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 Design One Printing 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 Earth Hour organizers stress that the 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.
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 each year.