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EARTH HOUR BENEFITS BOTH ENVIRONMENT AND ITS PEOPLE

Earth Hour, the 60 minutes at the end of March each year when the world’s population is encouraged to turn off non-essential lights, has grown from a local event in Sydney, Australia in 2007 to a global initiative with over a billion participants. The benefits of such a movement are far-reaching, from quantifiable reductions in power usage to non-quantifiable changes in perspective, behavior, and policy.

While the organizers of Earth Hour still state that the event is symbolic and therefore do not measure its impact in the amount of carbon or energy saved, many researchers have dedicated time to quantifying power reductions in various cities across the world. A 2014 study that looked at six years of Earth Hours in 10 countries showed that energy consumption decreased an average of 4%. Critics say that the decrease is so close to zero as to have a neutral effect on the environment, especially when one considers other side effects of the power outage such as traffic jams and increased use of candles, both of which cause higher carbon dioxide emissions.

To properly assess the total impact that Earth Hour has on the world’s environment, however, one must look at many factors besides total power usage or carbon consumption. For example, the awareness of the issue of climate change and the idea that one person or one city can benefit the world’s environment does not go away after the 60 minutes are complete. Ideally, Earth Hour results in real behavioral change by people around the globe and support of the notion that the negative impacts of people on the earth can be reversed.

Earth Hour organizers hope that significant policy change can be attained at local, national, and even international levels by increasing the conversation dedicated to climate change impacts. Government participation is already high, with national landmarks and monuments like the Eiffel Tower and Buckingham Palace dimming their lights to mark the event. It stands to reason that Earth Hour generates greater political pressure to enact measures to mitigate the effects of climate change.

Additionally, countless fundraising efforts by celebrities, politicians, and more have resulted in supporting a wide array of projects which benefit environmental causes such as reforestation and coral reef protection. The increased use of digital technology like social media outlets and crowdfunding platforms have also contributed to the success of helping fund on-the-ground environmental projects throughout the world.

HISTORY OF EARTH HOUR

A relatively new addition to the arena of environmental awareness events, Earth Hour has grown from a small platform in Australia in 2007 to a worldwide movement. Over a billion people are estimated to participate in the annual global initiative to turn off non-essential lights for 60 minutes each year.

In 2004, the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) in Australia approached an advertising firm for ideas to increase public awareness of the ill effects of man-made climate change. A strategy was developed over the next few years, and on March 31, 2007 the first Earth Hour took place in Sydney and was dubbed “The Big Flick.”

Inspired by the success of Australia’s event, San Francisco planned a similar movement in October later that year which it called “Lights Out.” The success of the California initiative prompted officials to throw their support behind Australia’s plan to repeat the event in March 2008. From that time, local organizers have focused their efforts on 60 minutes of a pre-designated day in the latter half of March, from 8:30 to 9:30 PM local time.

Earth Hour has a different campaign slogan and focus each year, with examples like “Dark City, Bright Idea” in 2008, “Beyond the Hour” in 2010, and “Change Climate Change” in 2015. The event has grown drastically since 2007, picking up many celebrity endorsements and political allies along the way. Both local and national governments as well as international organizations like UNESCO and FIFA participate.

The level and type of participation around the world varies widely. Individuals are encouraged to turn off unnecessary lights in their homes. Schools may elect to contribute their 60 minutes of decreased power usage on Friday afternoons since Earth Hour is typically held on Saturday. During the actual Earth Hour, YouTube and Google have both changed their logo, stations like Cartoon Network have suspended programming, and even national monuments like the Eiffel Tower were darkened.

In addition to the dimming of lights during the 60 minutes of Earth Hour, numerous fundraising events take place leading up to and during the event. The money raised goes to support on-the-ground environmental projects throughout the world. While some of these raise money at a local level, Earth Hour organizers developed a crowdsourcing platform in 2014 which they called Earth Hour Blue. The money raised in this manner is distributed by developers to environmental projects around the globe.

Earth Hour organizers have no plans to modify the annual event in future years. They continue to have grand ideas for maximizing the movement’s impact on climate change through the hugely successful global initiative.

What is Las Vegas Earth Hour?

Established by the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) in 2007, Earth Hour is a global initiative designed to call attention to the cause of protecting the planet by encouraging communities to turn off their non-essential lights for one hour in March. The effort has grown consistently each year, and now over 150 countries and territories boast active participation in the movement.

Worldwide concern over the planetary impacts of climate change has spawned countless research projects, environmental campaigns, and both governmental and non-governmental participation in efforts to reverse the negative effects that many feel are due solely to human actions. Nowhere is this more obvious than in the debate over energy sources and consumption.

In 2004, the Australian branch of WWF contracted an advertising agency for ways to bring the issue of climate change to the attention of Australian residents. An idea known as “The Big Flick” was developed over time, and the first event took place in Sydney on March 31, 2007. Australians were asked to turn off unnecessary lighting at homes and businesses for one hour in the evening.

The idea spread first to San Francisco later that year, and then other cities and towns began organizing their own such events. The event in Las Vegas was popularized by ‘earth friendly fliers‘ from Axis Tek Printing & Design based in Las Vegas, Nevada. Now the Earth Hour movement has become global, with over a billion individuals reportedly participating in energy-saving actions. Celebrities regularly offer their endorsement of the event, and even some television stations cease programming during the hour.

While Las Vegas, NV Earth Hour organizers stress that the Las Vegas event is merely symbolic, some researchers have cited measurable decreases in energy consumption during the 60 minutes. Critics argue that the decrease is negligible and that its beneficial effects are counteracted by some of the negative impacts of the lack of lights, such as increased fuel consumption due to traffic jams.

The exponential growth of social media in recent years has allowed events like Earth Hour to reach the far corners of the world. In addition, fundraising events surrounding Earth Hour, such as benefit concerts hosted by celebrities, have raised vast sums of money for environmental-impact projects like protecting coral reefs, providing wood-efficient stoves to remote countries, and distributing solar lighting to locations such as India and the Philippines, and Nevada, USA.

Earth Hour’s challenge moving forward is to capitalize on its focal issue’s momentum, raising more awareness of the potential ill effects of climate change. Organizers hope participants are motivated and committed to seeking behavioral and policy changes far beyond one hour in Las Vegas each year.