Earth Hour is a global event organized by WWF (World Wide Fund for Nature, also known as World Wildlife Fund) and is held on the last Saturday of March annually, asking households and businesses to turn off their non-essential lights and other electrical appliances for one hour to raise awareness towards the need to take action on climate change. Earth Hour was conceived by WWF and The Sydney Morning Herald in 2007, when 2.2 million residents of Sydney participated by turning off all non-essential lights. Following Sydney's lead, many other cities around the world adopted the event in 2008. Earth Hour 2011 took place on March 26, 2011 from 8:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m., at participants' local time.
Participating TV channels and radio stations
- National Geographic Channel Asia suspended broadcasting from 8:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m.
- Philippines' ABS-CBN Broadcasting Corporation's cable news channel ANC once again ceased transmission during Earth Hour.
- Vietnam's FBNC channel joined hands with Earth Hour Vietnam.
- The Agenda with Steve Paikin on TVOntario ran its full program running only on candle light again.
- The Agenda with Steve Paikin on mnit ran its full program running only on candle light again.
Among the participants in 2009 was, for the first time, the United Nations Headquarters in New York City. The U.N. conservatively estimates that its participation will save $102 in energy.
Reports show that the United States topped the Earth Hour participation with an estimated 80,000,000 people, 318 cities and 8 states participating. The Philippines saw participation from 647 cities and towns; over 15 million Filipinos were estimated to have joined in the hour-long lights-off. This was followed by Greece with 484 cities and towns participating, and Australia with 309.
The Canadian province of Ontario, excluding the city of Toronto, saw a decrease of 6% in electricity usage while Toronto saw a decrease of 15.1% (nearly doubled from 8.7% the previous year) as many businesses darkened, including the landmark CN Tower.
Swedish electricity operator Svenska Kraftnät recorded a 2.1% decrease in power consumption from its projected figure between 8 p.m. and 9 p.m. The following hour, the corresponding number was 5%. This is equivalent to the consumption of approximately half a million households out of the total 4.5 million households in Sweden.
According to Vietnam Electricity Company, Vietnam's electricity demand fell 140 MWh during Earth Hour.
The Philippines was able to save 611 MWh of electricity during the time period, which is said to be equivalent to shutting down a dozen coal-fired power plants for an hour.
Celebrations around the world
- The Danish royal palaces, Amalienborg Palace and Gråsten Palace, went dark at the Queen's command.
- Nelly Furtado held a free concert at Nathan Phillips Square in Downtown Toronto to celebrate Earth Hour.
- In Toronto, Ontario, York University's student-run Environmental Outreach Team ran an afternoon Earth Hour information session, and the York University Observatory offered an extra public viewing session.
- Stargazing activities were held in Toronto's Ontario Science Centre and Richmond Hill's David Dunlap Observatory.
- Astronomy Ireland set up high-powered telescopes in Dublin's Phoenix Park to allow people to take advantage of the night sky, normally swamped by bright city lights.
- In Tel Aviv, Israel, a free concert by Knesiyat Hasekhel was held at Rabin Square. Power needed for the concert was generated by a group of cyclists pushing pedal generators. The rest of the power was supplied by generators burning used falafel oil for power.
- In Atlanta, the CEO of WWF US, Carter Roberts, and the Mayor of Atlanta, Shirley Franklin, flipped a giant switch on live TV, symbolically starting the wave of lights going out on the buildings around the city.
- In San Francisco, a public event hosted by WWF US was attended by Mayor Gavin Newsom, Gold medal figure skater Brian Boitano, Grateful Dead drummer Mickey Hart, and other celebrities. They gathered to watch the lights go out, listening to the music of Jason Damato.
- In Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, the lights of the world's tallest twin towers, the Petronas Towers, were turned off.
- In Egypt, the lights went out on the Sphinx and the Great Pyramids of Giza from 8:30-9:30 pm.
Earth Hour has also received free publicity from the Google corporation. From 12:00 a.m. on March 29, 2008 until the end of Earth Hour, the Google homepage in the United States, Colombia, Canada, Denmark, Ireland and the UK was turned to a black background. Their tagline is, "We've turned the lights out. Now it's your turn - Earth Hour." However, Google stated that for 2009 they would not turn the page black again due to the confusion it caused many users. A common misconception is that having a black background on a web page reduces the power consumption of monitors; LCD monitors use a constant amount of power regardless of which colors are shown. This is not the case for Organic LED monitors, though they are not currently in popular use.
Also YouTube has light switches on their videos and comments.
The criticisms of Earth Hour include:
- In March 2010, the Telegraph quoted electricity experts that "it could therefore result in an increase in carbon emissions" due to complications related to rapidly lowering then raising electricity generation.
- In February 2010, Rick Giles, president of ACT on Campus, the youth wing of New Zealand's ACT Party, appeared on the morning television show Sunrise to denounce Earth Hour and instead suggested the celebration of "Edison Hour". He argued that Earth Hour is an "anti-technology" cause, and that people will simply use candles instead, which is undesirable as they are petroleum-based. He argued that if we are heading for some kind of disaster, it makes sense to use technology to combat this. Rick quickly gained notoriety for saying "I think my argument is so powerful that it's not necessary to talk about it".
- The Christian Science Monitor said that most candles are made from paraffin, a heavy hydrocarbon derived from crude oil, a fossil fuel, and that depending on how many candles a person burns (if one uses candles during Earth Hour), whether or not they normally use compact fluorescent light bulbs, and what source of energy is used to produce their electricity, in some cases, replacing light bulbs with candles will cause an increase, instead of a decrease, in carbon dioxide emissions.
- An alternative celebration of "Human Achievement Hour" was promoted by the libertarian think tank the Competitive Enterprise Institute to celebrate the advancement of human prosperity. Participants in this celebration were asked to "celebrate the achievements of humanity such as eating dinner, seeing a film, driving around, keeping the heat on in your home".
- The Ayn Rand Institute wrote, "Participants spend an enjoyable sixty minutes in the dark, safe in the knowledge that the life-saving benefits of industrial civilization are just a light switch away... Forget one measly hour with just the lights off. How about Earth Month... Try spending a month shivering in the dark without heating, electricity, refrigeration; without power plants or generators; without any of the labor-saving, time-saving, and therefore life-saving products that industrial energy makes possible."
- Although in support of Earth Hour, the "Carbon Sense Coalition" wants Earth Hour to be renamed "Blackout Night", and to be held outside on the shortest and coldest day of the year "...to prepare our population for the dark days ahead".
- Bjørn Lomborg, author of The Skeptical Environmentalist, wrote, "It is vital to make solar and other new technology cheaper than fossil fuels quickly so we can turn off carbon energy sources for a lot longer than one hour and keep the planet running... Fossil fuels literally gave us an enlightenment, by lighting our world and giving us protection from the fury of the elements. It is ironic that today's pure symbolism should hark back to a darker age."
- On March 29, one day after Earth Hour 2009, Dân Trí daily newspaper published an article about the other side of Earth Hour. It was concerned that many young people chose to drive around the darkened cities for fun, exhausting petroleum instead of electricity and resulting in long-time traffic jams.
- During the 2010 Earth Hour in the city of Uusikaupunki in Finland, a 17-year-old female motorcyclist hit a 71-year-old man, who was walking on the street instead of the sidewalk for an unknown reason. The man died from his injuries, while the motorcyclist and her passenger were uninjured. At the time of the accident the street lights had been turned off as part of the Earth Hour. The police stated that the lack of street lighting may have played a part in the accident, while the mayor believed the city's street lights would have been too dim to prevent it.
- Jeremy Clarkson, host of the BBC motoring programme Top Gear, confessed to switching on all electrical items in his home as a protest against the perceived impact of Earth Hour, claiming the event would have little to no effect on attitudes towards climate change.