COLUMBIA — Festivities celebrating the fifth international Earth Hour begin this week in Columbia.
While Earth Hour will take place from 8:30 to 9:30 p.m. March 31, there will be events happening this week, including movie showings and a kickoff event.
What started in Australia in 2007 has become a global movement for individuals and businesses to make a stand against climate change — rising temperatures which are the result of overuse of fossil fuels, according to EarthHour.org.
Earth Hour is an "almost 100 percent symbolic act," said Monta Welch, who organized the event in Columbia. While turning off lights for an hour can save money and electricity, the purpose is to raise awareness about climate change.
"It's something that people will notice," she added.
After the first year, more than 50 million people in 35 countries participated in Earth Hour. Last year, it was the world's largest global climate change initiative.
Last year in Columbia, the decline in electric use during Earth Hour was the equivalent of the electricity that would be required to power about 100 homes for 24 hours, Welch said.
For the fifth international Earth Hour, the mayor will sign a proclamation making Earth Hour an annual event in Columbia.
The city, the Columbia Climate Change Coalition and other local organizations have collaborated on this year's events. They're also educating people about immediate and long-term actions that can help lead to a more sustainable future.
A sustainable future means paying attention to how we use our resources and making sure there are sufficient resources for future generations, Welch said.
Events for Earth Hour begin this week. At 5:30 p.m. Wednesday in the Boone County Government Building, there will be a screening of "Everything's Cool," a film detailing the misinformation on climate science and the efforts of a global warming activism group that tries to get America on the right track environmentally.
At 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, another film will be shown. Called "Deep Green," it is a documentary that shows the climate change problem and highlights renewable solutions.
The Earth Hour 2012 kickoff event will be from noon to 1 p.m. Thursday in the lobby of the Daniel Boone City Building with a "green" tour of the LEED gold standard-certified building.
The kickoff will also have information about the Earth Hour Weekend Alternative Transportation Challenge. The goal of the challenge is to encourage people to ride bikes, walk, take the city bus and carpool, Welch said.
Many businesses, both in and out of The District, will be participating in the event. Restaurants, such as Sycamore, Uprise Bakery, Addison's, Sophia's and Flat Branch Pub & Brewery, will use candles instead of electric lights during Earth Hour.
Some landmark sites that are turning off their lights are Jesse Hall, the Columbia Public Library and the Boone Building, including the key hole structure outside.