Earth Hour: Community Action Key

March 13, 2016 Updated: March 13, 2016

SYDNEY—Earth Hour, conceived in Sydney in 2007 as a one-off community event, is now a global phenomena. On March 19 this year, over 172 countries and 7000 cities will participate in the lights out event according to Samantha Webb, manager for Earth Hour Australia.

” What started as a one-city, one-year campaign grew into the world’s largest mass participation event for the planet,” she said in an email.

Over 10,000 iconic landmarks will be involved in Earth Hour this year, including the Eiffel Tower in Paris, London’s Big Ben and Buckingham Palace, New York’s Time Square and in Japan, the Tokyo Tower. Even the lights on the Great Pyramids of Giza will be dimmed!

Despite its scale, Ms. Webb says Earth Hour has stayed true to its roots and remains a largely grassroots, event.

“Earth Hour is something that brings communities together to demonstrate their support for action to tackle climate change,” she said.

Places We Love

People enjoying the beach in Manly, New South Wales. (Diana Scalfat/WWF-Aus)
People enjoying the beach in Manly, New South Wales.
(Diana Scalfat/WWF-Aus)

Founded by the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) in Australia, Earth Hour focuses each year on different facets of climate change and its impact on communities. Last year the focus in Australia was on food producers and farmers, and the difficulties they face in dealing with climate change.

This year it is the threat to ‘Places We Love’, Australia’s iconic landscapes—beaches, reefs, rivers, mountains and forests.

“WWF-Australia has a very keen focus on safeguarding natural icons such as the Great Barrier Reef, so the ‘Places We Love’ theme tied in well with the organisation’s work in this area,” Ms. Webb said.

In a review of climate change data, released to launch Earth Hour 2016:
The WFF says that high temperatures, rising sea levels and extreme weather conditions are already threatening Australia’s unique landscapes.

“Climate change is not a distant phenomenon but is already affecting species and places we love across Australia,” said Professor Lesley Hughes in a press release accompanying the launch.

Professor of Biology at Macquarie University, Professor Hughes is a member of Australia’s independent Climate Council and a specialist in the impacts of climate change on species and ecosystems.

Community Mobilisation

Earth Hour goes beyond the hour in very big ways.
— Samantha Webb, Earth Hour National Manager

Ms. Webb says the power of communities to effect change cannot be underestimated. She noted the influence of Earth Hour advocacy groups in other campaigns. In Brazil, for example, community based advocacy helped to ensure protections for its natural water sources and, in Russia, groups combined to achieve a 10 year moratorium on drilling in the Arctic.

“Earth Hour goes beyond the hour in very big ways,” she said.

According to Ms. Webb, an estimated one in 3 Australians participated in Earth Hour in 2014, either as part of a Friday March 18 school’s programme or in a Saturday night gathering.

With international momentum on climate change building, she is expecting a big turn out for Earth Hour this year.

“Following both the Paris climate talks and The People’s Climate March in November 2015 which saw hundreds of thousands of people voice their support for action on climate change, Earth Hour is the next major step in the global movement towards a better, safer and fairer future,” she said.

Earth Hour 2016 takes place on Saturday March 19, 8.30pm – 9.30pm local time.