Nations in the Americas joined a wildly successful Earth Hour which when complete will have seen hundreds of millions of people in more than 4000 communities in 126 countries participate – and all of those figures being subject to upward revision.
'Earth Hour sends a clear message that Americans care about their country and the planet. By turning the lights off on pollution and climate change, we will make the switch to a cleaner, safer and more secure world,' said Earth Hour US Managing Director Leslie Aun.
Earth Hour in the US enjoyed the support of governors from both sides of the aisle, mayors, state legislators, government officials, business, religious and community leaders, university presidents and teachers.
Sports figures, actors and models supporting Earth Hour 2010 included New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady and his wife supermodel Gisele Bündchen, as well as two-time NBA MVP and Phoenix Suns guard Steve Nash have recorded public service announcements (PSAs) to help raise awareness of the significance of climate change action. Edward Norton signed on for the second year in a row to show his support for Earth Hour with a new video encouraging people to join the movement with him.
Lights went out at one of the best lit places on Planet Earth – the welcome sign and strip at Las Vegas, Nevada. At least 45 other landmarks – from the Empire State building to the Golden Gate bridge – also marked the occasion. They included the Art Deco masterpiece of the Chrysler Building in New York along with the United Nations building.
In Washington DC, the National Cathedral and Smithsonian Castle, which houses the administrative functions of the Smithsonian Institution, observed Earth Hour while in the other Washington, the Space Needle in Seattle faded into the night sky. The Queen Mary Hotel – a former Ocean liner – and Montezuma Castle, ancient cliff dwellings in Arizona, and Mt Rushmore, adorned with gigantic sculptures of US presidents, showed some of the range of monuments to turn off.
Canada’s close associations were apparent in a joint turn-off of lights with the US at Niagara Falls. Nearly the last attractions to turn off in both countries were also notable suspension bridges completed less than a year apart – San Francisco’s Golden Gate (1937) and Vancouver’s Lion Gate (1938) bridges.
Canada has a tradition of strong Earth Hour support, and 2010, with some cites and towns taking part is no exception. World wide, only the motivated purveyors of the Earth Hour mob dance in the Philippines did better.
However, the Canadians have their own customary concert and street party held in downtown Barrie, Ontario. Now in its second year, the event itself is in keeping with the theme of Earth Hour - to keep it fun, and to raise awareness about climate change - and is kept lively by international acts as well as local buskers, musicians and artists.
In nearby Toronto, the CN Tower, the world tallest free-standing structure, again dimmed its lights for Earth Hour.
WWF Canada intends to deliver messages from those taking part in Earth Hour 2010 to world leaders gathering in Huntsville, Ontario for the G8 and G20 meetings. One notable message is that all G20 nations this year took part in the global Earth Hour call for climate action.
Mexico lights go out for Earth Hour, climate spotlight on the way
Mexico turned off lights for Earth Hour as a prelude to the city's year in the climate spotlight as the next UN conference on climate change approaches. The effort to pick up the pieces from the largely inconclusive Copenhagen Climate Conference last December will take place in the resort town of Cancun this coming December.
The centre of Mexican Earth Hour celebrations was however at the centre of much of the country’s political tradition, around the Independence Angel - El Ángel – in Mexico City. The Cathedral, government buildings, other monuments and numerous fountains – including the Mexican Petroleum Fountain – were also darkened for the occasion.
“The need for action remains extremely urgent, and the Cancun discussions must produce tangible results,' said Vanessa Pérez-Cirera, Climate Change Director for WWF-Mexico.
Forest focus in Brazil and Bolivia.
Differing time zones meant that Brazil did not plunge into darkness as one, but the country registered its strong surge in Earth Hour participation, with three State governments, 20 state capitals in all the country’s macro-regions, and 98 Brazilian cities taking part. Adding to the support were 2,210 companies and 320 organisations.
'This gesture of switching off the lights drives attention to the fact that each one can do its share for the planet, and this kind of reflection is growing. Earth Hour turns off the lights so people can illuminate themselves and raise awareness about the urgency of conserving the environment', said Carlos Minc, Brazilian Minister of the Environment
'WWF-Brazil is really proud of the participation of Brazilian people in Earth Hour 2010. It topped expectations and what we achieved last year. Movements like Earth Hour enable society to tell their leaders that they need to take action to save our planet', said Denise Hamú, CEO of WWF-Brazil.
Rio de Janeiro switched off the illumination of some of the best known Brasilia icons in the world: the avenue bordering the Copacabana beach, the Sugarloaf mountain and the Statue of Christ the Redeemer. In the Botanical Gardens, Carlos Minc and the Mayor of Rio de Janeiro, Eduardo Paes pulled the switch that left the 'Wonderful City' in the dark.
In the Brazilian capital Brasília – world heritage listed for outstanding modern architecture – the distinctive parliamentary buildings turned off for Earth Hour. More popular interest possibly was focused up the slope , where the Patubatê band was performing at the Terraço Shopping Mall. Shop owners also supported the campaign turning off their lights except for emergency exits.
A key accent underlying Brazil’s Earth Hour events was the issue of deforestation, behind the largest proportion of the country’s emissions. Neighbour Bolivia also experienced something of a forest-based Earth Hour with the focal point being in the city of Santa Cruz where 150 companies and institutions involved in responsible forestry and trade in wood products took part in the annual Forest Exposition.
For Earth Hour at the Forest Fair, the band Oxigeno performed an unplugged percussion concert, accompanied with fire jugglers, following which the best of the more than 200 stands at the fair received their prizes.
'Deforestation is a major problem in Bolivia, and is responsible for four-fifths of all our carbon emissions' said WWF Bolivia's Conservation Director, Mr. Adolfo Moreno.
Eleven other Bolivian cities, including capital La Paz have celebrated Earth Hour this year, which is significant uptake in civic participation, and marks the increasing interest the public is taking in the danger posed by climate change
In Colombia, Medellin – now again a centre of economic dynamism - Earth Hour was celebrated for the first time. Earth Hour in the city was devoted to underling the importance of sustainable economic development.
Claudia Patricia Mora, Deputy Minister of the Environment, has seen Earth Hour as an invitation to all 'to join together in one voice and (see) that our actions do not end here, we must preserve our environment with daily activities associated with minimum consumption of energy , fossil fuels and water.'
Earth Hour was also celebrated in Cartagena - the Heroic City – and in the Plaza de Bolivar, core of Bogota's historical centre.
Largely driven by a Facebook event, residents of Asuncion, Paraguay gathered in front of one of the major shopping malls of Asuncion with candles forming the number “60” and a drum batcada making a powerful unplugged fiesta in celebration of Earth Hour 2010. Amateur astronomers offered their support to produce a makeshift observatory to seize the darkness while historical landmarks such as the Cabildo, Palacio de López and Palacio de López also dimmed, surpassing local organizers expectations.
Similarly in Uruguay, two Montevideo residents led the charge for their country to take part in the global Earth Hour relay for the first time this year, securing support from the Municipal Council of Montevideo and additional corporate support. Entertainment venue Conrad Punta del Este shut off its external decorative lights.
In Buenos Aires, Argentina, landmarks switching off for Earth Hour included landmarks such as the Manzana de las luces, Palacio Barolo and Monumento a los Españoles turned their lights off to mark Earth Hour 2010.
On the night, a ‘big switch’ prop was placed in Obelisco where the city mayor marked the beginning of the hour by switching it off. Volunteers then spent the hour assembling the Earth Hour logo with candles and celebrating Earth Hour in a party atmosphere. Across the Andes, Chileans took part in Earth Hour despite the hardships of the February earthquakes.
Island states of the Caribbean and elsewhere also took part in Earth Hour. In Bermuda, the grass-roots movement was led by local environmental NGO Greenrock and centred on the city of Hamilton, with awareness raising activities coupled with music and a performance by Capoeira dancers.
In another, more remote outpost of empire, Falkland Islands member of parliament Emma Edwards staged an official Earth Hour event at Whalebone Arch in the Falkland Islands. The Islands already source around 60 per cent of their power from wind farms. Thirty school children and girl scouts took part in the event, underlining the need for action on climate change to protect the planet for younger generations.
Leaders themselves looking for leadership
Ecuador participated in its first ever Earth Hour this year with a lights out ceremony in Old Town Quito on the Plaza de la Independiencia surrounded by the Government Palace, the Archbishop's Palace, the Metropolitan Cathedral and the headquarters of the Municipality of Quito. Among the keenest participants was the new WWF International President, Yolanda Kakabadse, a former Ecuadorian Environment Minister with a long and distinguished career in resolving environmental and other conflicts between policy makers, industry and social groups.
“Never doubt that decision makers will be watching what masses of people do in their homes and communities for Earth Hour,” she said. “Dealing with climate change is not easy and leaders are themselves are looking for leadership on the issue.”