Global environmental challenges
Turn out the lights for climate change (and polar bears)?
Lights will go out around the world on Saturday from Beijing’s Forbidden City to a village in the Arctic where they usually keep street lights blazing to ward off polar bears.
The “Earth Hour” — when everyone is asked to turn off lights for an hour from 8.30 p.m. local time — is meant as a show of support for tougher action to confront climate change.
Organisers say that hundreds of millions of people last year joined in the annual event that has flourished since it began in Australia in 2007 and has won support from more than 120 nations, with endorsements from companies, government leaders and U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon.
Landmarks going dim this year also include Rome’s Trevi Fountain, Big Ben in London, the Sphinx in Egypt, the Empire State Building in New York and the new Burj Khalifa tower — which opened in Dubai this year and is the world’s tallest building at 828 metres. Everyone around the world with electricity is urged to turn off the lights at home.
Last year the target was to involve at least a billion people of the world’s 6.8 billion — electricity consumption dips but there’s no good way of checking exactly how many people turned off the lights. Organisers have concluded that “hundreds of millions” took part.
Longyearbyen, a Norwegian village about 1,000 kms from the North Pole, has agreed to join in for the first time — the local authorities refused last year, saying that having street lights on is a way to ward off polar bears, said Kathrine Kjelland of organisers WWF.
No one wants to run into a polar bear in the dark, among the first victims of climate change if the Arctic melts.
(Photo: One year old polar bear Ikor plays at Sapporo zoo in Japan, Jan. 18, 2010. REUTERS/Issei Kato)