New York will be in the dark for an hour tonight – but don’t worry, we’re not headed for a power outage. City landmarks, including the Empire State Building, will mark Earth Hour by turning off the lights between 8:30 p.m. and 9:30 p.m. Other city sights that will be dark tonight include the U.N. Headquarters and City Hall. And the second worldwide Earth Hour – which aims to raise awareness about climate change – is being observed all over.
From the Great Pyramids to the Acropolis, the London Eye to the Las Vegas strip, nearly 4,000 cities and towns in 88 countries planned to join in the World Wildlife Fund-sponsored event, a time zone-by-time zone plan to dim nonessential lights between 8:30 p.m. and 9:30 p.m.
Involvement in the effort has exploded since last year’s Earth Hour, which drew participation from 400 cities after Sydney held a solo event in 2007. Interest has spiked ahead of planned negotiations on a new global warming treaty in Copenhagen, Denmark, this December. The last global accord, the Kyoto Protocol, is set to expire in 2012.
Despite the boost in interest from the Copenhagen negotiations, organizers initially worried enthusiasm for this year’s event would wane with the world’s attention focused largely on the global economic crisis, Earth Hour executive director Andy Ridley told The Associated Press. Strangely enough, he said, it’s seemed to have the opposite effect.
“Earth Hour has always been a positive campaign; it’s always around street parties, not street protests, it’s the idea of hope not despair. And I think that’s something that’s been incredibly important this year because there is so much despair around,” he said. “On the other side of it, there’s savings in cutting your power usage and being more sustainable and more efficient.”
Earlier today, the Chatham Islands, a group of small islands about 500 miles east of New Zealand, officially kicked off Earth Hour by switching off its diesel generators. Soon after, the lights of Auckland’s Sky Tower, the tallest man-made structure in New Zealand, blinked off.
Forty-four New Zealand towns and cities participated in the event, and more than 60,000 people showed up for an Earth Hour-themed hot air ballooning festival in the city of Hamilton.
The U.N.’s headquarters in New York and other of its facilities were dimming their lights for an hour to signal the need for global support for a new climate treaty in Copenhagen in December. The first round of climate negotiations this year begins Sunday in Bonn, Germany.
U.N. Secretary Ban Ki-moon called Earth Hour “a way for the citizens of the world to send a clear message: They want action on climate change.”
“We are on a dangerous path. Our planet is warming. We must change our ways. … We need sustainable energy for a more climate-friendly, prosperous world,” Ban said.
McDonald’s Corp. planned to dim its arches at 500 locations around the Midwest in the United States. The Marriott, Ritz-Carlton and Fairmont hotel chains and Coca-Cola Co. also planned to participate.