March 31, 2012

Millions Expected To Go Dark For Saturday Night’s Earth Hour

At 8:30pm on Saturday evening local time, hundreds of millions of individuals, organizations and government officials across the globe will observe Earth Hour, an annual event to raise awareness of and to help combat global climate change, according to the event's official website.

Earth Hour is organized by the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) and is held annually on the last Saturday in March. The event, which was first officially observed by WWF-Australia in 2007, calls on households, businesses, and other groups to turn off all non-essential lights for one hour in order to promote green living and help contribute to the fight against global warming by saving energy.

According to the Earth Hour website, more than 5,200 cities and towns in 135 different nations worldwide switched off their lights during last year's event, "sending a powerful message for action on climate change." Furthermore, they say that Earth Hour 2011 "ushered in a new era with members going Beyond the Hour to commit to lasting action for the planet" and showed that "great things can be achieved when people come together for a common cause."

"Our success in saving the planet depends on our ability to empower individuals to inspire their friends, colleagues, neighbors, and lawmakers to take environmentally sustainable actions now, and into the future," WWF President and CEO Carter Roberts said in a statement earlier this month. "Earth Hour now offers more ways for millions of people to encourage positive action for the environment."

In 2012, the organizers have many different projects planned in association with Earth Hour. There is the People's Postcode Lottery, which allows people to purchase a ticket in order to have a chance to win cash prizes while also funding WWF projects such as distributing solar-powered lights and heating/cooking devices in less privileged areas.

This month, they will also be announcing the national and global winners of the City Challenge, a contest designed to reward municipalities that demonstrate an increase in renewable energy use and sustainable development.

Kids are also being encouraged to get in on the action thanks to the popular Dr. Seuss character (and star of his own 2012 movie) The Lorax, who has committed to painting his moustache green for an entire day if a total of 500 youngsters promise to turn off their lights during Earth Hour 2012.

In order to participate, children are encouraged to have a parent or guardian visit the Earth Hour YouTube Channel and click on the "Accept" button. The YouTube channel also includes several other challenges, as well as giving visitors a chance to create their own "I Will If You Will" ecology-themed dares.

Other groups and individuals set to participate in Earth Hour-related activities include the Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA), the global governing body for football/soccer; the Starwood, Hilton, and Fairmont hotel chains, International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) General Secretary Sharan Burrow; the World Association of the Girl Guides and Girl Scouts (WAGGGS); and 20 National Hockey League (NHL) arenas.

On Friday, Leslie Scrivener, Feature Writer for thestar.com spoke with two environmental activists who had different opinions on how to mark the occasion.
One, Keith Stewart of Greenpeace Canada, said that "these rituals are important for creating a sense of identity and community“¦ They look down the street and see they are with their neighbors who want to do something about climate change“¦ I don´t want to be too Pollyannaish about this but this is an exciting time."

The other, longtime Queen's University environmental science professor Harry McCaughey, said that he would turn off the lights and reflect on the climate change issue, telling Scrivener, "My mind cannot get away from this overwhelming problem we are facing."

The author says that McCaughey believes that the past 12 months of ecological efforts have been "marked by dismal failures: withdrawal from the Kyoto Protocol, inadequate regulation of the Alberta oil sands, sharp cuts to Canada´s internationally respected ozone monitoring network in the North, staff reductions at Environment Canada, and the 'quite astonishing' media control imposed on federal scientists."

Of course, some individuals will not be participating in Earth Hour at all. Quite the opposite, in fact -- according to a March 30 Fox News report, a Washington-based organization known as the Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI) will be countering the 2012 event with an hour-long observation of their own known as Human Achievement Hour (HAH).

"HAH is an annual event meant to recognize and celebrate the fact that this is the greatest time to be alive, and that the reason we have come is that people have been free to use their minds and the resources in their environment to experiment, create, and innovate," the Fox News article says, citing a CEI website dedicated to the Human Achievement Hour event.

"Observers of Earth Hour want world leaders to 'do something' about pollution and energy use," the website continues, according to the News Corp affiliate's report. "What this means is that they want politicians to use legal mandates and punitive taxes to prevent individuals from freely using resources, hindering our ability to create the solutions and technologies of the future."


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