At 20:30 this coming Saturday night (29th March), people all over the world will participate in Earth Hour by turning off all unnecessary electrical equipment in their homes and businesses. More strikingly, all unnecessary lights will also be switched off, including those of some of the most famous landmarks across the world.
Earth Hour, organised by the WWF (World Wide Fund for Nature), has become increasingly popular since it was first done in 2007. Back then, it took place in just one city – Sydney, Australia. In 2009, this had increased to 96 participating countries, and, by 2012, participating countries came from each of the seven continents of the world. Technology giants have also participated in Earth Hour’s history by setting the background of their logos and videos to black, thereby symbolising the lights being turned off. clearly, Earth Hour really is now a worldwide event.
The WWF stresses that Earth Hour is not designed to significantly reduce carbon emissions itself (although many participating cities and countries publish impressive data regarding their decreased electricity consumption during Earth Hour), but instead is intended to raise awareness of environmental issues across the world. In 2012, Earth Hour was extended to include a campaign called I Will If You Will. The idea of IWIYW is that individuals inspire each other by sharing energy saving challenges. Again, technology has played a huge part in promoting the campaign, with IWIYW challenges being posted on YouTube, for example. This extension of the Earth Hour campaign shows that the original goal of the project – that of increasing awareness of and engagement with environmental issues – has been successful.
Obviously, the sheer number of people who participate in Earth Hour across the world (over 1.8 billion in 2011) is inspirational in itself. For this author, though, the images of the famous landmarks without their lights on are the most striking. In previous years, this list of landmarks has included Buckingham Palace, the Eiffel Tower and the Sydney Opera House. There’s something about the symbolism of seeing landmarks so permanent a part of the world’s landscape in such a different way, which makes quite an impact, and really highlights the importance of the environmental issues being discussed.
So, will you be participating in Earth Hour this weekend? If nothing else, try and find some photos of the cities and countries that will be taking part this year. You might want to find out which celebrities are endorsing the campaign and why they’ve chosen to do so (Last year the UK’s ambassadors were McFly!). It would be be interesting to hear what you think of the whole thing; is switching the lights off for an hour a meaningful way to engage people in such important issues, or just a bit of a gimmick? Will you one of the millions of people across the globe turning off your lights this Saturday night?