‘Earth Hour: Ordinary people making extraordinary impact’
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