The Hour of Darkness That Circled the Globe

SYDNEY, Australia, April 2, 2012 (ENS) – Earth Hour 2012 organizers are jubilant today after a satisfyingly successful global event on March 31. Lights went out at 8:30 pm local time as Earth Hour circled the world through a record 150 countries and territories, with 6,494 towns and cities participating.

Organized by the global conservation organization WWF, Earth Hour started in 2007 in Sydney, Australia when 2.2 million people and more than 2,000 businesses turned their lights off for one hour to take a stand against climate change.

Andy Ridley, co-founder and executive director of Earth Hour, said going dark for one hour offers “an hour of inspiration” to create awareness and motivate ongoing action for the environment.

Earth Hour 2012 Indonesia-style (Photo by Yasmin Khairuddin)

“We can all change the world we live in, whether that change be big or small,” said Ridley. “This year as the lights switch off, Earth Hour encourages you to commit to go beyond the hour and inspire your friends, colleagues, organization and leaders to do the same.”

“As the lights switch off around the world, we want everyone to remember that this hour of darkness is inspiration for what is to come – a commitment from all of us to make positive environmental changes in our lives. Start by making your own ‘I Will If You Will’ challenge and encourage those around you to do the same,” said Ridley.

The “I Will If You Will” platform is hosted at www.youtube.com/earthhour. More than 100,000 visitors have accepted the 80 feature challenges from celebrities, governments, organizations and individuals.

From the International Space Station to the Office of the UN Secretary General, to a passionate teenager who has organized Earth Hour in Libya for the first time, the global movement inspired individuals, organizations and governments to address our shared environmental challenges.effect us all.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said, “Turning off our lights is a symbol of our commitment to sustainable energy for all. We need to fuel our future with clean, efficient and affordable energy. By acting together today, we can power a brighter tomorrow.”

Earth Hour dinner in New Zealand (Photo by samaosaboy1)

The small island nation of Samoa was the first to switch off the lights for Earth Hour.

People in Fiji switched off their lights where possible despite deadly floods. Fiji’s floods have claimed three lives and forced almost 8,000 people into evacuation centers as more heavy rain pounds the island country.

One of the world’s first major monuments to go dark was the Auckland Sky Tower, the tallest building in New Zealand. Night markets brought crowds of families to a major celebration in Tauranga and lights were switched off across the country.

In Sydney, Australia, where Earth Hour began five years ago, lights went out on the Sydney Opera House and Harbour Bridge. “What began in Sydney as a simple idea to raise awareness of climate change – to switch off the lights for an hour – has become a global success,” Prime Minister Julia Gillard said in a statement. Australians turned out in huge numbers to celebrate the 60-minute switch-off, picnicking under the stars and having candlelit dinners.

As the lights went off across southeast Asia, record participation in one of the campaign’s major growth regions has ignited more passion for the movement.

The Philippines participation in the event is thought to have topped last year’s 18 million participants. Earth Hour founder Ridley, who was there for the event, said, “For the first time in history we have the power to connect behind a common purpose and the ability to create a network without national borders, based on the most influential voices and the smallest voices. The growth in social media, the world’s news media outlets and the digital revolution has allowed that to happen.”

The main Earth Hour event at the Great Wall of China saw hundreds of university students and International Earth Hour ambassador Li Bing Bing visually pledge their ongoing commitment for the environment in 2012. In Beijing, the China World Trade Center and the Olympic Park’s Bird’s Nest Stadium and Water Cube turned their lights off to mark Earth Hour.

More than 74,500 buildings in South Korea switched their lights off, according to the Twitter account of the U.S. Embassy in Seoul.

Group of supporters shows sign of 60 minutes to media during the 60 minutes of Earth Hour 2012 celebration, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. March 31, 2012. (Photo by Fareez Nazlan)

In Indonesia, social media helped drive the local version of the “I Will If You Will” campaign, Ini Aksiku! Mana Aksimu?

Social media was responsible for the massive turn-out in India, which culminated in an MTV Unplugged concert in New Delhi sourced with alternative power. A similar concert and lights-off event has been held at the Mysore Palace, India’s most popular tourist attraction. Megacities competed across India for the title of Earth Hour Champion.

Nepal celebrated its largest ever Earth Hour with dual events in the capital Kathmandu and in Lumbini, birthplace of Lord Buddha. Earth Hour was supported by six monasteries and nearly 10,000 youth who plan to plant one million trees by 2020.

Maitri Mahastavir, spiritual advisor of the Lumbini Development Trust, said, “Through Earth Hour, we want to promote the message of conservation – starting with Lumbini and travelling beyond its borders – as the way of life for human beings not just in Nepal but across the world.”

As European Space Agency Astronaut Andre Kuipers watched over Earth from the International Space Station; he used Twitter to share photos of areas under threat like the Amazon.

Former South African President Nelson Mandela tweeted, “Let us stand together to make of our world a sustainable source for our future as humanity on this planet” #NelsonMandela #EarthHour.”

Facebook was used to coordinate Earth Hour in Kurdistan, northern Iraq as well as in Libya’s capital Tripoli. Earth Hour celebrations were held at the Red Saraya Museum and Martyrs’ Square where thousands celebrated the end of the Qaddafi regime.

“From Beijing to Berlin, from Singapore to San Francisco, people are turning out their lights tonight to signal their concern about the future of our life on this earth,” said WWF International Director General Jim Leape, speaking from a pedal-powered concert in the shadow of Castel Sant’Angelo as famous landmarks in Rome and the Vatican went dark.

Leape is taking on an ‘I Will If You Will’ challenge of tagging endangered bluefin tuna for a long-running WWF scientific research project.

In the UAE, the world’s tallest skyscraper, Dubai’s Burj Kalifa, went dark as Dubai Municipality, the Burj Al Arab, Etisalat, and the Clock Tower also switched off their lights.

In Russia, organizers estimate that some 15 million people observed Earth Hour, 40 percent more than in 2011. Russia, stretching across nine time zones, records the longest participation in Earth Hour of any country. Major celebrations were held in Moscow, where the Luzhniki stadium and Moscow City Hall went dark.

Earth Hour, 2012, Timisoara Romania at an event organized by the Astronomical Observatory of The Romanian Academy, City Hall, and The Antares Astronomy Club. Also on Facebook (Photo by Laurentiu Alimpie)

Greece used Facebook to spread its Earth Hour message that conservation is not a luxury but a necessity, warning that assaults on the environment in the name of overcoming the Greek economic crisis are misguided.

Some 300 cities and towns across Austria, Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria, Serbia, Croatia and Ukraine observed Earth Hour. In Austria, Earth Hour earned the support of both President Heinz Fischer and Chancellor Werner Faymann, who switched off the lights of Vienna’s Imperial Castle, the President’s residence, and the Chancellery buildings.

Germany’s official celebration was centered around Berlin’s famous Brandenburg Gate, which once divided East from West Berlin. People lit 5,000 candles in the form of a globe in front of the gate before city officials switched off the lights.

More than 230 monuments and major gathering points in Paris dimmed their lights for the hour, including the Eiffel Tower, Notre Dame Cathedral, the Arc de Triumph, as well as fountains and bridges over the River Seine.

In London, a human powered dance floor lit up the UK’s flagship Earth Hour event at Somerset House. The National Theatre, South Bank Centre and Waterloo Bridge went dark, and the lights were switched off or dimmed at Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament, Buckingham Palace, EDF Energy London Eye, Wembley Stadium, Royal Albert Hall, National Gallery, Old Trafford, Clifton Suspension Bridge, Edinburgh Castle, the Millennium Centre and the lights of Piccadilly Circus.

A band in Spain celebrates Earth Hour 2012. (Photo by Earth Hour Global)

In the United States, the National Cathedral in Washington, DC and New York City’s Empire State Building went dark. In Chicago, Wrigley Field, the Willis Tower and Navy Pier turned off the lights, and in California, pylons outside the Los Angeles International Airport turned green and then went dark. Even Pacific Park on the Santa Monica Pier shut off the lights on its famous Ferris wheel.

In Canada, 511 municipalities participated. In Toronto, the Independent Electricity System Operator, which helps manage and co-ordinates Ontario’s power grid, said electricity demand was down 2.7 percent from a typical Saturday night.

And to the south, Earth Hour Bolivia says the event is about much more than just saving electricity for an hour.

“Earth Hour and Earth Hour Bolivia aren’t about seeing how much electricity we can save over the course of an hour in the world. It’s about creating awareness of the need to be better stewards of the natural resources we have available to us – each and every day,” the group says.

“Each year the Earth’s population multiplies and our use of our resources is increasing at rates that will soon become unsustainable. We support Earth Hour Bolivia because we are deeply concerned about the world we will leave our children. By making simple changes in our daily lives, each of us can make a difference.”

Copyright Environment News Service (ENS) 2012. All rights reserved.