Lights out to celebrate Earth Hour

March 27, 2010 12:00 am

, SAN FRANCISCO, Mar 28 – From Sydney Harbor to the Eiffel Tower in Paris and the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, major landmarks went dark for an hour late Saturday to raise awareness over the fight against climate change.

The tallest building in North America also turned its exterior lights off along with more than 200 buildings in downtown Chicago for Earth Hour.

The 110-story Sears Tower, recently renamed the Willis Tower, joined the iconic Chicago Theater, Wrigley Building and Navy Pier in dimming the city\’s skyline.

"By participating in the symbolic event of Earth Hour, we show that, together, we can collectively make a difference to protect and preserve the environment," said Chicago Mayor Richard Daley.

Earlier, the Eiffel Tower lost its glow and lights were switched off in other sites across the globe in a campaign to boost the fight against climate change.

The world-wide brownout was a noisy event in Sydney harbor, with ferry horns blaring to mark the start of the energy-saving event, involving 4,000 cities in a record 125 countries.

It included 1,200 landmarks from the Forbidden City to Egypt\’s pyramids and the Las Vegas Strip, with iconic sites going dark for 60 minutes.

"From Brazil to America, to Canada, all the way down to Australia, Japan and India — it\’s a really diverse set of countries taking part this year," Earth Hour executive director Andy Ridley said.

The rolling wave of darkness, timed for 8:30 pm in each locality, was intended to boost the environmental movement after disappointing UN talks in Copenhagen in December.

The WWF-run event officially began when New Zealand\’s Chatham Islands switched off their diesel generators to leave just 12 street lamps burning and was to end nearly 24 hours later in Samoa.

Beijing\’s Forbidden City and Bird\’s Nest Stadium were among the participants in China, which is the world\’s biggest carbon polluter and appointed giant panda Mei Lan its Earth Hour "ambassador".

But in Bangkok, city authorities were ordered to halt their Earth Hour campaign for security reasons as anti-government protesters held a major rally.

Elsewhere in Asia, the Japanese city of Hiroshima turned off the lights at 30 sites, including its Peace Memorial, set in one of the few buildings to survive an atom bomb attack during World War II.

Private homes also switched off their power. New Delhi Mum Aruna Mehra told AFP: "My daughter invited her friends over for a party to eat by candlelight" — although others drew the line at switching off fans in the sweltering heat.

In Delhi and Mumbai, lights were turned off at shops, hotels, the Rashtrapati Bhavan presidential residence, the 17th-century Red Fort and the Swaminarayan Akshardham temple complex, one of India\’s largest Hindu places of worship.

India is expected to be among the countries hit hardest by rising temperatures and changes in rainfall patterns, with experts warning such problems could affect food security and displace communities.

In the Middle East, the world\’s tallest building, the Burj Khalifa in Dubai, had its lights switched off for Earth Hour.

Egypt participated as well, with lights shut off at the Giza plateau, plunging the three Great Pyramids, the Sphinx and the surrounding desert area into total darkness.

In Europe, some of the world\’s most recognisable sites faded into darkness.

More than 240 buildings and monuments in Paris participated, including the Eiffel Tower — which only went dark for five minutes as opposed to the full hour. Some 1,600 candles were lit at its base in recognition of the event.

London\’s Big Ben took part, and the advertising signs at Piccadilly Circus in the city were also turned off. It is thought to be only the fourth time since World War II that the huge Coca-Cola sign there has been dimmed.

But some onlookers in Piccadilly Circus said the measures should have gone further.

"I thought it was going to be the whole of Piccadilly and it\’s just the screens. It should have been all the lights and all the buildings around here," said Sandra Herrera, 23, visiting from Bilbao in Spain.

Rome\’s Trevi Fountain, known by many through Federico Fellini\’s film "La Dolce Vita", was among Italy\’s sites involved in the campaign.

In Rio de Janeiro the hilltop statue of Christ, Cristo del Corcovado, the fabled Sugarloaf Mountain and Copacabana beach all went dark, as did landmarks in 72 other cities across the country.

Some 30 states and 150 municipalities across the United States, including its capital Washington DC, officially supported Earth Hour, organizers said.

In New York, the landmark Empire State and Chrysler building turned off their lights as did United Nations headquarters on East River.

But despite expectations, Times Square glowed with light without interruption, prompting some visitors to express regret.

"It was disappointing," commented Melodie Carli, a 20-year-old French national. "We came here especially to see the event."

Major US landmarks like Mount Rushmore in South Dakota, the Las Vegas Strip, the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, Washington\’s National Cathedral and the Coca-Cola headquarters in Atlanta were among hundreds of sites which turned off non-essential lighting.

But the White House and the US Capitol building remained fully lit up.

Earth Hour started in 2007 in Sydney and enjoys widespread support both from the public and big business, including Google, Coca-Cola and McDonald\’s.

In December, two weeks of UN talks in Copenhagen failed to produce a binding commitment to limit global warming or set out concrete plans for doing so, in a setback for the environmental movement.


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