I remember how thrilling it was, back on December 31, 1999, to watch new year’s celebrations being launched around the world, beginning with the Marshall Islands. The December news had been filled with debates over last minute generator purchases, reminiscent of the backyard bomb shelter discussions in the 1950s.At midnight, though, amid the celebratory fireworks, the cheery lights were still burning brightly in the Pacific, then New Zealand and Australia, and then west from there.
This March 29, we celebrate Earth Hour, a symbolic acknowledgement of our small blue planet and a global call to action over climate change. Communities around the world are powering down during this hour of contemplation.
Earth Hour celebrations kicked off in Israel yesterday – a day early in recognition of the Sabbath.
Today, New Zealand was the first country to mark the hour, with church bells ringing out from Christchurch Cathedral. It was followed an hour later by Suva, the capital city of Fiji and then the east coast of Australia.
Thousands gathered in Melbourne’s Federation Square for an hour of entertainment and celebration, joining famous landmarks throughout the country including the Sydney Opera House, Sydney Harbour Bridge and Parliament House in Canberra.
Australia has had an enthusiastic response to the hour, with all the capital cities as well as dozens of regional centres taking part in both going dark and hosting a range of themed events. Almost all of the top 100 companies on the Australian Stock Exchange committed to turning off the lights and reduce their carbon emissions by 5%.
The first Earth Hour was held on March 31, 2007, as part of a campaign by the World Wildlife Fund to bring attention to climate change and greenhouse gas emissions. An estimated 2 million Sydney residents participated, resulting in a 10.2 per cent drop in energy for the hour, according to Energy Australia.
“We have been overwhelmed by the success of this event,” said WWF spokesman Charlie Stevens. “I think it is the simplicity of that has made it such a huge success. It is a small thing but such a fantastic message.”
Here on the south coast of Canada, we had an opportunity to see the stars again (for the first time since the northeastern blackout of 2003) and, in the new darkness and evening quiet, contemplate the fragility of our small blue planet.
What is amazing is that so many in the global community have pulled together for this celebration.