Do the preparation task first. Then read the article and do the exercises to check your understanding.
What is Earth Hour?
Earth Hour is an annual global campaign that encourages people and businesses around the world to switch off electricity at the same time for one hour. Earth Hour started in Australia in 2007 when 2.2 million people in the city of Sydney turned off all non-essential lights for an hour. Since then it has grown to a massive global event. In 2013, millions of people in 7,000 cities and towns around the world switched off their lights for 60 minutes at the end of March. Every year landmarks and well-known buildings around the world such as the Sydney Opera House and Harbour Bridge, the Petronas towers in Malaysia, the UK Parliament, Buckingham Palace and the Empire State Building take part and ‘go dark’ for Earth Hour. The campaign even went into space when astronauts reduced power on the International Space Station in 2011.
Who organises Earth Hour?
Earth Hour is organised by the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF). It was started by Andy Ridley, originally from Britain, who is executive director of Earth Hour Global, WWF. He came up with the idea of Earth Hour because he wanted to raise awareness of environmental issues by asking people to do something positive to help the planet. Switching off the lights for an hour can make a small difference to the amount of energy we use but Earth Hour is also a symbolic event to make people think about the problems of climate change.
The end of March is around the time of the spring and autumn equinoxes in the northern and southern hemispheres respectively, so sunset times in both hemispheres are at similar times. This means that a global ‘lights out’ event has most visual impact at this time of year.
In 2013 in the UK, the pop group McFly gave a live acoustic performance (using no electricity!) dressed in panda costumes (the WWF’s logo is a panda) for Earth Hour. Celebrity chefs Gordon Ramsay and Raymond Blanc created special recipes for families to prepare and eat by candlelight. Actors and TV personalities including Kevin McCloud and Miranda Richardson recorded Rudyard Kipling's famous Just So Stories for families to listen to by candlelight.
As well as famous London landmarks such as Big Ben, the London Eye and Buckingham Palace switching off their lights, there are many other events around Britain. On the WWF’s interactive map you can see which people, businesses, schools, organisations and landmarks are taking part this year and what they are doing: http://earthhour.wwf.org.uk/#uk-map.
The WWF’s famous panda logo recently helped to promote Earth Hour. In 2014, the WWF asked their Facebook users to name a panda – not a real animal but a cute panda teddy bear. They chose some of the suggestions to name 60 panda teddy bears. These pandas were then passed around in the UK so that people could take photos of themselves with a bear and tweet a #passthepanda selfie to @wwf_uk. The WWF also encouraged everyone to join in by tweeting a #passthepanda selfie of themselves either in panda costume or wearing panda face paints!
Worksheets and downloads
Do you take part in Earth Hour?