Millions turn off for climate action this Earth Hour
From 8:30pm-9:30pm on 19 March, millions of people around the world turned off their lights and joined WWF’s Earth Hour, the world’s largest grassroots movement for climate action.
Spreading from Samoa to Santiago, millions came together to shine a light on the climate action our planet needs with over 400 iconic landmarks switching off in solidarity with global efforts to #ChangeClimateChange.
Taking place months after the historic COP21 climate summit in Paris, the message was clear: Everyone has a part to play in mitigating the effects of climate change.
Speaking during the Earth Hour event at Cape Town’s V&A Waterfront, WWF South Africa CEO Morné du Plessis remarked that, “In South Africa we understand that awareness leads to action and that action leads to change. WWF has, over the years, seen an encouraging and dramatic increase in business and civil society wanting to take part in Earth Hour, wanting to play their part and make a difference”.
Before going dark, Cape Town Mayor Patricia de Lille and Western Cape Premier Helen Zille reaffirmed the commitment to climate action with the announcement of new initiatives to reduce the dependence on Eskom and switch to renewables.
Tshwane Mayor Kgosientso Ramokgopa in turn highlighted his city’s A Re Yeng bus system and the development of material recovery facilities to close several toxic landfills at the Tshwane event. Tshwane was last year crowned South Africa's Earth Hour Capital 2015 in recognition of the city's green initiatives.
It’s all about you
Leading up to Earth Hour, South Africans pledged their online commitment to climate action through everyday actions like greening their diets, saving energy, becoming water-wise and reducing their waste. These individual actions translate into real change for the environment.
The main purpose of this year’s campaign was to engage the public on some of the globe’s most critical climate conversations and solutions.
To date, Earth Hour has been the force behind more than 1.23 million individual actions including participating in on-the-ground activities for reforestation and recycling, digital petitions for climate-friendly policy and online campaigns to promote climate awareness and action.
As part of the “Donate Your Social Power” campaign, supporters around the world also donated their social feeds to WWF and Earth Hour. With automated posts and custom Earth Hour profile pictures appearing in personal newsfeeds worldwide, supporters helped spread awareness and action on climate across a potential social reach surpassing 18.7 million people.
“Our real challenge is to go beyond the hour and to switch over to more sustainable ways of living and doing business,” Du Plessis explained. This sentiment was echoed by WWF-SA’s Louise Naudé in Tshwane.
In South Africa, people heeded the call to celebrate the hour by hosting their own events while hundreds showed up at the V&A Waterfront in Cape Town and Bank Towers in Tshwane.
As buildings in Singapore’s central business district turned off their lights, people at the WWF-Singapore event came forward to ‘plant a forest’ in Sumatra, Indonesia which lost 2 million hectares of forest to burning between September and October 2015.
Across the globe, in the World Heritage Site of the Galápagos Islands, where Earth Hour has previously helped achieve a ban on disposable plastic bags and expanded polystyrene packaging, the WWF-Ecuador team centred its Earth Hour event on the theme of locally-grown produce. As an island, access to food is a key issue for the Galápagos Islands and WWF-Ecuador is also partnering with restaurants and the hospitality sector in mainland Ecuador to create awareness on sustainable food.
In Tanzania, as the world switched off, WWF-Tanzania’s Earth Hour campaign brought people together to install a solar-powered water pump to serve a primary school and local dispensary in the Temeke Municipality.
While the symbolic event may have passed, its message will echo throughout the year as we work together to empower South Africans to see the potential of environmental protection that so closely links to social problems like unemployment, economic and youth development until next year’s campaign when we will reflect on the gains made.
Earth Hour is truly about creating a world in which people live in harmony with nature.