Billions to switch off for Earth Hour 2011

By AAP with AG Staff 25 March 2011
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Billions of people in 130 nations are due to take part in Saturday’s Earth Hour event.

IT STARTED IN SYDNEY in 2007 when a few million people flicked off their switches in aid of the environment.

On Saturday, billions of people from more than 130 countries will turn off their lights for Earth Hour 2011. “We’ve built global awareness of the event,” says Earth Hour spokesman Winston Su.

All Australian cities are taking part, and the Opera House and Harbour Bridge will power down for an hour in Sydney.

Lights on for the vote

But the lights will stay on at the NSW Electoral Commission as the results are tallied for the state election held that day. “The aim was always to not use non-essential lighting,” Winston says. “We don’t encourage people to miss something as important as the state election…If lights are needed for something as vital as vote counting, then obviously we want them kept on.”

Further afield, international landmarks powering down include Times Square and the Empire State Building in New York, the Eiffel Tower in Paris, and Dubai’s Burg Khalifa – the tallest building in the world.

By Thursday, 133 countries had signed up for the event, with 13 taking part for the first time. In Asia, the city authorities that have signed up included Bangkok, Hong Kong, New Delhi and Mumbai.

Earth Hour resolution

In North America, New York, Chicago and Toronto will take part, along with most of South America’s biggest cities. Key European cities include London, Berlin, Paris, Rome and Moscow.

The event, organised by environment group WWF, originated five years ago with just 2.2 million Sydneysiders taking part. But by 2009, up to one billion people were thought to have taken part in more than 4000 cities across the world.

This year, organisers are asking people to go one step further on Saturday at 8.30pm (AEDT), by thinking about what else they can do to achieve a more sustainable lifestyle. “We are asking individuals who have participated before, to commit to an action, big or small, that they will sustain for the coming year,” Winston said on Thursday. “It could be something as simple as recycling.”