Lights going out for hour to reflect on environment
Lights around the Grand Harbour will be switched off tomorrow and candles will illuminate the Valletta waterfront instead, as Malta joins the rest of the world for 60 minutes of reflection on environmental issues.
Known as Earth Hour, the symbolic event calls on all communities to do their bit and come up with ideas to consume less energy and help the environment.
According to Andy Ridley, co-founder of the worldwide Earth Hour movement, Malta was a “really good example” of the community-owned campaign.
Organised by the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF), the event began in Sydney, Australia, in 2007 and has grown to 7,000 cities worldwide.
Every year, for one hour towards the end of March, households, businesses and government departments switch off non-essential lights as a symbol for their commitment to the planet.
“In Malta [Earth Hour] does not have any representatives so it’s very exciting that what happens on the island was started by citizens themselves,” said Mr Ridley, noting this was “really inspiring”. “What is interesting now is to see where Malta will take it. I’m sure you have a number of different environmental issues affecting the islands and being in the middle of the Mediterranean you have marine concerns.”
Tomorrow, lights around the bastions of the Three Cities, parts of the Valletta Waterfront and the Citadel in Gozo will be switched off. The event is a joint effort between Nature Trust and the Environment and Energy Ministries. Nature Trust has also taken the campaign to cinemas, with a short clip giving tips on how to save energy at home.
HSBC Malta employees will sell candles at the Waterfront in support of the Ghana Water Aid Project. Meanwhile, households and businesses can join in by turning off their non-essential lights between 8.30pm and 9.30pm.
The event at the Waterfront will start at 7.30pm. By 8.30pm all bastion lights will be out and will remain off until 9.30pm.
“The one-hour event is symbolic. What it’s really about is going beyond the hour and creating a change that’s lasting,” said Mr Ridley.
“It’s been a long journey for us. We started in 2007 to create an air of inspiration and gather the community in a way that none of our campaigns had ever really done.
“In the past couple of years we started to see some really amazing conservation results driven by the crowd.”
The Earth Hour community has successfully pushed for better marine laws in Russia, while in Argentina a crowd-sourced campaign led to the creation of a 3.4 million-hectare marine protected area.
“It takes a while to build a campaign on this scale, but the most exciting thing about it is when you start seeing communities taking action, whether big or small,” said Mr Ridley
Years ago WWF realised that if it wanted “big things to happen”, a broad audience had to be engaged and the event had to be relevant to people who would not necessarily see themselves as environmentalists. So while looking for a symbol that would inspire people to talk about water quality, climate change, air pollution and marine debris, they came across news that Bangkok had a shortage of oil fuel and had to turn off non-essential electrical devices to save energy.
The first Earth Hour was held on March 31 in Sydney, Australia, and lights were switched off at 7.30pm. The reaction was “very surprising and hopeful”.
The movement is expanding and this year launched a platform to enable the Earth Hour community to set up projects and get outside funding.
See www.earthhour.org for more information.