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Earth Hour and the Power of Hope
© Mazidi Abd Ghani / WWF-Malaysia
"We are running out of time, but there is still hope." -Sir David Attenborough
In an age of accelerating biodiversity loss, mounting climate impacts, and rampant plastic pollution, one might think that there is not much to be hopeful about.
But, while the news is dire, we have reasons for hope. Attitudes are shifting. People are demanding bold action. Schoolchildren are turning out for marches. Businesses are changing how they operate. Conservation champions, like Sir Rob Fenwick—who spoke passionately on the need to do more until his final days—are being celebrated.
Another reason for hope is the hundreds of millions of people around the world joining businesses, organisations, cities, heads of state, and schools for Earth Hour on the 28th of March—showing what’s possible when we come together to stand up for the future of the planet.
Earth Hour is all about hope. Not empty hope—but turning hope into action.
In 2007, the first Earth Hour brought together more than two million people and two thousand businesses in Sydney, Australia to raise awareness on climate change.
Fast forward to 2020. The term ‘climate change’ no longer accurately reflects the seriousness of the situation—we are now facing a climate emergency.
Despite the science being abundantly clear for many years, despite the repeated warnings, we’ve mostly continued to conduct business as usual—with greenhouse gas emissions continuing to rise and governments failing to act.
The results of climate inaction have become devastatingly clear. In February, at 18.3 degrees Celsius, Antarctica felt like a rooftop bar in Los Angeles—the highest temperature recorded since measurements began there. Australia was ravaged by the most destructive bushfire season the country has ever seen. Here in Aotearoa New Zealand and across the world, widespread nature loss, more frequent and stronger storms, dangerous floods, rising seas, and droughts have become regular facts of life. Our planet is suffering.
"We know what is happening, we know what we must do—now, we must simply do it." -Sir Rob Fenwick
The good news is that we know what we need to do, and we largely have the tools to do it. But change only happens if we act, act together, and act now.
It will require tangible actions—consumers making better decisions, a transition from fossil fuels to renewable sources, policy changes, and leadership from big businesses and governments to act urgently and co-operatively. It will also require that every world leader understands the need to act and has the public support to act.
Over the past 13 years, Earth Hour has grown far beyond the symbolic action of "switching off" to become a catalyst for climate awareness, education, conversation and positive policy changes. Now the world’s largest grassroots environmental movement, it demonstrates the widespread support for action and has the power to influence governments and businesses to do the right thing.
Earth Hour is also about going beyond the hour to take meaningful, ongoing change throughout the year. If each of us makes small changes by walking to work or taking public transit, changing the way we eat, ditching plastic, or restoring nature where we live, together, it can add up to make a big difference.
Ki uta ki tai [from the mountains to the sea]
Aotearoa New Zealand prides itself on our environment. Our healthy land and ocean are the foundation of our national culture, identity, wellbeing, and prosperity. And while these ecosystems are facing enormous pressures, the readiness to respond to these challenges is building—from the near-unanimous passage of the historic Zero Carbon Act, to the ban on single-use plastic bags, to the upsurge in community conservation projects. But we have a lot more work to do.
The Māori concept of kaitiakitanga [guardianship]—a hopeful vision for the future--can be seen in the hundreds of New Zealand businesses, organisations, agencies, schools, and people that have signed on so far to take part in Earth Hour. From landmarks to websites going dark, community tree plantings, candlelit dinners at restaurants, families celebrating at home, and school assemblies on protecting nature—together, we are showing our commitment to a healthy planet.
"If we do not change course by 2020, we risk missing the point where we can avoid runaway climate change, with disastrous consequences for people and all the natural systems that sustain us." -UN Secretary-General Guterres
2020 is a year of action. In only a few months' time, world leaders will come together for global conferences to make key political decisions on climate action, sustainable development and nature—setting the precedent for years to come.
With your participation, the impact of this single hour will go far beyond the evening. Earth Hour 2020 has the power to change the direction not only of the year ahead, but the crucial decade to come.
Hope is not giving up. Hope is joining in, taking action, and demanding a better future for generations to come.