Earth Hour is observed last Saturday of March every year to make people aware of natural disasters due to climate change and prevention. Earth Hour, an international event, is an hour-long “light off” event. Excessive and non-essential outdoor artificial light affects human health, wildlife behavior, and our ability to observe stars and other celestial objects. It will be celebrated on March 27, 2021, this year, between 8.30 pm to 9.30 pm local time for an hour by turning off non-essential lights in homes, businesses, and government establishments.
As many as 2.2 million people celebrated Earth Hour for the very first time in 2007 in Sydney, Australia on March 31 from 7.30 pm to 8.30 pm by turning off non-essential lights in their homes. San Francisco in the United States of America also joined the Earth Hour campaign in October 2007 by turning off the non-essential lights for an hour.
Evolution of Earth Hour
Earth Hour caught popularity worldwide and has been celebrated internationally since 2008. The idea of celebrating Earth Hour was initiated by members of the World Wildlife Fund for Nature to save the environment.
In 2003, Australia was hit by a severe drought, which scientists attributed to the ever-increasing concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. In 2004, members of Australia’s World Wildlife Fund for Nature met Leo Burnett, director of a Sydney-based advertising company, to create a campaign with the idea of turning off non-essential lights for just one hour every year to save the planet from environmental degradation.
In 2006, Leo Burnett and Sydney’s Mayor Clover Lord Moore and World Wildlife Fund Nature members worked hard to make the campaign a reality. The campaign was initially dubbed ‘The Big Flick” which was later renamed ‘Earth Hour’ to address turning off non-essential lights, causing an increase in greenhouse gases.
Since 2008, Earth Hour has been celebrated on various themes. Starting from the theme ‘Dark City, Bright Idea’ in 2008 to the ‘Connect to Earth‘ theme in 2019. In 2020, the theme was ‘Climate and Sustainable Development’, emphasizing banning the use of disposable plastic products forever. Once used, these plastic items are thrown on rubbish heaps or dumped in water which are later consumed by animals leading to their premature deaths.
2021’s theme ‘Climate Change to Save Earth’ is a timely and straightforward message to all world countries. From the Industrial Revolution till now, human beings have changed 75 percent of the Earth in the name of the human race’s economic growth to fulfill their aspirations. Concrete jungles have now replaced dense forests. Most of the wildlife is replaced by cars, vehicles, and automobiles, while birds are replaced by airplanes and spacecraft. Simultaneously, through their activities, human beings, while blindly exploiting all the natural resources, are releasing vast amounts of gases into the atmosphere. As a result, the Earth’s average temperature has increased by more than 1 degree Celsius since the Industrial Revolution.
An IPCC 2014 report by the United Nations stated that the rapid rise in the average global temperature due to human activities increases the number and intensity of natural disasters. No country in the world will be able to escape the onslaught of these natural disasters soon unless greenhouse gas emissions are rapidly reduced.
Fearing the report’s warning, countries worldwide outlined their plans in the Paris Climate Agreement, 2015 to cut greenhouse gas emissions and mitigate the effects of climate change. Even five years later, most countries in the world, especially those that emit the highest proportion of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere (the United States of America and China) did not pay any attention to it.
This year’s Earth Hour theme delivers a more pertinent message and raises awareness about the crisis of nature loss, climate change, and global warming. So far, human beings have brought negative changes in the climate in economic growth, balancing various ecosystems. Rising global temperatures, an increasing number of natural disasters, declining numbers of wildlife species are urging human beings to stop their harmful activities and adopt pro-nature actions to reverse the climate changes to save the planet. Otherwise, nature has its way of reversing the imbalance highlighted from the existing COVID-19 pandemic.
The primary purpose of celebrating Earth Hour seems to be a small effort to save the environment from the rising amount of greenhouse gases by turning off the non-essential lights for just one hour a year. But if one think deeply, curbing the use of non-essential lights is an excellent lesson in protecting human beings and other organisms from all kinds of harm.
Using more light consumes many energy sources and increases Earth’s temperature by emitting greenhouse gases. More than 80 percent of the world’s population and 99 percent of Americans and Europeans cannot see the natural scenery at night because of the light pollution. People living in cities with high artificial light levels have a hard time seeing more than a handful of stars at night.
Light pollution is proving to be harmful to all kinds of organisms, including humans. Many people suffer from severe headaches, insomnia, sleep deprivation, poor eyesight, and skin diseases due to excessive light at night. Millions of insects die every day due to artificial night lights.
According to a study by Berlin-based biologist Gerard Isenberg, 150 billion insects die each year in Germany due to flashing buildings and streetlights. In large numbers, these insects are part of the animal food chain, but their sudden death by light and heat disrupts the food chain depriving many birds and animals of food. Studies show that artificial night light impacts animals and birds’ behavior, such as migration and sleep patterns, and habitat formation.
Many birds migrate from the north to the south during the winter. During migration, migratory birds are usually guided by moonlight, get confused and misled by artificial night lights, lose their way, and often die. In North America, one billion birds die each year in collisions with buildings under artificial night light illusion.
The reproductive function of some animals is also negatively affected by artificial night lights. Marine animals being misled by the illusion of daylight have set up shelters near the beaches. All types of vegetation are affected by lights. The difference between day and night becomes negligible for the vegetation near these artificial night lights. They suffer from staying in the light and from high temperature, which causes them to start flowering prematurely. The size of flowers and fruits remains small due to the lack of a full-time period required for a standard plant life cycle and adequate temperature to grow. Some plants wither prematurely being exposed to high temperatures and artificial illumination.
Guided by the Earth Hour campaign, some big cities have started turning off non-essential lights every day in the city’s main areas. The city of Mount Rushmore in South Dakota, USA, is making every effort to turn off the lights every night from 9 to 11 pm. New Island, an island nation in the Pacific Ocean, has become the world’s first ‘Dark Sky Place’, with no lights on at night. In doing so, the country has made a significant contribution to the Earth Hour’s campaign to tackle climate change while preserving the night’s beauty, protecting flora and fauna from light pollution. Learning from the New Island, all the world countries should contribute to this campaign to save the environment from Light Pollution.
Earth Hour 2021
This year’s Earth Hour, where the United Kingdom and Italy plan to continue the Paris Climate Agreement in Glasgow in November 2021, could be a beacon for other governments around the world. The decisions that will be taken at this conference will affect future generations. In this conference, plans should be made to save fauna & flora and the natural environment so that we can protect ourselves as well as the Earth from the scourge of climate change.
Earth Hour, though a series of small steps, helps protect the planet from the increasing emissions of greenhouse gases and their deadly effects. It is in fact providing a great deal of education and guidance. In the long run, we will not only save the Earth’s environment by turning off the unnecessary lights, but we will also be able to save the Earth from all kinds of disturbances in the life of all living beings. If every country, state, and city adopt these practices, we can improve the existing environment’s state and save the lives of billions of birds and insects.
About the Author
Prof Gurinder Kaur is a Professor at the Department of Geography at Punjabi University, Patiala. She is also Visiting Professor at IMPRI Impact and Policy Research Institute.
Picture Courtesy: Pixabay