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Earth Hour success shows world ready to go Beyond the Hour

Posted on 27 March 2011

As the lights come back on in the Cook Islands, the 134th country to celebrate Earth Hour 2011 – a record breaking year for the annual lights-out event – the global community has shown it is united in commitment to a sustainable future. 
As the lights come back on in the Cook Islands, the 134th country to celebrate Earth Hour 2011 – a record breaking year for the annual lights-out event – the global community has shown it is united in commitment to a sustainable future.

Around the world, Earth Hour was embraced by the global community, transcending race, culture, age and economics as individuals took leadership in their communities in the pursuit of a cleaner and safer planet.

In 2011, Earth Hour asked the hundreds of millions of people taking part in the one hour switch-off to take the next step and go beyond the hour, using Earth Hour to commit to ongoing action for the planet.

“The Beyond the Hour call to action has been unanimously answered by people worldwide,” said Andy Ridley, Co-Founder and Executive Director of Earth Hour. “From school children in Singapore, to Heads of State from the UK, to Australia, Pakistan and Colombia, people have shown that Earth Hour has evolved beyond lights-out.

“This year’s event has illustrated without question what can be achieved when people unite with a common purpose and rally to action.”  

Earth Hour 2011 gathered steam crossing Atlantic
As Earth Hour progressed towards the conclusion of the 2011 lights off event across the planet the Americas celebrated the arrival of the global movement with a plethora of lights-off events across the region. Brazil continued the stronger showing for Earth Hour in emerging economies, as the wildly successful call for action on the environment continued to roll around the globe.

Hundreds of millions in thousands of cities, towns and communities in a record 134 countries were expected to have participated by the time the lights out and pledge action beyond the hour completes its passage from New Zealand on one side of the International Date Line to the former New Zealand dependency of the Cook Islands on the other.

Brazil set its own record with 124 cities taking part this year compared to the still creditable 98 of 2010. This included around 2/3 of the state capitals and coverage across all 5 Brazilian regions. More cities and towns are likely to reveal Earth Hour activities in the coming days.

A huge and emotional event involving more than 3,000 was held in Rio, in front of Arcos da Lapa, a colonial era aqueduct which faded into darkness for the event for the first time.  Popular Brazilian singer Toni Garrido warmed up the crowd for addresses from Brazil Environmental Minister, Izabella Teixeira, and Rio de Janeiro Mayor, Eduardo Paes.

The leading landmark to fade into the night sky was Rio’s Christ the Redeemer statue, but it was accompanied by more than 300 others including the Copacabana Beach it looks down on, the National Congress (Brasilia), Estaida Bridge (São Paulo) and the Amazon Opera House (Manaus). Generous corporate support from Banco do Brasil, Coca-Cola, TIM, HSBC and Rossi supported the events.  

In Juazeiro do Norte in north eastern Seará state, the leading attraction to go dark was the 27m statue of Padre (Father) Cicero, built in 1969 and the central focus of what is considered a major pilgrimage centre and grassroots religious centre.  

Celebrations in Mato Gross do Sul, home to the Pantonal wetlands, kicked off in the state capital, Campo Grande.  In the Praça (plaza) do Rádio a countdown led by the city mayor, Nelson Trad Filho marked Campo Grande’s third participation in Earth Hour.  Capoeira circles, a samba school and a local band accompanied the switching off of various icons including the historical building Morada dos Baís. Companies also took their own initiative in switching off.

Special symbolism celebrated as Chico Mendes house goes dark
For the third year in a row, the Amazonas Theatre, one of the biggest icons of the city of Manaus, State of Amazonas, switched off its lights for an hour, as did many other "manauaras", symbols like the Praça da Saudade, the Amazonas Shopping and the State Prosecutor building. In the centre of the capital, artists recited poetry and short stories, and performed musical pieces. According to Michelle Andrews, the objective was to revive old Amazonian ways. "Like small talk on door steps, an exchange of ideas under candle light on a sidewalk," she said.

Capital Rio Branco and the towns of Xapuri, Santa Rosa do Purus and Sena Madureira in environmentally conscious Acre State took part officially in the Earth Hour movement. In Rio Branco, the state government palace had the lights turned off for one hour.

"It is not a matter of saving energy, but thinking about what we have been doing to the world", said state secretary for the Environment, Edgard de Deus, saying Acre's participation in Earth Hour shows a concern of the local society about conservation and environmental issues.

Celebrations in Xapuri including turning out the lights of the house where rubber tapper, environmentalist and union leader Chico Mendes was assassinated in 1988 for fighting deforestation. His life may have been extinguished but his example inspired a generation who have had a gradual but profound impact on deforestation levels and human rights across Brazil.

Elenira Mendes, daughter of Chico Mendes, was pleased that her father was honoured as part of the global lights-out event. "It's a unique symbolism, of great importance. My father, who has shown to the world the Amazon and the importance of the forest, would be very happy to know that our house has been part of this worldwide movement,” she said.

So succesful were the efforts of Brazil, that the Twitter hashtag #horadoplaneta (Portugese for Earth Hour) began "trending" globally during that time.

Girl Scouts lead US by example
Girl Scouts across the United States of America - from Louisiana to Missouri to Utah and Indiana - led the action for Earth Hour. In Los Angeles, local troops gathered for a candlelit vigil while 500 Colorado Girl Scouts created a giant glowing ‘GS’ on the steps of the State Capital Building in Denver.

Also from LA, Earth Hour Ambassador Verne Troyer pledged to go beyond the hour and replace all his light bulbs with energy efficient bulbs, and said, “Earth Hour brings attention to the need for environmental action. I believe that each one of us has the power to do more, especially in areas such as the conservation of our planet’s finite resources. I will go beyond the hour this year by replacing all the light bulbs in my home with energy efficient lighting. Make your footprint on this planet as small as mine.”

All 96 UN buildings in New York including its main headquarters flicked off for the occasion. Simultaneously, the lights of Broadway theatres dimmed their marquees and roof signs in honour of Earth Hour. Iconic sites including the Empire State Building and numerous buildings in Times Square also rose to the occasion by switching off.

US-based Australian model Miranda Kerr, who earlier this year signed up as a global ambassador for Earth Hour went further and committed to an action in keeping with the event’s ‘beyond the hour’ message, “This year I will be going beyond the hour by continuing to recycle and by buying organic produce from local farmers markets thereby cutting down on the pesticides and insecticides used on our planet and reducing food miles,” Kerr said.

Myspace has allowed Earth Hour ambassador Miranda Kerr to ‘Hijack’ the site for the three days in the lead-up to Earth Hour. Kerr is curating content on the Myspace homepage, including several playlists featuring past and present Earth Hour ambassadors and supporters Temper Trap, Tom Jones, Nelly Furtado, Alanis Morissette and Coldplay.

One of the biggest transitions from light to shadow occurred again along the Las Vegas strip - the scene for some of the world’s brightest stars over the years, with many hotels committing themselves to go beyond the hour by committing to everyday action for the planet.  World famous Caesar’s, turned off its lights not only in Las Vegas, but in 40 of its worldwide locations, in addition to its ongoing sustainable business practices and environmental programs through CodeGreen, a comprehensive environmental strategy that focuses on critical issues of energy, waste, water and carbon management throughout the company's casino resorts.

"Caesars' leadership in the gaming industry and its steadfast commitment to environmental sustainability and stewardship are reflected in our resorts' continued participation in Earth Hour," said Gary Loveman, chairman, president and chief executive officer, Caesars Entertainment.

In Southern California, the Queen Mary blasted its horn to indicate the beginning of Earth Hour. The Long Beach landmark followed by turning off lights on its smokestacks, the string of lights atop the ship, as well as encouraging guests staying in staterooms to do likewise.

In Chicago, another celebrated skyline dimmed as Earth Hour commenced. ComEd officials along with students from the Chicago Conservation Corps flipped the switch at Merchandise Mart, a Chicago landmark now the largest LEED-certified building in the U.S. Hundreds of other city buildings were also reported to have gone dark for one hour including Navy Pier, Willis Tower, Custom's House, the Prudential Centre, the John Hancock Building, and the Children's Museum.

American citizens across the US have also been embracing Earth Hour’s beyond the hour theme. One man in Stillwater, Oklahoma first took part in Earth Hour last year and whilst turning off the lights for that hour sparked the interest of his neighbours who over the year became increasingly inspired.  Last night the neighbourhood and whole town of Stillwater participated in Earth Hour demonstrating the difference that one person can have in bringing people together as a community.

"Through the simple gesture of turning off the lights, Earth Hour has captured the world’s imagination, growing significantly year after year and 2011 is no exception.  Our goal this year was for even more people to engage in Earth Hour, and the response has been simply amazing," said Terry Macko, chief marketing officer at WWF US. "We appreciate the individuals, communities, governments and organizations that are stepping up to the plate and 'owning' Earth Hour and helping spread the critical message of sustainable living across the world."

Canada embraces Earth Hour as never before
An impressive roll-call of 422 cities, municipalities and towns took part in Earth Hour 2011 - a pleasing outcome for a team that rightly thought it had done very well with 304 in 2010. Another 73 universities and 30 major landmarks from across the country including the CN Tower, Parliament Buildings, Niagara Falls and the Lions Gate Bridge, took part in this year’s event.

This year Canada highlighted a “clean energy” message, asking Canadians to “let their support for clean energy shine this Earth Hour”, helping to build awareness of clean energy as a key solution for climate change.

Earlier this week, WWF Canada’s Director General of Climate Change, Josh Laughren, presented the ‘Earth Hour List’; an honour roll of the top 10 leading cities on climate change in Canada. The prestigious accolade were given to recognise those cities that are going beyond the hour, the theme for this year’s Earth Hour, with the most active programs to reduce carbon emissions, promote renewable energy, energy efficiency and conservation.

In British Columbian community of Squamish, Earth Hour was marked with a screening of the documentary Aftermath: A World Without Oil, followed by a candlelight dinner featuring local foods and a night of music.
Grand Palladium Jamaica and Lady Hamilton Resort and Spa in Lucea Hanover continued their support of Earth Hour by switching off. Embracing ‘beyond the hour’, both also committed to activities to become Green Globe Certified. Activities include recycling, water and energy management and staff training. Jamaican telco Digicel joined hundreds of thousands of companies and households across the world this evening in powering down in observance of Earth Hour.

This year was the first year that Trinidad and Tobago officially participated in Earth Hour, after University of the West Indies student Christopher Naranjit obtained approval to host an event on the night of Earth Hour.  Businesses in the capital city (Port of Spain), and boroughs of Chaguanas, San Fernando and Arima supported the event, with whole neighbourhoods going dark. Four radio and TV stations held a minutes’ silence for Japan and devoted the hour to tips about Going Beyond the Hour.  In Bermuda a public gathering was held at City Hall, a central location in the main City of Hamilton.

Latin America ups the ante
Venezuelan co-winner of the Nobel Peace Prize 2007, Juan Carlos Sánchez, lent his support to Earth Hour 2011 whilst his motherland celebrated lights-out with a plethora of events; EcoStyle Fashion, an unplugged concert, and a series of plays were performed. Over 1,000 people in Plaza Alfredo Sadel in Caracas, led by the city’s Mayor, brought  the Earth Hour logo slowly to life as volunteers lit over 500 candles to show their solidarity with the planet. Venezuelan Earth Hour ambassadors were out in force at the event with Karen Britton, Maickel Melamed, Jean Mary, Alejandro Leon and other prominent Venezuelans stating their commitments to go beyond the hour as part of the celebration. Performances by local theatre actors, musicians and dancers along with a fashion parade kept the crowd entertained as candlelight illuminated the streets of Caracas. Putting their money where their mouth is, Venezuelan organisers ensured that all materials used at the event were recycled or environmentally friendly - including all clothing that was part of the fashion parade and a ‘garden’ made from recycled plastic drink bottles. Also lending her support was Miss Venezuela 2011.

In Colombia residents turned off their lights and other non-essential electrical devices for a symbolic "wave of darkness”. In the capital, Bogota, 500 people took part at a concert event in Usaquen Square as the lights flicked off at the Mayor's Building, the Presidential Palace, Gold Museum, Maloka Interactive Museum and Monserrate mountain overlooking Bogota. Medellin saw 4,000 people attend a performance by the Philarmonic Orchestra as EPM's Intelligent Building and Interactive Museum, the Bancolombia building and local TV station, TeleMedellin, all led the mass switch off. Mocoa and Cali also participated in the action with over 4,000 people turning out in support for environmental action, turning off the lights and enjoying community activities in celebration of their commitment.

Lost city Machu Picchu an Earth Hour site
Cities, towns and buildings neighbouring the lost City of the Incas, Lake Titicaca and the largest Ramsar Site in the Amazon went dark for 60 minutes joining world icons like the Eiffel Tower in Paris and Christ the Redeemer in Rio de Janeiro.

Mayor Susana Villarán led the Earth Hour 2011 celebrations turning out the lights of all the monuments and major buildings of the Historic Centre of Lima (Cultural Heritage of Humanity), Peru, in a ceremony that was replicated in 35 of the main cities of Peru, including Arequipa, Trujillo and Tarapoto. Mayor Villarán announced the environmental commitments from her administration to take Earth Hour beyond the hour, including a strong commitment to reduce the carbon footprint of the Municipality. Her call was supported by both current president Alan Garcia as well as next month’s leading presidential National Election candidate, Alejandro Toledo.

The historic Sacred Valley of the Incas along the Urubamba River in Cuzco went dark, and the lights of the only building in the remote region of Lake Titicaca in Puno, Casa Andina Hotel, were switched off to mark the hour.

The Datem del Marañon district in Loreto is not only one of the most isolated in the Amazon, but also home to indigenous Kandozi, Ashuar and Quechua peoples, and hosts the largest wetland throughout the Amazon acknowledged as a conservation priority site by the Ramsar Convention: the Abanico del Pastaza. Although the district’s capital, San Lorenzo, has only a few hours of electricity per day, its authorities sent a powerful message by turning the lights out, and committed to take Earth Hour beyond the hour by implementing a solid waste management program which will help recover one of the most important rivers in the Peruvian Amazon. 45 of the country's leading businesses, joined the global initiative, using it to launch ‘beyond the hour’ eco-efficiency policies and environmental management practices.

Earth Hour celebrations in Chile spanned the length of the country with tens of thousands of Chileans taking part in the capital, Santiago, as well as major regional centres Valdivia, Punta Arenas, Concepcion and Temuco. A raft of famous Chileans lent their name to the cause as Earth Hour ambassadors including María Ignacia Benitez (Environment Minister), Amaya Forch (singer and actress), Amarils Horta (Director for the Centre of 'Bicycle Culture') and Andrea Obaid, Chile's leading science and technology journalists. The lights went out across Santiago as candlelit Earth Hour celebrations lit up the capital at landmarks such as the La Moneda Presidential Palace, Entel Tower, Constitution Place and Plaza De Armas. A huge canvas of 260m2 was also illuminated with candles to mark the occasion.  

In Mexico City, Mexico, a candlelit event was held at the Monument to the Revolution, with other monuments in the Mexican capital including El Angel de la Independencia, la Diana Cazadora and the National Government Palace switched off their lights. In Cancun and La Paz, activities began with environment workshops followed by a local group performing batucada. Plaza Forum in Cancun, a major tourist destination, went dark in an event that took place with the support of local venues.

Other cities switching off included Guaymas, Huatulco, Oaxaca, Campeche, Puebla, Nogales, Chihuahua, Delicias, Estado de Mexico, San Luis Potosi and Reynos - where scores of volunteers rallied through Facebook and other social media channels to make Earth Hour a huge success.

In Argentina, an Earth Hour competition earlier this month saw supporters get creative fashioning a ‘60’, representing the 60 minutes of Earth Hour and submitting photos through Facebook. The first prize winner made a 60 out of 1000 plastic lids. Saturday night’s Earth Hour celebrations featured singer Elena Roger, a group show of taiko (Japanese percussion), in commemoration of the earthquake and tsunami, and a groupe of jugglers and fire twirlers created the ‘60’ from flames. Argentina’s landmarks united with the nation’s people - the Obelisk, Puente de la Mujer, and Piramide de Mayo (the oldest national monument in Buenos Aires), all standing in darkness in support of action for the environment.

In the Bolivian capital, La Paz, an eco-torch parade to the Plaza del Bicentenario was led by the Mayor Ing. Luis Revilla, who also led a countdown to the 8:30pm switch-off. Simultaneous events were held in Cochabamba, Santa Cruz, Potosi, Oruro, Trinidad City, Quijarro, Puerto Suarez, San Matias and Sucre, where organisers and volunteers held celebrations featuring lanterns, musical performances, and traditional dance.  

Earth Hour ambassador and First Lady of Belize Mrs Kim Barrow hosted a Black and White Gala event for Earth Hour on behalf of her non-profit organisation, the Lifeline Foundation, with lights switching off for 60 minutes. Participants at the Gala event included the Prime Minister of Belize as well as other dignitaries.  
Mexico City March 26th 2011 People gather around candles in front of the Monument of the Mexican Revolution.
© Daniel Rodríguez Villa