Cities Go Dark to Mark Earth Hour

Submitted by SadInAmerica on Sun, 03/30/2008 - 1:07am.

From Rome's Colosseum to the Sydney Opera House to the Sears Tower's famous antennas in Chicago, floodlit icons of civilization have gone dark for Earth Hour, a worldwide campaign to highlight the waste of electricity and the threat of climate change.

The environmental group WWF has urged governments, businesses and households to turn back to candle power for at least 60 minutes Saturday starting at 8 p.m. wherever they were.

The campaign began last year in Australia and traveled this year from the South Pacific to Europe in cadence with the setting of the sun.

"What's amazing is that it's transcending political boundaries and happening in places like China, Vietnam, Papua New Guinea," said Andy Ridley, executive director of Earth Hour. "It really seems to have resonated with anybody and everybody."

Earth Hour officials hoped 100 million people would turn off their nonessential lights and electronic goods for the hour. Electricity plants produce greenhouse gases that fuel climate change.

In Chicago, lights on more than 200 downtown buildings were dimmed Saturday night, including the stripe of white light around the top of the John Hancock Center. The red-and-white marquee outside Wrigley Field also went dark.

"There's a widespread belief that somehow people in the United States don't understand that this is a problem that we're lazy and wedded to our lifestyles. [Earth Hour] demonstrates that that is wrong," Richard Moss, a member of the Nobel Peace Prize-winning Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and the climate change vice president for WWF, said in Chicago on Saturday. Video Watch the WWF chief discuss the program »

New Zealand and Fiji were first out of the starting blocks this year. And in Sydney, Australia -- where an estimated 2.2 million observed the blackout last year -- the city's two architectural icons, the Opera House and Harbour Bridge, faded to black against a dramatic backdrop of a lightning storm.

Lights also went out at the famed Wat Arun Buddhist temple in Bangkok, Thailand; shopping and cultural centers in Manila, Philippines; several castles in Sweden and Denmark; the parliament building in Budapest, Hungary; a string of landmarks in Warsaw, Poland; and both London City Hall and Canterbury Cathedral in England.

Greece, an hour ahead of most of Europe, was the first on the continent to mark Earth Hour. On the isle of Aegina, near Athens, much of its population marched by candlelight to the port. Parts of Athens itself, including the floodlit city hall, also turned to black.

In Ireland, where environmentalists are part of the coalition government, lights-out orders went out for scores of government buildings, bridges and monuments in more than a dozen cities and towns.

But the international banks and brokerages of Dublin's financial district blazed away with light, illuminating floor after empty floor of desks and idling computers.

"The banks should have embraced this wholeheartedly and they didn't. But it's a start. Maybe next year," said Cathy Flanagan, an Earth Hour organizer in Dublin.

Ireland's more than 7,000 pubs elected not to take part, in part because of the risk that Saturday night revelers could end up smashing glasses, falling down stairs or setting themselves on fire with candles.

Likewise, much of Europe -- including France, Germany, Spain and European Union institutions -- planned nothing to mark Earth Hour.

Internet search engine Google lent its support to Earth Hour by blackening its normally white home page and challenging visitors: "We've turned the lights out. Now it's your turn."

Twenty-three major cities worldwide, along with 300 smaller cities, took part in Earth Hour, a campaign by environmental group WWF to highlight the need to conserve energy and fight global warming.

In Sydney, a lightning storm was the brightest part of the skyline when the lights were turned off at the city's landmarks. Most businesses and homes were already dark as residents embraced their second annual Earth Hour with candlelight dinners, beach bonfires and even a green-powered outdoor movie. Video Watch the lights go out in Sydney for Earth Hour. »

The number of participants was not immediately available, but organizers were hoping to beat last year's debut, when 2.2 million people and more than 2,000 businesses shut off lights and appliances, resulting in a 10.2 percent reduction in carbon emissions during that hour.

"I'm putting my neck on the line, but my hope is that we top 100 million people," Earth Hour Australia chief executive Greg Bourne said.

WWF Thailand said the lights out campaign in Bangkok saved 73.34 megawatts of electricity, which would have produced 45.8 tons of carbon dioxide.

In Manila, the grounds of the seaside Cultural Center of the Philippines went dark after four city mayors ceremonially switched off the lights. Shopping malls turned off street lamps around the metropolis.

After Asia, lights were expected to go out in major European and North American cites as the clock ticks on. One of the last to participate will be San Francisco, California, home to the soon-to-be dimmed Golden Gate Bridge.

Organizers see the event as a way to encourage the world to conserve energy.

"What's amazing is that it's transcending political boundaries and happening in places like China, Vietnam, Papua New Guinea," Earth Hour executive director Andy Ridley said. "It really seems to have resonated with anybody and everybody."


AP - March 29, 2008 - posted at

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Submitted by SadInAmerica on Sun, 03/30/2008 - 1:07am.