Earth Hour gets under way in Australia, Pacific islands

Sydney’s iconic Harbour Bridge and Opera House temporarily went dark on Saturday as nations across the western Pacific turned out the lights for Earth Hour 2010 to call for action on climate change.

The symbolic one-hour switch-off, first held in Sydney in 2007, has become an annual global event and organisers World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) said they expect this year’s to be the biggest to date.

The remote Chatham Islands was the first of more than 100 nations and territories to turn off the power at 8.30pm local time, in a rolling event around the globe that ends just across the International Dateline in Samoa 24 hours later.

Event co-founder Andy Ridley told Reuters that 126 countries and territories had so far signed up, with thousands of special events scheduled, including a lights-out party on Sydney’s northern beaches and an Earth Hour “speed dating” contest.

From a boat on Sydney harbour, one witness said the city was already in darkness hours before the event, low clouds and a near full-moon adding an eerie feeling to the nation’s largest city.


In the Chatham Islands, diesel generators that supply power locally were switched off. Other early participants included New Zealand, Fiji and Tuvalu, where driving was halted temporarily.

The number of participants is significantly up on 2009, when 88 countries and territories and more than 4 000 towns and cities took part. Organisers have estimated between 500-million and 700-million people were involved last year.

‘Frustration’
Ridley said he believed the perceived failure of last year’s Copenhagen conference on climate change had stimulated interest this time.

“There is real frustration with the politics around climate change,” Ridley, WWF’s executive director of Earth Hour, told Reuters.

Business had shown strong support, he said, including the world’s major hotel chains, which he said are responsible for a significant chunk of global emissions.

Organisers say they do not actively monitor the amount of energy saved as it is insignificant in terms of what the world needs, and the event is purely symbolic anyway.

“What it does, I hope it gives you an hour to think about what you can do and what can be done,” Ridley said.

World icons taking part for the first time this year include the presidential Blue House in South Korea and the Forbidden City in Beijing.

In Hiroshima, Japan, the city’s peace memorial will go dark, as will the pyramids and the Sphinx in Egypt.

‘Green tokenism’
All the bridges over the Seine in Paris will go dark as will the Eiffel Tower and the Arc de Triomphe. So will the London Eye, Buckingham Palace and London’s Tower Bridge. In the United States, more than 30 of the 50 state governors have lent their support.

Some, though, criticised the event.

“To hold a candles-and-champagne party indoors, on the mildest night of the year, for just one hour, shows that the whole thing is green tokenism. Moreover, both candles and champagne emit carbon dioxide,” said Viv Forbes, chairperson of climate change sceptic group the Carbon Sense Coalition. – Reuters

Subscribe to the M&G

These are unprecedented times, and the role of media to tell and record the story of South Africa as it develops is more important than ever.

The Mail & Guardian is a proud news publisher with roots stretching back 35 years, and we’ve survived right from day one thanks to the support of readers who value fiercely independent journalism that is beholden to no-one. To help us continue for another 35 future years with the same proud values, please consider taking out a subscription.

Related stories

Australian journalists flee China fearing arrest

Their dramatic overnight exit came following days of secret wrangling that had seen both men holed up in Australia's diplomatic missions to escape the clutches of China's feared security police

Facebook threatens ban on Australians sharing news in battle over media law

Australians would be stopped from posting local and international articles on Facebook and Instagram, the company said, claiming the move was "not our first choice" but the "only way to protect against an outcome that defies logic".

Empire and environmentalism: The legacy of a brilliant maverick, Richard Grove

The prolific interdisciplinary scholar who worked on the periphery and challenged Eurocentrism also drew attention to the El Niño phenomenon and global warming concerns in Victorian times

Invest in children to give them a better world

This entails putting them at the centre of national strategies, but doing it without high CO2 releases

Australia to force Google, Facebook to pay for news content

Australia's new regulations will also cover the sharing of data, and the ranking and display of news content, to be enforced by binding dispute resolution mechanisms and penalties

Olympics halt good for everyone

They took time, but the International Olympic Committee have finally done the responsible thing and postponed Tokyo 2020
Advertising

Subscribers only

Toxic power struggle hits public works

With infighting and allegations of corruption and poor planning, the department’s top management looks like a scene from ‘Survivor’

Free State branches gun for Ace

Parts of the provincial ANC will target their former premier, Magashule, and the Free State PEC in a rolling mass action campaign

More top stories

Vitamin therapy is for drips

It may be marketed by influencers, but intravenous vitamin therapy is not necessary and probably not worth the hype, experts say

Facebook, Instagram indiscriminately flag #EndSars posts as fake news

Fact-checking is appropriate but the platforms’ scattershot approach has resulted in genuine information and messages about Nigerians’ protest against police brutality being silenced

Murder of anti-mining activist emboldens KZN community

Mam’Ntshangase was described as a fierce critic of mining and ambassador for land rights.

Unite with Nigeria’s ‘Speak Up’ generation protesting against police brutality

Photos of citizens draped in the bloodied flag have spread around the world in the month the country should be celebrating 60 years of independence
Advertising

press releases

Loading latest Press Releases…

The best local and international journalism

handpicked and in your inbox every weekday