Earth Hour: A movement set to heal the world

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By: Lithakazi Mhaga

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Saving the planet and attempting to reverse the tragic and sometimes disastrous effects of pollution and climate change has become a 21st century phenomenon that most, if not all, individuals and groups are steadily getting involved in.

One such group, the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) dedicates itself to the betterment of our ailing planet. Acting as an activist for all environmental issues, the WWF initiated Earth Hour to raise awareness and to educate people about what they can do to help reduce or slow down the effects of climate change.

The WWF is involved in numerous initiatives which involve saving endangered animal and plant species, purifying the seas, land and the atmosphere for all living creatures, and reducing the impact mankind has on the environment. And one of their initiatives, Earth Hour, is gaining popularity the world over.

What is Earth Hour and what does it mean, you ask. Well, it started in Sydney, Australia in 2007 with over 2.2 million people taking part in switching off their lights for just one hour on the third Saturday of March between 20:30 and 21:30. This year it falls on March 29th.

WWF Earth Hour project manager, Sue Northam said, “Earth Hour is about so much more than just symbolically switching off your lights for an hour once a year. Since it started in Australia in 2007, it is now an opportunity to be part of a global movement of positive action for the planet. Over 154 countries take part.”

Today’s society is dependent on the use of energy for the productivity of industry and use in daily life. This high demand for fuels and electricity, and the pollutant by-products of the operations of creating and using energy is sucking the earth dry of all its resources. We all can feel the strain on the earth… Our power supplier is struggling to ensure there’s a steady flow of electricity across the country, we suffer strange and unusual weather from lengthy droughts to flooding rains.

Living ‘green’ is this generation’s tag line, and with great reason…  Much like the many advertisements we see on television prompting us to adopt ways to save energy, like reusing non-recyclable things like plastic and glass bottles and switching off all appliances not in use can make a small but significant difference in slowing down climate change.

The world’s governments and politicians are dedicated to finding more environmentally friendly ways of interacting with the planet. Each year they meet for the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP) conferences. In 2011, COP17 was held in Durban and this year it will be held in Lima, Peru from December 1st till the 12th.

It was during the 13th annual Cop conference in 2007 that the first Earth Hour occurred. Sue Northam said, “Earth Hour is a WWF initiated campaign – this was started by WWF Australia – but participation is wider. It includes members of the public.”

“Earth Hour has become a movement of positive change for the environment – examples from around the world show how the power of one hour has inspired actions beyond the hour,” Northam continued.

“In Uganda, an Earth Hour Forest is being created in an area of bad deforestation; in Argentina the support of Earth Hour was used to get a petition to declare a Marine Protected Area off their coast – these are just two examples of large scale positive actions initiated from the impetus of the Earth Hour movement. It is a powerful citizen-driven movement of change – hence we are asking the question: ‘How do you honour the Earth?’ It is up to all of us.”

“WWF South Africa is inviting all South Africans to make a promise to honour the Earth. We must think about the choices we make around our food, water and energy use – and understand our wider impact on the environment,” Northam concluded.

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