PERTH, Australia –
A revolutionary way of thinking about climate change started Saturday, March 31,
2007 when millions of people did something as simple as shut off their lights.
In a single hour that evening, 2.2 million
people in Sydney, Australia, shut off all lights and unnecessary electrical
appliances in order to take a stand against ridiculously high carbon emissions
in Australia and worldwide.
That hour was affectionately dubbed ‘Earth Hour’
and set into motion a new yearly tradition that effectively breached the gap
between many nations in their fight to rescue a flailing world.
This year, I sat at my computer desk a half hour
after Earth Hour ended. It was 10
p.m. in Perth, Australia, and though the designated time had passed, I was not
pressed by the need to immediately throw myself at the nearest light switch to
cast some light around my darkened house. I was not consumed by thoughts of
drowning my accomplishment in manufactured light when I’d come so far. I’d
already spent one hour in darkness, doing my reading for class the next week by
candlelight, so why ruin it by falling back into the normal pattern of lights,
The truth, was, of course, that I felt rather
guilty. Is it really that difficult
for people to switch off their lights for an hour a night? For
even 15 minutes?
And I don’t just mean on the glorious annual
occasion of ‘Earth Hour.’
I mean any night, every night, or whenever a
person simply realizes that the light in the study doesn’t actually need to be
on at that moment.
So with this thought swimming in my mind I did
what any other young person (or in my specific case, an aspiring writer) in the
21st century would do: I made my way through the darkness, switched on my
computer, and sat down to hash it all out using my computer screen as my mental
In 2007, the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) of
Australia in conjunction with The
Sydney Morning Herald conceived
an idea that would potentially alter Australia’s carbon emissions. The result
was a massive number of Sydney residents and businesses turning off lights and
electrical appliances and making a significant cut in energy use in a single
The magnitude of the impact caused other nations
to take notice of the people of Sydney who sent a resounding message that it was
about time we took notice of the state of the world we’ve made and contributed
what we could to fixing the troubles it faces.
Thankfully, many did sit up and paid attention
to Sydney’s example, and ‘Earth Hour’ was born.
Now, every year on the last Saturday of March,
each individual becomes a global citizen for an hour, switching off their lights
and casting the ultimate vote in the election between protecting our earth from
climate change or a world with an uncertain future.
The 2008 ‘Earth Hour’ was a roaring success,
with millions of people in countries all over the world taking part. Numerous
global landmarks, including San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge, the Sydney Opera
House and Rome’s Coliseum, participated by standing in all their magnitude in
This year the target was one billion votes for a
better earth - one billion voices renouncing climate change’s grip on our
future. This year’s ‘global petition’ will be formally presented to world
leaders at the Global Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen. The conference,
due to begin in December this year, will determine new policies against climate
change, replacing the existing Kyoto Protocol.
I desperately hope that this year’s Earth Hour
target of a billion votes was not only reached but blown out of the water.
Judging from the view from my bedroom window
that night, almost an hour after ‘Earth Hour’ finished, I’d say many people were
making sure their vote would be counted.
Earth Hour. Mark it in your calendar on the last
Saturday in March every year, from 8:30 to 9:30 p.m.