Earth Hour reaches 134 countries


A record number of countries observed Earth Hour this year.

Earth Hour Germany

Child celebrating Earth Hour 2011 in Frankfurt, Germany.

Credit: Andreas Eistert.

- Advertisement -

A record 134 countries and territories participated in the 2011 Earth Hour event on Saturday 26 March. Conceived in Australia five years ago, the event has become the largest voluntary action to be observed for the environment.

Starting with New Zealand and ending with the nearby Cook Islands, cities, towns and villages plunged into relative darkness – including six of the world’s 10 biggest skyscrapers – to show solidarity and a united commitment to a sustainable future.

"We didn't imagine right at the beginning... it would be on the scale that it is now. And the fact that it is so cross cultural, beyond borders and race and religion," said Andy Ridley, Earth Hour co-founder and executive director.

Organisers said an estimated 10 million Australians flicked their light switches off for Earth Hour between 8.30pm and 9.30pm.

The number of Sydneysiders involved in the World Wildlife Fund-supported event doubled this year – reducing the city’s energy usage by 12 per cent. Energy provider AusGrid says this effort is the equivalent of switching off two million energy-efficient light bulbs.

The Sydney Opera House, Parliament House in Canberra, and Federation Square in Melbourne were some Aussie icons that descended into darkness for the hour.

The historic Sacred Valley of the Incas and the city of Machu Picchu were lost in the darkness of Earth Hour. Returning to the shadows of its former days before electricity, the Acropolis in Greece is thought to be the oldest monument to have observed the hour. Other monuments included in the Earth Hour were the Christ the Redeemer statue in Rio de Janeiro, the Eiffel Tower and the London Eye.

All 96 UN buildings in New York including the main headquarters, flicked off for the occasion. Even the Changi Airport in Thailand got behind the efforts, saying the total energy it saved is equivalent to the electricity consumed by a four-room apartment over three months.

At a hotel-turned-disaster shelter for the homeless in North-East Japan, thousands of earthquake and tsunami survivors switched off the lights and said prayers for the dead and missing. Fiji, Vietnam and Russia were among some of the countries where Earth Hour observers included a minute of silence for those affected by the recent earthquakes and tsunami in Japan.

Australians with inspiring ideas for long-term sustainability were recognised through the inagural Earth Hour Awards. Presented by candlelight at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Sydney, there were 20 finalists in five categories; youth, innovation, workplace, lifetime achievement, and education. There was also a people’s choice award.

To show that long-term sustainable living also needs to be considered, this year participants were encouraged to sign up for a ‘Beyond the Hour’ pledge. In Cancun, Mexico, people who made commitments to the environment then painted their hands to add to a personalised print to the ‘pledge wall’.

“The Beyond the Hour call to action has been unanimously answered by people worldwide,” said Ridley.

“From school children in Singapore, to heads of state from the UK, to Australia, Pakistan and Colombia, people have shown that Earth Hour has evolved beyond lights-out.”

“This year’s event has illustrated without question what can be achieved when people unite with a common purpose and rally to action.”

Click through the image gallery below to see G's favourite images of Earth Hour 2011 events around the world. View in full screen mode, then click 'show info', to see the captions.