In order to highlight the current climate change crisis and emphasize the importance of making a change in daily habits, the World Wildlife Fund and cities around the globe came together to celebrate this year’s Earth Hour.
The worldwide annual event took place on March 27 and started at 8:30 p.m. local time. One hundred twenty-six countries on all seven continents participated.
The goal of this year’s Earth Hour was to have an increased number of participants throughout cities and communities around the globe. According to EarthHour.org, an estimated 1 billion people participated in this year’s event by turning down lights.
“It was a success,” said Dan Forman, manager of public relations for WWF. “We had 126 countries that participated this year up from 88 last year. It is amazing.”
The event was created three years ago by the WWF. Their mission is to take a strong stance against climate change and raise environmental awareness on a global scale.
A majority of densely populated cities in the United States participated, including Chicago. More than 200 buildings downtown joined in. The Navy Pier ferris wheel was dimmed for an hour, as well as the marquees outside Wrigley Field and the Chicago Theatre.
ComEd sponsored the city’s Earth Hour. During the event there was an approximate 1 percent decline of electricity usage which was a noticeable change, according to Peter Pedraza, spokesman for ComEd. A 1 percent decrease is about equivalent to removing 124,320 pounds of carbon dioxide from Earth’s atmosphere.
“People care more about the climate now than ever before and every little bit helps,” Forman said.
Forman also mentioned this year, especially, there was a large response from government officials. Many state capitol buildings and governors’ mansions did their part by turning off non-essential lighting.
“Earth Hour sends a clear message that Americans care about their country and the planet,” said Leslie Aun, Earth Hour U.S. managing director, in a public statement. “By turning the lights off on pollution and climate change, we will make the switch to a cleaner, safer and more secure world.”
Outside Chicago, monuments and landmarks such as Mount Rushmore in South Dakota, Niagara Falls in New York and the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C. also took part in Earth Hour.
Globally, landmarks like Paris’ Eiffel Tower, The Great Pyramids of Giza and the Sydney Opera House showed their support as well.
Seventy college campuses across the country, including Columbia, celebrated Earth Hour.
“It was great; we had lights out in all of the buildings,” said John Wawrzaszek, recycling manager at Columbia.
Wawrzaszek also said Columbia has been making an attempt to be more energy efficient by placing timers on many of the lights and electrical sources throughout campus.
Organizations such as The National Education Association, Earth Day Network and the National Honor Society pledged their support, along with businesses like Coca-Cola and Ikea.
“The collaboration process is what makes Earth Hour so special,” Forman said.
World Wildlife Fund officials said they stressed the importance of safety during the hour-long event and asked that lighting pertaining to public safety remain on. Besides Earth Hour, which is their largest project, the organization works to reduce emissions, improve efficiency and stop tropical deforestation.
Although Earth Hour is complete for the year, the WWF will continue to work throughout the year on several projects including Earth Day.
“We work very closely with Earth Day groups,” Forman said. “We are going to be down on the mall [in D.C.] with them on Earth Day.”
This year marks the 40th anniversary of Earth Day, which will take place on April 22.
The National Mall in D.C. will celebrate the anniversary and on April 25 there will be a rally for climate change. The purpose of the rally is to demand Congress take action towards clean energy in 2010.