Earth Hour, Symbolism and Hope

Alice Wilson-McNeal

Photography: Alice Wilson-McNeal

Last month, Earth Hour took place, an annual event organised by the World Wildlife Fund that encouraged people all over the planet to turn off their electric lights for just one hour. It was the ninth event of its kind since its spectacular beginnings in Sydney in 2007. People took part in their millions, turning to candles for light and books and board games for entertainment. Hundreds of landmarks, from Big Ben to the Sydney Opera House, fell dark. We could talk about the kilowatts of electricity saved, or light pollution, but the true success of Earth Hour is in its message.

It’s very easy nowadays to feel powerless in facing environmental issues. As individuals, we can only do so much, and our achievements can feel dwarfed by the actions of governments and corporations. This is why events like Earth Hour are more important than ever. Think about it, there’s something almost magical about the idea of millions of people all sitting in darkness at the same time, all equally concerned for the future of their shared planet. What are millions of people capable of together? Three hundred and fifty landmarks also dimmed their lights, from tourist attractions to government buildings. Organisations voluntarily taking part shows how Earth Hour is about more than the individual. You could argue that these groups are only taking part for positive press, that this is simply a reaction to pressure, but doesn’t that just go to show what can be achieved when enough rise up in support?

People have called Earth Hour futile. I do not agree. I think that the message of solidarity and hope is just as important as supporting the environment in ways that can be converted into cash. Turning out the lights and marking ourselves on the world map is an equally valuable display of support. By standing up to be counted, we’re spreading the message that however pointless it seems, we in our millions still care enough to do it. And isn’t that what it’s all about?