Earth Hour 2013: Cities willingly plunge into darkness

Annual event aims to convey a symbolic message about the need to protect the planet.

Waqas Naeem March 24, 2013
People hold candles during an event attempting to establish a Guinness World of Record for ‘Blowing out the most number of candles simultaneously’ during Earth Hour in Shanghai. PHOTO: REUTERS


Cities around the world, including some in Pakistan, plunged into partial darkness for an hour as millions celebrated the World Wildlife Fund’s (WWF) Earth Hour by switching off their lights.

In Islamabad, lights were turned off at the Parliament House and Supreme Court from 8:30pm to 9:30pm, while the Sindh government, which had signed an Earth Hour declaration on March 19 with the WWF, also joined the celebration of Mother Earth.

The annual event aims to convey a symbolic message about the need to protect the planet and raise awareness about environmental issues.

“Unfortunately, there is no debate or discourse on our energy problems,” said Gul Najam Jamy, assistant country director of United Nations Development Programme in Pakistan, while talking about Pakistan’s energy crisis, which is getting worse exponentially.

“Turning off lights for Earth Hour is a symbolic gesture which can easily be replicated around the world,” Jamy said, adding that the benefit is raising awareness about energy use and giving us a moment to reflect on what we are doing to prevent environmental and energy crises.

The UN official went on to explain that one reason for load-shedding was the unchecked use of electricity.

“There are many people who do not pay electricity bills in this country so others who pay bills and do not get electricity 24/7 suffer. We must assess our energy needs, conduct energy audits and cut down inefficient usage.”

Energy conservation has not been high on the government’s priority list. The Pakistan Energy Efficiency and Conservation Act 2011, which required energy audits for wasteful industrial and commercial enterprises with penalties for violators, was sent packing from parliament twice –languishing in the power ministry as the government completed its five-year term.

However, the WWF initiative has helped create a difference at the global level.

“Earth Hour has always been more than a lights off campaign, and we are now seeing some extraordinary environmental outcomes on the way to achieving our long-term vision,” said Andy Ridly, the chief executive officer and co-founder of Earth Hour, in a statement available on Earth Hour’s website.

The first Earth Hour was held in Sydney, Australia, in 2007. In the years since then, the global event has become “the world’s largest movement for the planet” with people from around 7,000 cities and towns across 152 countries participating in 2012, according to the Earth Hour website.

Published in The Express Tribune, March 24th, 2013.


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