For eight years now, Canadians have been part of an international movement to celebrate the Earth with A Moment of Darkness. With our help, the World Wildlife Federation’s (WWF) Earth Hour has become the largest grassroots act in history, engaging millions of people worldwide to flick off the lights for one hour in March, reflect on the possibilities of collective action, and envision a future without climate change.
Earth Hour kicked off as a lights-out event in Sydney, Australia in March, 2007. Seven months later San Francisco ran its own “Lights Out” event, inspiring global engagement the following year. On its first anniversary in March, 2008, 35 countries representing 400 cities participated in Earth Hour and turned off their non-essential lights from 8-9 p.m. local time. The result? A full-scale, collective act of empowerment and hope that has since spawned a global rash of exciting Earth-friendly projects that are having an impacting influence on the state of the planet.
Reduced energy use has been one obvious benefit—even if it is largely symbolic. After the 2008 campaign, WWF Thailand reported a 73.34-megawatt decrease in energy use in Bangkok. In the Philippines, power consumption dropped by 78.63 megawatts in Metro Manila, and up to 102.2 megawatts in Luzon. Ontario saw a 900-megawatt-hour reduction and Toronto alone, at one point, saw an 8.7 per cent drop in consumption compared to a typical Saturday night in March. Ireland, Dubai, and Christchurch, New Zealand experienced 1.5%, 2.4%, and 13% reductions, respectively.
In 2012, important global monuments began taking the pledge to turn off the lights in observance of Earth Hour and in 2013, the Tokyo Tower, the Kremlin, St. Basil’s Cathedral and Red Square in Russia, the Palace of Westminster and Big Ben in London, the Eiffel Tower in Paris, the Grand Palace and Wat Arun in Bangkok, Thailand, and the Jubilee Lights at the Parliament Buildings in Victoria clicked off for the hour.
Most importantly, Earth Hour 2014 connected a record 162 countries and territories and more than 7,000 cities and towns. Eighteen crowdfunding projects were launched from February to June of that year, including WWF-Philippines’ Bancas for the Philippines, which builds fiberglass boats to help typhoon-affected communities and reduce reliance on wood; and, WWF-Singapore’s Stop the Killing, a project that reduces wildlife crimes in Southeast Asia. These campaigns and others have been successful thanks to Earth Hour Blue—a crowdsourcing and crowdfunding platform meant to take Earth Hour beyond the hour to engage global participants in positive, tangible projects that benefit the environmental health of communities around the world.
In Canada, approximately 16 million people dim the lights during Earth Hour each year, and Canadian cities have done a great job of putting forward environmental initiatives to help mitigate climate change year round.
According to WWF-Canada, “80% of the Canadian population lives in cities, where more than 70% of the world’s CO2 emissions are generated.” Aided by trillions of investment dollars earmarked for infrastructure, urban populations are sky-rocketing. “This funding can and should be invested in the creation of sustainable cities,” says WWF-Canada.
The Earth Hour City Challenge, now known as the We Love Cities campaign, champions municipal environmental initiatives relating to transportation, green building, waste reduction, and reduced power consumption. In 2013, Vancouver was named Earth Hour’s Capital City and this year it remains in the top three finalists. In fact, three Canadian cities have been named finalists: Vancouver, North Vancouver, and Edmonton, each brimming with environmental initiatives Canadians can be proud of.
Despite its popularity, Earth Hour has its share of nay-sayers. Critics say the event gives individuals a false sense of accomplishment in reducing greenhouse gases, since the correlation between GHGs and turning out the lights is only significant if the power behind the lights is generated by coal-burning sources. Another complaint is the amount of energy saved in an hour doesn’t really have a tremendous impact on a long-lasting, big picture scale, but according to WWF, that isn’t really the point.
“Earth hour does not claim that the event is an energy or carbon reduction exercise—it is a symbolic action,” says the WWF website. “Therefore, we do not engage in the measurement of energy or carbon reduction levels.”
The point, says the organization, is to “encourage individuals, businesses, and governments around the world to take accountability for their ecological footprint and engage in dialogue and resource exchange that provides real solutions to our environmental challenges.
“Participation in Earth Hour symbolizes a commitment to change beyond the hour,” says WWF.
The best part of Earth Hour is its simplicity. Individuals can click off the lights and all non-essential sources of power from 8:30 – 9:30 p.m. on March 28, 2015 and make a meaningful difference—meaningful because it engages conversation, awareness, and action. Meaningful because it brings us much closer to long-term, year-round initiatives in communities experiencing change every day. And meaningful because there is nothing brighter than a cleaner future.
Visit WWF-Canada online at http://www.wwf.ca/, Like World Wildlife Fund on Facebook at www.facebook.com/worldwildlifefund, or Like Earth Hour Canada at https://www.facebook.com/earthhourcanada. Follow Earth Hour on Twitter @earthhourcanada and be sure to post your Earth Hour activities at #momentofdarkness.