Hour of dark lights the way

Article image - Hour of dark lights the way Melburnians flocked to a pedal powered concert in Federation Square. Photographer: Joseph Feil

On Saturday 28 March, hundreds of millions of people in more than 4,000 cities in 88 countries across the world ‘voted Earth’ by switching off their lights between 8.30pm and 9.30pm.

Organised by WWF, Earth Hour 2009 marked the world’s first global election between Earth and global warming, with people asked to ‘Vote Earth’ by switching off lights for the hour, or ‘Global Warming’ by leaving lights on.

Participation was up greatly from the 2008 Earth Hour event, when only 400 cities from 35 countries participated.

Interest is believed to have spiked ahead of planned negotiations on a new global warming treaty in Copenhagen, Denmark, this December. The last global accord, the Kyoto Protocol, is set to expire in 2012.

“Earth Hour 2009 was an incredible success,” said WWF International Director General, James Leape.

“Earth Hour signals a real desire from people all over the world for urgent action on climate change, and a mandate for the world’s leaders to secure a new deal in Copenhagen that defines an effective global response.

“Our work continues, because over the next eight months, the leaders of the world will be deciding how they step up to meet this challenge, and we need, together, to make sure they do the right thing.”

Across the world, people gathered in parks, streets, town squares and homes to witness the lights going out on iconic landmarks and city skylines, while taking in the atmosphere of some truly unique Earth Hour events.

Around Australia, 309 councils registered and 47 per cent of Australians got involved.

Canberra residents were the biggest participants, with 62 per cent getting on board. Across metropolitan Sydney and Adelaide, 50 per cent of residents joined in, while 52 per cent of Brisbane and 40 per cent of Melbourne and Perth residents spent the hour in the dark.

EnergyAustralia said emissions in Sydney’s CBD were cut by nine per cent, equating to the saving of 21.4 tonnes of carbon emissions.

Energex said use dropped by 7.6 per cent across southeast Queensland, while CitiPower said there was a two per cent reduction in Melbourne’s CBD.

In Sydney, where Earth Hour was instigated in 2007, every ferry in the city’s famous harbour sounded its horn at 8.30pm to herald the beginning of Earth Hour in Australia, while in Melbourne a pedal powered concert took place at Federation Square.

Tasmania’s Glenorchy City Council encouraged its local businesses and residents to participate and turned off lights at its chambers and works depot.

Glenorchy Mayor, Alderman Adriana Taylor, said switching the lights off for Earth Hour is not difficult or onerous, but it sends a powerful message that collective action of climate change is possible.

“Earth Hour helps raise awareness about climate change while also practically demonstrating how energy efficiency results in emission reductions,” she said.

Lights also went out across Brisbane as residents enjoyed a dining experience with a difference at restaurants all over the city.

Lord Mayor Campbell Newman said some of Brisbane’s top restaurateurs got on board, creating unique and exciting options for Earth Hour.

“Council’s idea to target restaurants was about offering something different and a bit of fun for residents and visitors to get involved with on the night,” he said.

“Turning off the lights, leaving the house and getting out to experience the tremendous sense of community was all part of getting into the spirit of this symbolic event.”

On the other side of the world, a host of concerts and parties took place across European cities.

In Athens, a ‘circle of percussion’ saw people playing instruments, led by a conductor, as the lights went out on the Acropolis.

In Oslo’s city centre, members of the public took up the challenge of pedal powered light bulbs, while residents in the city of Lisbon sat down to an evening of outdoor candlelit dining as they watched their city skyline go dark.

Earth Hour Executive Director, Andy Ridley, said Earth Hour is more than just a call to action on climate change.

“Earth Hour is an opportunity for the global community to speak in one voice on the issue of climate change, while at the same time coming together in celebration of the one thing every single person on the planet has in common – the planet,” he said.

For further information on Earth Hour and more details about activities across the world visit www.earthhour.org