Right now the people of the world are joining together in the largest voluntary action ever witnessed: Earth Hour. Today (March 26th 2011), beginning at 8:30pm wherever you are, you are asked to turn off all non-essential lights and appliances in a gesture of solidarity in the fight against climate change. (At the time of publication, Earth Hour is just beginning in Dubai.)
Earth Hour was conceived by the World Wildlife Federation (WWF) and The Sydney Morning Herald in 2007. That year 2.2 million Sydney residents participated. It quickly became a major fixture on the global calendar, with 126 countries and 4000 cities participating in 2010. Loads of major landmarks had their lights switched off, including Big Ben, the Empire State Building, the Sydney Opera House, the Eiffel Tower, the Parthenon, the Brandenburg Gate and the Forbidden City.
Earth Hour seems to have the power to reach into all strata of world society. In the Philippines, over 15 million people took part, while Vietnam saw electricity demand fall by 500,000 kWh. Major organisations have also taken part, with many TV stations either suspending broadcast for an hour, or filming shows by candlelight. Google’s homepage was turned black in 2008; this year all YouTube pages feature a light switch, allowing users to ‘black out’ the page.
Some of these might seem like token gestures, and certainly in terms of energy saved Earth Hour is a drop in the rising ocean. But it is an amazing act of voluntarism and unity in the face of the greatest threat to our one and only planet.
See Boston.com’s amazing gallery of fade-out pictures from Earth Hour 2009 here: http://www.boston.com/bigpicture/2009/03/earth_hour_2009.html
And remember to switch off at 8:30pm, if it hasn’t already passed you by!