Only Got One Hour To Save The World?

Words by Caity Hall

It goes without saying that we live in a technological age. Not only does technology surround us wherever we go, but we need it for food production, for space exploration, for curing fatal diseases, and for making our morning toast. That is why it is so impressive that on Saturday 29 March at 8:30pm, people all over the world will be flicking off their power switches and lighting their candles for the seventh annual Earth Hour.

Beginning in Sydney in 2007, Earth Hour is now a global environmental movement aimed at promoting public awareness of climate change and encouraging people to take a stand against this critical issue. Anna Rose, head of Earth Hour Australia, describes the movement’s principal message as “the beautiful, bold idea that all of us together can inspire action to solve the climate crisis”.

Since being founded by the World Wildlife Fund seven years ago, the Earth Hour movement has grown from a Sydney-based event—where around two million individuals and 2100 businesses switched off their power for an hour—to a global phenomenon, which in 2012 saw more than 6950 cities in 152 countries partake.

To ensure the number of participants continues to grow this year, Earth Hour is almost completely re-inventing itself. Currently perceived as a once-yearly event, Earth Hour will this year convert itself into a full-time environmental campaign. “We all know that solving the climate crisis will take more than one hour, so we’re turning Earth Hour from a moment each year to a year-round social movement,” Rose explains. This will be achieved through community campaigns which aim to pressure the Australian government to increase its renewable energy targets and its ambitions to cut greenhouse gas emissions.

The focal point of this year’s campaign will be the effect climate change is having on the Great Barrier Reef. Described by Rose as “one of the most vulnerable places in the world to climate change”, this focus is intended to open the eyes of Australians and the wider international community. “Scientists tell us that if we don’t change our ways by 2030, the effects of climate change on our Great Barrier Reef—and the species that depend upon it—will be irreversible.”

The movement will be highlighting this issue through a documentary titled “Lights Out for the Reef: An Earth Hour Special”. Screening on the day of Earth Hour at 4:30pm on Channel 10, the documentary will demonstrate the impacts of climate change on the Great Barrier Reef in a unique and innovative way. Featuring YouTube sensation Natalie Tran and musical comedy act The Axis of Awesome, Lights Out for the Reef is already expected to make a lasting impression on viewers. Over 1000 Earth Hour supporters will host local-based gatherings to encourage their friends to watch the documentary. Rose hopes this tactic will reach out to people who “don’t consider themselves environmentalists, but do care about the future and want to leave clean air, clean water and clean soil for their kids”.

In an additional effort to extend the Earth Hour craze past 29 March, the hosts of the top 50 gatherings will be offered a chance to attend the first ever Camp Earth Hour. The camp will be held at Heron Island Research Station at the Great Barrier Reef, and will attract what the movement hopes will become the ‘champions’ of Earth Hour. The winners will have the opportunity to see first hand the effects of climate change on the Great Barrier Reef and will go on to spread that message.

It’s clear that Rose is excited about expanding the campaign, and placing a greater focus on the Reef. “Wouldn’t it be great… to be able to tell our kids that we helped save places like our Reef?” she exclaims. “And wouldn’t it be awful if we had to tell them we only thought about the problem for one hour each year, and by the time we realised it required more from us it was too late?”

UMSU’s Education Department and the LSS Environment Committee will be running an Earth Hour Unplugged event on Thursday 27 March from 5pm.