For an hour on Saturday, millions of people switched off lights in order to protest against climate change and promote energy-saving, plunging major cities and global landmarks into darkness. (photo, from aljazeera.net)
This symbolic one-hour switch-off has become an annual global event and organisers World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) said they expect this year’s to be the biggest so far.
The iconic Habour Bridge and Opera House in Sydney, Australia’s largest city, where among the first landmarks to switch off their lights.
The WWF-run event officially began in New Zealand, when Chatham Islands was the first of more than 100 nations and territories to turn off the power, in a rolling event around the globe that ends just across the International Dateline in Samoa 24 hours later.
4,000 cities in a record 125 countries supported the energy-saving event. It included 1,200 landmarks from the Forbidden City in China, to Egypt’s pyramids and the Las Vegas Strip.
‘Diverse set of countries taking part’
“From Brazil to America, to Canada, all the way down to Australia, Japan and India – it’s a really diverse set of countries taking part this year,” said Andy Ridley, the Earth Hour executive director.
After disappointing UN talks in Copenhagen in December, the aim of the rolling wave of darkness was to boost the environmental movement.
Several cities in China, which is the world’s biggest carbon polluter, participated to the event : Beijing’s Forbidden City and Bird’s Nest Stadium were among switched the lights off, along with other cities in the country, which also appointed giant panda Mei Lan its Earth Hour “ambassador”.
Hong Kong’s neon waterfront dimmed, as did office buildings in Jakarta, Seoul and Tokyo.
In Hiroshima, Japan, 30 sites turned off the lights, including the Peace Memorial, set in one of the few buildings to survive an atom bomb attack during World War II.
More than 100 students arranged candles to spell out “Peace and Eco”, on the ground near the dome.
In Jakarta, about 300 participants gathered in order to light hundreds of candles and lanterns set out in the shape of the number 60 – representing the 60 minutes of Earth Hour.
In Delhi and Mumbai, lights were switched off at shops, hotels, the Rashtrapati Bhavan presidential residence, the 17th-century Red Fort and the Swaminarayan Akshardham temple complex, one of India’s largest Hindu places of worship.
A rock concert took place at New Delhi’s India Gate to highlight the environmental cause and Bollywood celebrities joined the calls for action.
‘Responsible citizens of this planet’
Last December, the climate summit that lasted two weeks failed to produce a binding commitment to limit global warming or even set out concrete plans for doing so, which was a setback for the environmental movement.
“As responsible citizens of this planet, it’s extremely crucial for us to address the colossal problem of climate change through ensuring responsible action,” said Abhishek Bachchan, a Bollywood star.
India is expected to be among the countries hit hardest by rising temperatures and changes in rainfall patterns. Experts are warning that such problems could affect food security and displace communities.
In Europe, London’s Big Ben and Manchester United’s Old Trafford football ground took part in the event, along with Paris’s Notre Dame cathedral and the Trevi Fountain in Rome.
Some 30 states in America where on board, with Mount Rushmore, San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge and Chicago’s 110-storey Sears Tower all due to go dark.
But for security reasons, city authorities were ordered to halt their Earth Hour campaign in Bangkok, as anti-government protesters held a major rally.
The first Earth Hour was held in Sydney in 2007, by green campaigners keen to cut energy use. It now enjoys widespread support both from the public and big business, like Google, Coca-Cola and fast-food giant McDonald’s.
This year, even users of ubiquitous Twitter and Facebook could show their support with special applications that turned their displays dark.