Earth Hour great success - Millions turn off lights, while one village turns them on.

Posted on 31 March 2008
Toronto centre, before and during earth hour
© WWF Canada

Millions globally signalled a new awareness of climate change by turning off their lights for an hour last Saturday night. World landmarks – the Sydney Opera House, San Francisco's Golden Gate Bridge, Rome's Colosseum and Bangkok's Wat Arun Rajawarahrahm Pagoda disappeared into the night sky.

People liberated from television screens and other electronic distractions congregated in parks, at community festivities or often, simply appreciated a more star-spangled sky. At a host of Earth Hour concerts, like the one featuring Nelly Furtado in Toronto, it was the acoustic, not the electric, guitar taking centre stage.

Officially, 26 major cities on six continents participated with major municipal and community initiatives in WWF's Earth Hour, with energy savings and avoided emissions still being toted up. Some 370 cities and towns signed up to support the event, but around the world millions of others informally voted with their switch fingers for more concerted action on climate change.

One community, however, did it differently. Visoqo Village in Fiji celebrated Earth Hour by turning their light switches on . . . for the first time. In the previous week, residents had busied themselves unpacking solar panels and installing them to provide the village's first and wholly renewable energy based electricity supply.

Supplying electricity to Visoqo is a pilot project in finding sustainable development solutions for some of the poorest areas in Macuata Province on Vanua Levu, Fiji's second largest island. Much of the initiative and support for the project comes from the Macuata Soqosoqo ni Vakamarama (Macuata Women’s Association)

"We are not a fossil fuel producing nation," said Sereana Cokanasiga, fundraiser for the association . "The burden of keeping up with fuel costs is usually expressed unfortunately in unsustainable natural resource exploitation, a contributing factor to poverty.

”What the Macuata Soqosoqo ni Vakamarama is trying to emphasize is that we need to encourage and invest more in renewable energy, it is non polluting and is far more beneficial to rural communities in the long run.”

“We also thought that the launch of the solar project in Visoqo this week should tie in to Earth Hour as part of our small contribution to the global effort for Climate Change Awareness. An effective way to reduce carbon emissions is to promote renewable energy, which is essentially what this project is about and what our association supports.”

WWF launched Earth Hour in one city – Sydney, Australia – in 2007.  The city really got behind it.  This year Sydneysiders again got behind Earth Hour, but this time they had company.  An awful lot of company. 

"Earth Hour is WWF’s global event started to encourage businesses, communities and individuals to take the simple steps needed to cut their emissions on an ongoing basis," said Andy Ridley, the man who came up with the idea and now the International Director of WWF’s Earth Hour.

"It is about simple changes that will collectively make a difference – from businesses turning off their lights when their offices are empty, to households turning off appliances rather than leaving them on standby.

"By Earth Hour 2009, on March 28 we expect more people will have incorporated simple energy efficient solutions into their homes and workplace. It’s important we keep the momentum going for a greener and sustainable future." 


Toronto centre, before and during earth hour
© WWF Canada Enlarge
Visoqo community preparing solar panels for their Earth Hour renewable energy lighting switch-on
© WWF Fiji Enlarge
Bangkok's Wat Arun Rajawarahrahm Pagoda switches off for Earth Hour
© WWF Thailand Enlarge