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Your Friendly Neighborhood Earth Hour Overview: AMAZING!

Earth Hour 2014 is almost here!  The annual environmental event sponsored by the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) is scheduled for Saturday, March 29th 2014 from 8:30 – 9:30pm (that’s local time for everyone).  This is Earth Hour’s eighth year, and thousands of organized (and unorganized) events are planned in countries in every time zone.

Spider-Man  is the official 2014 Earth Hour (EH) ambassador.  The hero will even make an appearance in Singapore, along with some stars of the upcoming Amazing Spider-Man 2 movie, to shut down lights in the country’s famous Marina Bay.

Spider-Man is the event’s first superhero ambassador (actress Jessica Alba served as global ambassador in 2013), and for good reason.  Not only does he (along with the stars of his upcoming movie) catch the attention of kids and young adults, but as the WWF explains,

The Amazing Spider-Man 2 is the most eco-friendly blockbuster in the history of Columbia Pictures. Environmental efforts on set and support for WWF China’s Earth Hour Blue project make the entire production carbon neutral.

The popularity of EH has escalated so much over the past eight years partly because it is a simple symbolic gesture.  All you need to do is shut down, unplug, and unwind at 8:30pm local time on March 29th.  Lights, chargers, TVs, computers, and anything else that consumes energy should be turned off and unplugged for the full hour (it should go without saying, but any equipment needed for safety or security reasons should remain on).

Las Vegas strip as seen from Mandalay Bay before Earth Hour (top) and during  Earth Hour (bottom) 2010 Image Courtesy ecorazzi.com

Las Vegas strip as seen from Mandalay Bay before Earth Hour (top) and during Earth Hour (bottom) 2010. Image courtesy of ecorazzi.com

In past years, participants ranging from individuals, organizations, cities, and even states and nations have reduced energy together for Earth Hour.  Some of the largest cities in the world, like London, New York, and Tokyo, shut down lights on such massive scales that their famous skylines went dark.  Monuments like the Eiffel Tower also lose illumination, which is exciting because it is almost impossible to find any other time when the Eiffel tower is not lit at night.  Even Las Vegas turns down its lights on the bustling and usually vibrant strip.  Las Vegas turning off its iconic lights in a coordinated and intentional effort is unheard of at any other time.

Earth Hour only looks dark, however.  The observance is fun and even celebratory in recognition of the positive impacts our actions can have on the planet.  This symbolic, voluntary lights-off hour unites participants with a common goal and message.  Founder and CEO Andy Ridley explains:

Earth Hour’s mission is three-fold. To bring people together through a symbolic hour-long event. To galvanise people into taking action beyond the hour. And to create an interconnected global community sharing the mutual goal of creating a sustainable future for the planet.

In 2007 EH was first observed in Sydney, Australia.  Since then, the “holiday” spread around the planet with lightning speed.  By 2008, Earth Hour was already an international affair.  It caught on almost immediately partly due to the power of the EH message as a global unifier (after all, we don’t need to speak the same language to shut off our lights to show we care).  It is also a testament to the clout of our modern communication innovations, particularly social media.  Events thousands of miles away are now easily transmitted to literally millions of others around the world.  The proliferation of the internet is energy intensive, but it also creates a sense of global community that wasn’t possible before.  Picture sharing and translation tools have broken barriers of language, and the instant transmission of messages help people on different sides of the globe converse as if they are in the same room.  Plus, because EH is celebrated in local time for every time zone, you can check out what other countries are doing to celebrate without turning your computer on during lights-out.

Earth Hour capitalizes on its web presence and social media popularity to coordinate events and circulate its message internationally, and it has been a raging success.  The EH movement now supports charities, research, and education projects around the world.  Causes range from human interest, wildlife protection, environmental restoration, and even helping raise money to light up homes in energy poor areas of the world.

The WWF is going to train this little guy to fight wildlife crime! Photo: Martin Harvey / WWF-Canon via earthhour.org

The WWF is going to train this little guy to fight wildlife crime! Image courtesy of: Martin Harvey / WWF-Canon via earthhour.org

While YEB and I have no official affiliation with Earth Hour, or any of its associated sponsors, charities or organizations, I urge everyone to contribute to their favorite cause.  There are over a dozen deserving charities to choose from this year.  (My personal favorite is the Puppy Protectors.  This project will train German Shepherd puppies as “sniffer dogs” to serve with Nepalese wildlife rangers where they will help track down poachers.)

Electronics are so integrated into our lives that we often take power for granted.  We think nothing of leaving lights on where they are not needed, or leaving our device chargers plugged into outlets when not in use.  Many appliances and electric cords constantly drain energy when they are plugged in, even if they are turned off.  Earth Hour is a chance to remember to take a break from our glowing gadgets and focus on something simple and important: making the planet a sustainable place to live.

So, turn off the lights and unplug the energy vampires in your home for Earth Hour!  Then turn those energy saving deeds into routine habits to keep your electric bill down and make the  world a little happier.

Besides I think that when Spider-Man tells us to do something, we should just do it.

To join or create your own event – see earthhour.org

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