Earth Hour: Changing the World in 60 Minutes - Earth Week


Young NTUC members participating in Earth Hour in Wisma Atria, Singapore. Photo by the NTUC.

There are plenty of ways to raise awareness and take part in helping the environment. Many people do their share by recycling goods, purchasing vehicles that produce less gas emissions, taking public transportation, buying less wasteful products, and so on. All of these acts do their part in creating a planet that will continue to sustain life for future generations on a micro level (as recycling only involves one person). In 2007, Sydney, Australia and the World Wildlife Federation decided to up the ante on environmental activism when they created Earth Hour.

In the years before Earth Hour, Australia’s temperatures had risen to levels that were never before recorded in its history. The effects of global warming had hit the land from down under hard and its residents came to an understanding that things needed to change if they were going to continue to live on a healthy planet. Amid the scorching heat, the Sydney-based WWF created Earth Hour, an event asking the residents of the city to turn off all non-essential lights for one hour during the last Saturday of March. The act would not only symbolize our overabundant use of goods that create toxic emissions, it would also help out the planet’s environment for 3,600 seconds.

The response was overwhelming. Over 2 million Sydneysiders took part in shutting off all of their lights while the rest of the world watched in awe. Sydney Lord Mayor Clover Moore had hoped for a 5 percent reduction in the city’s energy usage but was shocked when the actual reduction was more than 10 percent, which he said was the equivalent of taking 48,000 cars out of the downtown Sidney area.

In 2007, Sydney proved the success of Earth Hour and the next year 29 other cities, which included 50 million participants, went dark for 60 minutes. Bangkok, Thailand was one of the participants. After their hour was over, they had reduced power output by 73.34 megawatts, which is the equivalent of 41.6 tonnes of carbon dioxide.

Bangkok was not the only city to see this level of drastic results. Other metropolises, such as Manila, Toronto, and Dubai also saw the impact of shutting off their lights, saving tonnes of greenhouse gases from being released into the atmosphere.

The followers of Earth Hour have grown exponentially every year since 2007 and participants have created activities that support the environment all year long. In Kuwait, a group of students that were inspired by Sydney got together to bring the program to their country. Living in an oil-enriched nation, they believed in the importance of bringing the effects of this natural resource to the attention of the people around them. They successfully ran Earth Hour in 2009, but continued to play an active role in educating people on the environment and organizing activities such as beach clean-ups.

Another year-round event occurred on Earth Hour in 2011.  Nepal vowed to plant 108,000 seedlings throughout the year in the Garden of Lumbini, the birthplace of Buddha. Countless people in the area took part in planting the trees, which enabled the goal to be accomplished in half the time.

The WWF also took part in extending Earth Hour to play a role in the rest of the 8,766 hours in the year. After the lights went out on March 31st, 2012, the WWF asked people to continue their role in conservation with the introduction of the I Will If You Will (IWIYW) campaign. This included a dedicated YouTube channel with environmentally themed challenges created by musicians, celebrities, or average citizens. One such challenge was created by YouTube user, Shannon Scott, who is asking for 1,000 people to cut down their meat intake by 50 percent. The video includes an “accept” button, and if 1,000 people agree to this challenge, Scott will shave a WWF panda into her head.

Each year, more and more cities throughout the world agree to turn off their lights for one hour at the end of March. The growth of a small idea in Australia may turn into a global blackout sometime in the near future. In the meantime, check out how you can participate year-round in helping our planet continue to be a sustainable place to live by accepting the IWIYW challenges. After all, Earth Hour is only 60 minutes out of the entire year, and who doesn’t want to see somebody shave a panda into their head?