This Saturday, 30 March at 8.30PM local time, is Earth Hour. The world’s largest grassroots movement for the environment grows another year older and will continue to unite millions of people around the world who take part in this annual celebration. Earth Hour 2019 with its campaign ‘#Connect2Earth’ aims to build mass awareness on why nature is important and create an unstoppable movement for nature similar to when the world came together to tackle climate change.
The question I get asked most often is ‘What does switching off your lights for one hour actually achieve?’ and I always say that it shows the world that millions of people worldwide care about climate change and nature loss, and everyone has a role to play in tackling these issues. These two threats create our planet’s biggest environmental challenge yet. It is easy to put your hands up and say the stakes are stacked against us, or they are too high to try, but each of us who participates in Earth Hour has decided their ambition is higher, which is what I believe changes the game entirely. Together, we are participating in creating a new future that will change the world we live in for generations to come.
Over the weekend, the world will witness 24 of the most inspiring hours for the environment, as people around the world come together for Earth Hour. From Singapore to Santiago and Nairobi to New York, millions will unite, switch off their lights and speak up on why nature matters to them and that question, in my mind, is one that we don’t ask ourselves enough.
It's easy to think of nature as something that you have to travel to be with, or something that is far removed from your life. But let’s make no mistake about it. Nature underpins our life. At its simplest, nature provides things people often take for granted - the air we breathe, the water we drink, and the food we eat, all ultimately rely on nature. But others are less obvious - nature is the bedrock of our economies and livelihoods. When we ask ourselves the question ‘What If we didn’t have nature?’, the answers are quite horrifying for each and every one of us.
When we started Earth Hour in 2007, we had the 5% who cared about climate change, the 5% who thought it was a hoax and the 90% who were the potential tipping point. We wanted a voice that could speak to the 90% no matter where they were. Over the past decade, Earth Hour has inspired millions to support and participate in critical climate and environmental initiatives, helping drive climate policy, awareness and action worldwide.
Among its highlights, the movement helped create a 3.5 million hectare marine-protected area in Argentina and a 2,700-hectare Earth Hour forest in Uganda, ban all plastics in the Galapagos in 2014, plant 17 million trees in Kazakhstan, light up homes with solar power in India and the Philippines, and push new legislation for the protection of seas and forests in Russia. Just last year, French Polynesia moved to protect 5 million square kilometres of its seas to preserve ocean ecosystems. And this was made possible because people, ordinary individuals like you and me, decided that it was time for change.
12 years on from the first Earth Hour, this is a new beginning. The need to raise awareness for nature loss, like we did for climate change, is greater than ever. We also recognise the important role children and youth play in creating a more sustainable world, and have collaborated with talented Swiss singer Miel de Botton to emphasize this message in a song titled "I was Given Nature." It is our responsibility to inspire future generations of visionary and fearless leaders for the environment. We can decide, today, the kind of world generations to come will live in. The need for action and real change is now. Join me and millions of people around the world this Saturday and tell us how nature matters to you.