'll talk again.

As for "making us more aware" it possible to make anyone MORE aware of this issue?

No, it isn't. This is just feel-good nonsense where the participants change little within themselves, if any at all.

(Past funnies: The Trib photo of two young women in Peace Park on Earth Day....drinking from plastic water bottles and sitting next to their (or someone else's) plastic lounge chairs. You just can't make this kind of "funny" up!)

(Report Comment)
Ellis Smith March 28, 2011 | 4:41 p.m.

@ Michael Williams:

They'll become serious when electrical generating capacity fails to keep up with demand! That's the direction we're headed.

I've lived and worked under those conditions, and it's not pretty. In fact it's damned ugly! Even a planned "rolling blackout" creates a lot of problems, both at home and on the job.

I love candle light! But it won't run household appliances, heating and air conditioning or industrial or office equipment. Any situation where we do not have access to electricity 24/7 is going to unfavorably impact the economy (including potential loss of jobs).

PS: I enjoyed your illustrations. I may laugh right up until the lights go out. :)

(Report Comment)
Michael Williams March 28, 2011 | 6:45 p.m.


I like candles, too. I don't like breathing soot. Anyone who has ever been in an intact kiva or cave inhabited by the ancients will understand "breathing soot" after looking at the roof. You could also ask your great-great grandmother if you are fortunate enuf to be able.

With the accident in Japan, nukes are dead-dead. That's REAL bad news. Nukes were the ONLY power that we had to bridge the gap from where we are now to development of new catalysts/technology for hydrolysis of water into hydrogen/oxygen using sun power. We're in trouble. It'll come on us slow, but it'll come.

Personally I say, "Dam Cedar Creek, Hinkson, and Perche Creek, and put in hydroelectric!!!!!!! Boone County's off the grid!!!!!!!!"

(Note I didn't say, "Damn Cedar Creek...etc.)

(Report Comment)
Ellis Smith March 28, 2011 | 8:25 p.m.

@ Michael Williams:

The Sierra Club has already damned Hinkson Creek. Geez, Michael, I thought you kept up with these situations. :)

Years ago a journalist visited the then Soviet Union and said, "I have seen the future, and it works."

From personal experience (as already stated) I say, "I have seen our energy future, and it truly sucks!"

(Report Comment)
Michael Williams March 28, 2011 | 8:34 p.m.



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