On the hour

By Natasha Dragun

On the hour
The largest global movement for the environment, Earth Hour, is more than simply switching off lights.

Most of us avoid being kept in the dark, but for one hour every year a growing number of global citizens are turning off the lights for 60 minutes to raise awareness of the Earth Hour movement.

Launched by the World Wildlife Fund and advertising agency Leo Burnett in Sydney in 2007, Earth Hour saw some 2.2 million people involved in its inaugural year; today, more than 7000 cities and towns participate across the seven continents, making it the world’s largest voluntary action for the environment.

And while the mass event certainly sees power savings – some cities have reported drops in energy demand of up to 13 per cent on the day – Earth Hour has a much bigger mission.

“We started Earth Hour to do more than lights off,” says Andy Ridley, CEO and co-founder of Earth Hour. “It was created to unite people and show our desire to protect the planet, to encourage and empower people to take action beyond the hour itself, to create an interconnected global community and build on the momentum and action for a sustainable future.”

All actions, big and small, make a difference, says Ridley. And to encourage people to take that step, Earth Hour launched the “I Will If You Will” campaign, designed so individuals or groups can share what they’re willing to do to protect the planet and challenge friends, family, colleagues and communities to do the same. Challenges can be created or accepted on Earth Hour’s YouTube channel, and have already seen hugely positive results.

In 2013, former president of Botswana Festus Mogae promised to plant one million indigenous trees as part of his “I Will If You Will” challenge. In Uganda, Standard Chartered Bank, the Minister of State for Water and Environment and many individuals took on the challenge to plant 500,000 trees across 2700 hectares to fight deforestation in the country. The Russian parliament also passed a law to protect seas from oil pollution.

This year, the event is evolving into a year-round social movement on climate change. And in Australia, the focus will be on protecting and celebrating the ‘Places We Love’. Participants are encouraged to help raise awareness and show their support for a low pollution, clean energy future, where we are all able to enjoy the best of nature and our incredible outdoor lifestyle.

An Earth Hour documentary on the impacts of climate change on the reef will screen across Australia, with major events in Sydney, Melbourne, Canberra and Brisbane and some 500 satellite screenings around the country. Individuals are also being encouraged to host screenings and events to raise awareness and to contribute to this year’s theme.

In New Zealand, grassroots Earth Hour events are being organised by communities across the islands.

Earth Hour’s ‘donate your feed’ plug­in can be downloaded free­ of­ charge from earthhour.org.au to help supporters raise awareness about the benefits of a low pollution, clean energy future, and to rally the support of friends and family in calling for action on climate change.

Earth Hour will be held March 19 at 8:30pm local time. See earthhour.org.au.


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