Earth Hour: Beyond turning off the lights

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By Nickky Faustine P. de Guzman

WE SHOULD not take the planet for granted, said Leonardo DiCaprio as he accepted the Best Actor trophy at this year’s Oscars. This sentiment is echoed by other environmentalists. So, in a seemingly small act — which, when done collectively can have a big impact — everyone is asked to save the Earth by turning off the lights on March 19, Saturday, from 8:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m.

The annual World Wildlife Fund for Nature (WWF) Earth Hour campaign, which aims to spread environmental awareness, is important because, in the words of Mr. DiCaprio, climate change is “the most urgent threat facing our entire species.”

Earth Hour
THE LIGHTS at London’s Houses of Parliament were turned off to mark “Earth Hour” on March 28, 2009. — AFP

The synchronized event will be held all around the world, with major landmarks going dark including the Empire State Building in New York, the Eiffel Tower in Paris, and the Sydney Opera House in Australia. Here, the lights of the Quezon City Memorial Circle will be switched off.

The Philippines, which has committed to reduce its carbon emissions by 70% by 2030 through the initiatives of energy, transport, waste and industry sectors, has been an active participant in the campaign since 2008.

According to WWF Philippines climate and energy program head Gia Ibay, the country became an “Earth Hour Hero Country” because of its dynamic participation from 2009 until 2013. An hour of simultaneously turning off the lights in the country saves, on average, at least 500 megawatts of electricity, she said.

Still, turning off our lights for an hour on one night is not enough.

“The aim is to go beyond the Earth Hour. To make it sustainable,” said Ms. Ibay.

The main trust of the organization “is not just about fish or cute animals, but is providing economic, social, and institutional capacities that can sustain,” WWF Philippines President and Chief Executive Joel Palma told BusinessWorld.

“[On March 19] we will demonstrate that we can be renewable. We will have electric jeeps and kinetic energy [through a bicycle]. [This is to demonstrate] that as we switch off, all the power is run by renewable sources to make a point that this is feasible and it’s the way to go because it’s indigenous, renewable and clean. It’s about time to see solar units at the household level. It should resonate as part of the sustainable strategy of the government,” said Mr. Palma.

The event will be “a showcase of climate solutions.”

“Stationary bikes will partially power this year’s event to show that united Pinoys can light up this country with their collective energy. Together, anything is possible,” said Ms. Ibay.

Besides turning off the lights, some of the sustainable energy saving lifestyle changes that can be made, according to WWF Philippines:

• Avoiding using plastic straws and disposable food containers;

• Using the stairs when going up or down one to three floors;

• Walk when going to a nearby place;

• Set the air conditioner thermostat at 25 degrees;

• Always bring a reusable water bottle; and,

• Avoid unnecessary printing.