Earth Hour: Reflections from the Dark
On March 27 at eight thirty in the evening, hundreds of millions of people across seven continents in 127 countries, including the most populated cities of the world such as Delhi, Moscow, Beijing, Mexico City, to the remote Davis Station in Antarctica, united and took a stand against global warming as they turned their lights off for Earth Hour 2010.
So how did this global lights-off event become an annual ceremony for people across the world to voice their commitment to action against climate change?
Earth Hour began as “The Big Flick” in Australia in 2005 with the aim to mainstream climate change as a public issue. World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) Australia organized the campaign with the underlying theme of hope, not fear, based on the idea that everyone can take personal responsibility for the future of the planet we live on. Proven successful, WWF Australia wanted to broaden the event from just simply flicking the lights off, to representing sustainability in general. Hence, Earth Hour was born in 2007 in Sydney, with the participation of 2.2 million Sydneysiders and 2100 businesses. The spirit of the campaign was so high that it extended beyond the boundaries of the continent. By March 2008, more than 50 million people in 371 cities and towns hailing from more than 35 countries globally celebrated Earth Hour.
The momentum continued strong. In 2009, hundreds of millions of people in more than 4000 cities across 88 countries participated in the global switch off. It has been incredible and breathtaking to see Earth Hour sweeping across continents, regardless of economic, political, cultural (and timezone!) differences.
This year, the 4500-year-old Egyptian pyramids headed a list of 1274 man-made marvels and natural wonders taking the action for climate change including: China’s most historic landmark – the Forbidden City; the Eiffel Tower and Arc de Triomphe in Paris; the Empire State Building in New York; Buckingham Palace and the Big Ben in London; Brandenburg Gate in Berlin; the Acropolis in Athens; the Trevi Fountain and Coliseum in Rome; Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe; the Hiroshima Peace Memorial in Japan; the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco; the Sydney Harbour Bridge and Opera House; Las Vegas Strip; India Gate and Red Fort in Delhi; Edinburgh Castle; Bosphorous Bridge in Istanbul; and Christ the Redeemer in Rio de Janeiro. Remarkably, the people of Tuvalu also kept cars and motorcycles off the road for Earth Hour, aiming to make the country carbon neutral. This arguably was the most ambitious initiative for Earth Hour 2010 and was much welcomed.
You might be wondering: “What does this all mean?”
Firstly, it means “Yes, We Can.” Starting out as a sub-national event in Australia, Earth Hour now represents one of the strongest and largest movements that have mobilized hundreds of millions of people across the globe. The sheer number of people participating in the campaign emphasizes the power of individuals and collective activism. The importance of this is two-fold. First, governments around the world generally respond to public demand. Voicing your concerns about the devastating effects of climate change and demonstrating your commitment to take action against climate change places pressure on political leaders to start taking some serious measures. Second, it shows the power of individual actions. Many people keep waiting for solutions from elsewhere rather than taking the initiatives themselves, mainly due to the belief that individual actions are small and hence, meaningless. Earth Hour has proven otherwise. Everyone has a stake in the well-being of the Earth and can do their part to share in the responsibility of addressing climate change.
Secondly, Earth Hour means the future. The movement has become one of the most effective ways to promote global awareness of climate change. On the eve of Earth Hour, millions of children in the world were educated about climate change and the love for our planet. This is our hope.
Thirdly, Earth Hour is not only about turning the lights off. It is about making a stand on climate change. It is about making your vote for the Earth over global warming. Archbishop Desmond Tutu, on reflection of his work advocating civil rights equality in South Africa, for which he received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1984, says Earth Hour can be a catalyst for global climate reform.
There is no lack of evidence of climate change. In fact, the evidence is growing as we speak. It is high time for action! So congratulate yourselves if you participated in the event. It was an important step in itself in fighting against climate change.
It is more important, however, to not confine your efforts within Earth Hour. There are many other ways you can contribute to addressing climate change. Some simple steps are:
• Turning off your appliances at the wall when not in use.
• Using public transport when possible. Transport is one of the biggest contributors to climate change in most economies.
• Demand more renewable energy in your country’s energy system.
• Donating to organizations that actively fight for the Earth’s rights such as WWF.
— by Hanh Le (MPP 09/11)
Check out pictures of the Earth Hour Celebrations from across the world here.