Summit High student urges county to turn out the lights tonight | SummitDaily.com
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Summit High student urges county to turn out the lights tonight

Janice Kurbjun
Summit Daily News
Summit Daily file photo/Mark Fox
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It’s been three years since Earth Hour – an hour of turning lights off to take a stand against climate change – came to Summit County, championed by Summit High School senior Patrick Paden.

He’s continuing the global project this year and is mimicking its international growth in the county – the project has now spread from Silverthorne to all the incorporated towns.

It all began because Paden was challenged with the task to do an International Baccalaureate project his sophomore year that “describes you, interests you, or does something to make a difference,” he said.

He is pursuing an associate’s degree in environmental science at Colorado Mountain College, and hopes to attend the University of Colorado-Boulder to obtain a bachelor’s degree in environmental health. His ultimate goal is to work for the World Wildlife Fund, which is the entity behind Earth Hour.

So promoting Earth Hour locally made sense. In 2009, Paden worked with Silverthorne town manager Kevin Batchelder to put Earth Hour in place in the town. That year, the recreation center closed early and switched the lights off for the night – and other public buildings and private residences participated.

Paden could see the difference when he looked down on the town from a perch in Wildernest.

“I really wanted to get Breck and Frisco involved, but I started too late,” Paden said.

But two years later, that’s changed. The Breckenridge, Dillon, Frisco and Silverthorne town councils as well as the Summit County Board of County Commissioners all signed proclamations this year recognizing 8:30-9:30 tonight as their official Earth Hour.

“It’s an accomplishment because I always wanted to make a difference,” Paden said. “If I’m only a high school student and can make this much difference, I feel like I can do anything. It feels empowering.”

Earth Hour is a wave that traverses the global time zones.

It started in 2007 in Sydney, Australia, when 2.2 million individuals and more than 2,000 businesses turned their lights off for one hour to make a climate change statement, the organization’s website states. A year later, Earth Hour became a global sustainability movement with more than 50 million people across 35 countries and territories participating.

It has continually grown, to last year’s record 128 countries and territories joining the global display of climate action.

Global landmarks such as the Sydney Harbour Bridge, the Golden Gate Bridge and Rome’s Colosseum have all stood in darkness “for a cause that grows more urgent by the hour,” the website says. In Summit County, several towns are turning off their tourism landmarks, such as Christmas lights and Christmas trees that are lit throughout the winter, Paden said.

He said that as the movement grows throughout the world, so too has it spread throughout Summit County, with the towns taking it a bit further each year.

“We are concerned about the potential impacts of climate change and believe that efforts at energy efficiency and natural resource conservation should be promoted. ‘Earth Hour’ … encourage(s) businesses, individuals and government to take action to reduce their carbon emissions and their impact on the environment in their daily lives,” Breckenridge spokeswoman Kim DiLallo wrote in an email.

This year, Paden hopes local citizens will join individuals around the world in Earth Hour’s call to consider actions that take the movement beyond a single hour – riding a bike to work, limiting power consumption and other ways to reduce the carbon footprint and conserve energy.

Paden has placed posters around the county to help residents and visitors understand the project. Principals in the schools supported turning lights off on Thursday and used the opportunity to tell students about Earth Hour. It’s a message Paden hopes will spread to families and friends.

He knows he’ll likely be moving on next year, so he’s looking for someone to carry on the project.

“It all starts with one person and that one person can go out and change things,” he said. “That person passes it on … it’s a domino effect.”

Visit http://www.earthhour.org and http://www.beyondthehour.org for more information on the event. Share stories and comments with Patrick Paden at summitearthhour@gmail.com – they may get forwarded to Earth Hour International to share on their website.


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