An hour for our planet, our home
At 8:30 p.m. local time on Saturday 25 March, the iconic Eiffel Tower in Paris, France, one of the world’s most photographed landmarks, went completely dark. So did Big Ben in London, the Sydney Opera House, the Tokyo Tower, the Singapore Flyer, and millions of homes and establishments worldwide. It was WWF’s Earth Hour, and people everywhere were switching off their lights to express solidarity against climate change and take climate action beyond the hour, into our daily lives.
“Whether you are in the Philippines, Peru, or Portugal, climate change matters,” said Sid Das, Executive Director, Earth Hour Global, in a statement. “The record participation in this year’s Earth Hour is a powerful reminder that people, who are on the frontline of climate change, want to be a part of climate action.”
Earth Hour began in Sydney in 2007 as a WWF-led environmental movement. Over the last decade, it has spread globally empowering individuals to be a part of critical climate action as the impacts of climate change accelerate.
The year 2016 was the hottest one on record. In the Coral Triangle, the effects of climate change are particularly ominous, as global warming, ocean acidification, and rising sea levels jeopardize people’s very survival. The reefs in the Coral Triangle have been affected by mass coral bleaching; temperatures in the coastal areas have risen between 0.09 and 0.12 °C per decade over the last 22 years, and are projected to increase by another 1 to 4 °C toward the end of this century.
Climate change will also mean more floods and droughts, as well as cyclones, typhoons, and other potentially catastrophic weather disturbances in the region - unless action is taken. According to the WWF report “The Coral Triangle & Climate Change: Ecosystems, People and Societies at Risk,” coral reefs in this important ecoregion could disappear by 2100, and the livelihoods of some 100 million people will be lost or affected without strong and ambitious climate action today.
Fortunately, the landmark Paris Agreement, ratified four years earlier than expected in November 2016, is proof that more and more countries are taking climate change seriously. But much more needs to be done, which is why movements like Earth Hour, which empower everyone everywhere to be a part of the climate action our planet needs, are more relevant than ever.
As the world’s largest grassroots movement for the environment, Earth Hour shows us what is possible when we unite for a cause. The 2017 edition, which marked the 10th anniversary of the movement, was the biggest to date, involving 187 countries and territories and over 3,000 landmarks, as well as businesses, organisations, and individuals in seven continents. Online, #EarthHour trended worldwide, generating 3.5 billion impressions in the two months leading up to the day and underscoring the role of social media in spreading the word.
Together, millions came together to shine a light on climate action, and as skylines dimmed and timelines shone bright, determination served as a strong, visual reminder that the time to change climate change is now.
Coral Triangle celebrations
In the countries of the Coral Triangle, Earth Hour events were a big success. In Indonesia, in an effort to “Shine A Light on Climate Action” as per the global campaign theme, people went beyond the hour participating in a special #OneMillionActions campaign to reduce the use of plastic.
It is an appropriate response for the country: according to the Garbage and Waste, Hazardous and Toxic Management Directorate of Indonesia’s Ministry of Environment and Forestry, the total amount of garbage produced nationwide could reach 68 million tonnes in 2019, with plastic waste estimated at 9.52 tonnes.
WWF-Indonesia acting CEO Benja Mambai encouraged everyone to “gather reuseable shopping bags in an effort to reduce the use of plastic bags.” In 30 cities, a campaign that will run until March 2018 is inviting the public to donate old T-shirts to be converted into such reusable bags, for distribution in supermarkets and traditional markets. “The public should be urged to move away from plastic consumption into using reusable shopping bags in their daily activities,” said popular singer Nugie, Ambassador of Earth Hour Indonesia.
Other activities around the country included a car-free day in Makassar, candlelight dinners in Bogor, and some traditional dancing in Yogyakarta. Papua also joined the switch-off for the first time.
In the Philippines, the official Earth Hour event was held at SM by the Bay, Mall of Asia Complex on Roxas Boulevard. It began with an Earth Hour Camp starting at 4 pm, led by the WWF-Philippines National Youth Council, and which featured interactive climate adaptation and mitigation booths. One booth exhibited seeds and trees for native tree planting, while another invited visitors to learn and practice CPR as part of disaster preparedness.
During the switch-off at 8:30, attendees pedalled on stationary Bambikes (bamboo bicycles) attached to power generators to light up a globe amidst the darkness, showing how “people power” can take the fight against climate change “Beyond the Hour” through simple everyday actions.
New WWF-Philippines Youth Ambassadors, actors Janine Gutierrez and Andre Paras, were introduced to the public. The WWF-Philippines anthem, Together We Thrive, sung by popular actor Piolo Pascual, was also launched. “We took to heart the role of the youth as the key to further propel the country into a climate-resilient one,” said WWF-Philippines President and CEO Joel Palma.
Night walksIn Malaysia, Penang, a National Finalist for the Earth Hour City Challenge last year, held its third annual Night Walk, supported by state government and local establishments such as co-organizer 1st Avenue Mall. The city has been commended by WWF-Malaysia for its green initiatives, including the construction of a 33-km bicycle lane and the protection of the Ulu Muda forest, an important water catchment.
A 3-km Earth Hour Night Walk was also held from 7 to 10 pm in Petaling Jaya, kicking off at the Starling Mall, which is located in the prime location of Damansara Uptown, and which sits in a 27,500-square foot park.
The Petaling Jaya City Council was declared National Champion in WWF-Malaysia’s Earth Hour City Challenge (EHCC) for a second year in a row. The city has pledged to reduce its carbon emissions by at least 25 per cent by 2020, through practical solutions such as recycling centres, distributing free rubbish bins to residents, and introducing a “smart” bus service in 2015.
WWF-Malaysia’s efforts also extended outside cities and beyond the hour itself, said WWF-Malaysia Executive Director/CEO Dato’ Dr Dionysius Sharma. He noted how this year’s Earth Hour in Malaysia focused on water. “Malaysians need to make positive changes in the way we use and manage water to reduce the pressures on our water resources,” he said in a statement. “Little actions such as taking shorter showers, switching off lights and other electrical appliances when not in use, carpooling to work, using reusable bags for shopping, and refusing unsustainable products wrapped in excessive packaging are all part and parcel of sustainable living and lifestyle.”
Meanwhile, in the Pacific Islands, Fiji joined the movement with a three-hour celebration and night picnic at Sukuna Park in Suva. Cyclists of all ages also converged at the park after a 4.72-km ride to watch performances by renowned musicians such as Tom Mawi and friends.
The Guest of Honor, Fiji’s Climate Change Ambassador and Minister for Agriculture Inia Seruiratu, reminded the audience of Fiji’s active role in fighting climate change; the country was the very first to ratify the Paris Agreement, and is co-hosting the United Nations Oceans Conference in June in New York. “You might ask why a small country like us is doing all this,” he said. “The answer is very simple; the future of Fiji is at stake. The future of our Pacific is at stake. The future of our planet is at stake. So we are taking these responsibilities not only for every Fijian or Pacific Islander, but for all the 7.5 billion people on Earth.”
Minister Seriuratu’s words are testament to how personal climate change is, and how important it is for all of us to be a part of climate solutions, from awareness to engagement through movements like WWF’s Earth Hour.
“Each light turned off or profile picture changed represents an individual who has made the switch from being a passive bystander to someone eager to be a part of the solution,” said Earth Hour Global’s Sid Das, “and that has been the energy that has made Earth Hour the world’s largest grassroots movement for the environment today.”