‘Earth Hour: Or­di­nary people mak­ing ex­tra­or­di­nary im­pact’

Friday - - THE BIG STORY -

Earth Hour co-founder Andy Ri­d­ley in­sists he’s an aver­age guy. Un­usual for a man who will get mil­lions of people all over the world to turn off their lights to­mor­row night. The rea­son is this: Andy feels that de­spite the mas­sive im­pact of the Earth Hour move­ment, the event is re­ally about or­di­nary in­di­vid­u­als do­ing or­di­nary things to make an ex­tra­or­di­nary im­pact on the world.

This year, the global ‘lights out’ spear­headed by World Wildlife Fund will hap­pen in the UAE from 8.30-9.30pm.

The first Earth Hour took place on March 31, 2007, at 7.30pm in Syd­ney, Aus­tralia. Around 50 per cent of Syd­ney res­i­dents par­tic­i­pated and the amount of en­ergy saved dur­ing the par­tial black­out was around 10 per cent of nor­mal us­age for the day. Andy’s idea at that point was to en­gage the “60 per cent of the pub­lic who weren’t en­gaged in the cli­mate change dis­cus­sion”.

Andy first got the idea of a ‘lights out’ move­ment from a story he read on­line about the Bangkok govern­ment ask­ing cit­i­zens to turn off their power due to fuel short­age. “I con­ceived it as a sym­bolic ges­ture that would spread the mes­sage faster and more ef­fec­tively,” he says.

Born in Nor­wich, Eng­land, Andy moved to Syd­ney in 2002, af­ter hav­ing headed up the spe­cial projects team for the Prince’s Trust, work­ing on a num­ber of UK char­ity cam­paigns in­clud­ing the very suc­cess­ful Party in the Park. An avid scuba diver, he was com­mu­ni­ca­tions di­rec­tor of WWF Aus­tralia, work­ing on ma­jor con­ser­va­tion cam­paigns to pro­tect the Great Bar­rier Reef, South­ern Ocean and Co­ral Sea.

In 2004, in­spired by the idea of a cam­paign to en­gage or­di­nary people as well as businesses in the cli­mate change de­bate through a sim­ple ac­tion, Andy ini­ti­ated a think tank be­tween Leo Bur­nett and Fair­fax Me­dia, form­ing a part­ner­ship to deliver a ‘lights out’ cam­paign, which would later be­come known as Earth Hour. In 2013 Earth Hour was ob­served in more than 7,000 cities across 150 coun­tries.

“Last year Earth Hour achieved in­cred­i­ble en­vi­ron­men­tal out­comes from across the globe,” says Andy. “It was last year that we truly wit­nessed what the power of a crowd can ac­tu­ally do.

“Now, more than ever, it’s clear that we are just scratch­ing the sur­face of what’s pos­si­ble when people use their power to­gether,” says Andy. “Mov­ing into 2014 we wanted to take these in­cred­i­ble out­comes to a broader level. And now, 2014 sees Earth Hour at its most ex­cit­ing stage yet; the launch of our new crowd fund­ing and crowd sourc­ing plat­form as well as Earth Hour’s first su­per-hero am­bas­sador – Spi­der-Man – join­ing Earth Hour, through press con­fer­ences and video ap­peals, with a mes­sage for all in­di­vid­u­als to ‘use your power’ to pro­tect the planet.”

From a sym­bolic event to a per­ma­nent en­ter­prise that trans­lates the good­will to some­thing spe­cific and quan­tifi­able, Earth Hour has come a long way.

“The Earth Hour Blue plat­form is mea­sur­able and has en­vi­ron­men­tal out­comes,” says Andy. “The plat­form has re­ally tried to quan­tify out­comes and quan­tify the im­pact people can have on the en­vi­ron­ment. For ex­am­ple, just $50 to­wards Mada­gas­car’s en­ergy sav­ing stoves on Earth Hour Blue can save a hectare of for­est and $300 pro­vides ranger equip­ment for In­done­sia’s wildlife pro­tec­tors in the forests of Bor­neo and Su­ma­tra – take a look on earthhour.org to see the projects you can sup­port.”

Earth Hour now in­spires a global com­mu­nity of mil­lions of people in 7,001 cities and towns across 154 coun­tries and ter­ri­to­ries for the event, says Andy.

“Earth Hour is lo­calised in ev­ery coun­try – from Ar­gentina rais­ing sup­port for a 3.4 mil­lion ma­rine pro­tected sea to Earth Hour in the UAE ask­ing the pub­lic to take charge of their eco­log­i­cal foot­print switch­ing to en­ergy-ef­fi­cient bulbs in their homes and work­places,” he says.

“We are sup­port­ing the team at Emi­rates Wildlife So­ci­ety – WWF and their lo­cal out­reach cam­paign ‘Get En­light­ened – Make The Switch’. In a sin­gle year, by switch­ing to en­ergy-ef­fi­cient light­ing we can re­move the equiv­a­lent of 165,000 cars off the road.”

Ob­vi­ously, Earth Hour has come of age, and is here to stay.

Dubai’s sky­line goes dark dur­ing Earth Hour

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UAE

© PressReader. All rights reserved.