What is Earth Hour?
Earth Hour began in Sydney, Australia, in 2007 by the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) and brings collective awareness and action for positive environmental change. Climate change is an ongoing global crisis, so there is a continual need to support positive climate action.
Earth Hour is an annual event where citizens worldwide turn off electricity for one hour near the end of March. This means switching off non-essential lights. Additionally, you can turn off other unused electricity such as a plugged-in phone charger or Xbox machine normally left on standby mode. The 2021 theme is to #switchfornature, promoting the use of renewable energy. The act of turning off lights is symbolic of the greater issue of climate change, and the Earth Hour website provides education on more actions citizens can take to support a healthy planet.
Fossil Fuel Versus Renewable Energy
Fossil fuels are widely used to generate the power that we use. One benefit of Earth Hour is the promotion of renewable energies, such as wind and solar. These are environmentally friendly sources of electrical power generation. In fact, wind and solar installation is now becoming cheaper than coal plants, yielding further investments from private companies as it gains popularity.
Whereas, burning fossil fuels like coal is a significant contributor to greenhouse gas emissions, which impacts climate change. Some impacts of climate change include extreme weather events like floods or bushfires, sea rise and agriculture impacts (such as reducing nutrients in food crops). As well, air pollution and the effects of climate change directly impact human health, including the risk of heatstroke, malnutrition, asthma and potential long-term effects like the development of lung cancer. Globally, outdoor air pollution impacts older population groups the most, who are more at risk of premature deaths from pollution. For example, in 2019, In 2019, China emitted the most carbon dioxide, and lung cancer has become the leading cause of cancer mortality in China. It is suggested that air pollution and lung cancer is related.
Some Earth Hour Successes
Every year within participating countries, individuals and companies get behind the movement, as well as noticeable landmarks that switch their lights off.
The WWF, through Earth Hour, has achieved many great feats aside from the visible darkness in cities, and a few of these are listed below.
- In 2012, a petition by WWF-Russia led to the protection fo their seas. Mobilised by the Earth Hour movement, this was the first real law due to the people’s power.
- Also in 2012, Sydney, Australia, commits to LED lights in public spaces
- The first available Earth Hour report is from 2014, where it is acknowledged that 162 countries participated.
- 2014 was the first year that crowdfunding was introduced as part of the Earth Hour movement. For example, the WWF-Singapore raised over USD 21,000 to reduce wildlife crimes in South-East Asia. Earth Hour leveraged its reach to positively impact the environment in more ways than simply turning lights off.
- Furthermore, a 2014 Earth Hour campaign saw the Galapagos Islands ban plastic bags and packaging, the first of its kind in Ecuador.
- 2015’s Earth Hour saw Shanghai set up solar trees for public phone charging using renewable energy.
- In 2016, a Spanish renewable energy campaign involved 50,000 people urging their government to phase out fossil fuels, demonstrating the people’s climate interests.
- 2020 was a challenging year due to the effects of the pandemic. However, Earth Hour persisted with record-breaking numbers, with 190 countries taking part in the movement, with events being held virtually.
2020 saw the resilience of the people coming together to continue the fight for climate action, acknowledging the positive human health benefits from a clean and strong environment.
The coronavirus impacted people’s behaviours and lifestyles greatly. In many countries, people began working from home for extended periods of time, cutting down on car emissions. Similarly, the rate of aeroplanes flying dramatically decreased. These small changes saw big improvements, particularly in air quality. Although temporary, it is clear that human actions can make a real difference in the world, good or bad.
Although, the annual event has been met with some criticisms focusing solely on the act of turning lights off. For example, lighting a regular candle in lieu of lightbulbs still emits CO2 into the atmosphere. Furthermore, 60 minutes of some lights off does not cause a dramatic positive change. Yet, the 60 minutes of lights off during Earth Hour is rather symbolic of the support people have the environment. The WWF uses Earth Hour to implement and promote campaigns, garner awareness of climate change, and educate and bring together communities to support the overarching cause.
As the climate crisis continues, Earth Hour continues to be an important event that, after the climate benefits seen in 2020, should see a refreshed motivation by citizens throughout the world to take part and continue the fight against climate change. One individual cannot make a difference alone. However, individuals coming together from around the world can represent strong climate and sustainability support. Therefore, in the face of a highly politicised climate realm, Earth Hour continues to stand for what is important. Earth Hour, combined with other climate actions and activities worldwide, helps to form consistent attitudes and action regarding sustainability for the health of humans and the planet.
What Can You Do?
- Research the next Earth Hour date and jot it down in a calendar or on your phone
- Explore the earthhour.org website for campaigns and petitions that you may want to get behind
- Organise for your family or a group of friends to get together for the night of Earth Hour to stare up at the stars, play board games, and exchange climate change thoughts and tips
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Cao, M., Li, H., Sun, D., & Chen, W. (2020). Cancer burden of major cancers in China: A need for sustainable actions. Cancer Communications(London, England),40(5), 205–210. https://doi.org/10.1002/cac2.12025
Earth Hour. (n.d.). Choose your climate future. https://www.earthhour.org.au/Discover/climatefuture
Ritchie, H. (2019). Outdoor air pollution. Our World In Data. Retrieved February 8, 2021, from https://ourworldindata.org/outdoor-air-pollution
Ritchie, H., & Roser, M. (2017). CO₂ and greenhouse gas emissions[Data set]. Retrieved February 15, 2021, from https://ourworldindata.org/co2/country/china?country=~CHN#citation
WWF. (n.d.). What are climate change and global warming https://www.wwf.org.uk/climate-change-and-global-warming
WWF. (2014). Earth Hour 2014 report. https://cdn2.hubspot.net/hubfs/4783129/Earth%20Hour%202014%20Report.pdf
WWF. (2020). Earth Hour 2020 report. https://cdn2.hubspot.net/hubfs/4783129/Earth%20Hour%202020%20Report.pdf