By Emily Le Coz
TUPELO - As Tupelo prepares to darken for Earth Hour tonight, critics blast the idea behind the event as paranoid propaganda.
The city is one of more than 2,600 communities in roughly 80 countries that'll participate in the movement. By turning off lights from 8:30-9:30 p.m., the effort aims to conserve energy and curb global warming.
But for skeptics of global warming, or the theory that humans caused it, Earth Hour is sham. And Tupelo's participation irks them.
"The main thing I have against Earth Hour is that it started ... as a way to bring awareness to global warming, that humans are putting carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, and it's causing global warming," said Pete Chagnon, an environmental correspondent for Tupelo-based American Family News. "But the debate is not settled when it comes to global warming."
According to the event's Web site, the World Wildlife Fund started it in 2007 to fight and find solutions for climate change.
Chagnon said he supports energy conservation and other green initiatives but not the notion of man-made global warming. And in that case, "what's the point of turning off the lights for a non-problem?"
City Sustainability Director Travis Hunsicker organized Tupelo's participation in the event. He said, as far as he's concerned, it's not about global warming as much as saving energy. Hunsicker has earned the support of Mayor Ed Neelly, Lee County Administrator Sean Thompson and several area businesses.
Tupelo resident Jim Brown isn't among them.
"It's disingenuous at best to say it's just about energy conservation," Brown said, "when the organization that's sponsoring it pushes the agenda that it's man-made global warming."
Like Chagnon, Brown said he embraces energy conservation but shuns the notion of global warming. Neither will participate in tonight's event, and both said they're disappointed that Tupelo signed on.
But the municipality isn't alone. In addition to the domes at City Hall and the Lee County Courthouse, the following businesses also will darken: Harvey's, Park Heights, Sweet Peppers Deli, the Grill at Fairpark, Boondocks Grill, Atlanta Bread Co. and Transport Trailer Service.
Most restaurants will have candlelight dinners during the hour of darkness, but some will observe different times.
"We're in support of it in conjunction with the city," Thompson said.
Contact Emily Le Coz at (662) 678-1588 or firstname.lastname@example.org.