Widespread blackouts are predicted for Cape Town and Johannesburg on 28 March, when millions will vote with a flick of a switch to show that they're serious about climate change.
On 28 March, all citizens of the planet are invited to turn off their lights from 20h30-21h30 to symbolise their support for action on climate change.
This is Earth Hour 2009, the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) "lights out" initiative, which the organisers hope will go down in history as "the greatest voluntary action the world has ever witnessed".
1 billion people, 1000 cities
The event began in Sydney in 2007, when 2 million people switched off their lights. In 2008, this figure had swelled to 50 million worldwide.
This year the target is 1 billion people and 1000 cities. Speaking at a press conference in Cape Town today, Morne du Plessis, CEO of WWF, concedes that the target is ambitious, but it starts to seem possible when one considers who's already signed up: 75 countries and over 500 cities and towns, including London, New York, Sydney, Beijing, Rio de Janeiro, Hong Kong, Paris and Copenhagen. In South Africa, Cape Town and Johannesburg have committed to the cause.
Iconic landmarks will also go dark, such as Table Mountain, the Sydney Opera House, the Eiffel Tower and the statue of Christ the Redeemer in Rio de Janeiro.
Celebs sign on to switch off
Earth Hour has attracted the attention and support of a host of celebrities, notable among these Archbishop Desmond Tutu, who is recognised as a patron of the initiative across the globe.
Other local lights who pledged their support at press conferences in Cape Town and Johannesburg today were rock group The Parlotones, former Miss SA Joanne Strauss and e-News Head of Meteorology Derek van Dam.
Comedian Marc Lottering, swimmer Ryk Neethling, the Stormers rugby team and the Moroka Swallows soccer team have also signed on.
Not just a gimmick
Du Plessis said that Earth Hour is not intended as a "sensationalist" gimmick, nor is it intended to be a means to effectively save energy.
"The idea," said Du Plessis, "is to send a strong signal to world leaders when they go to Copenhagen later this year."
Climate change scientists and activists consider that the United Nation's Copenhagen Climate Change Conference, scheduled for December, will be a pivotal moment in the planet's history.
Leaders at the Conference will negotiate a new agreement on action on climate change, to replace the Kyoto Protocol which expires in 2012.
"We don't want a 'talk-fest' in Copenhagen, with nothing substantive coming out of it," said Du Plessis.
- (Olivia Rose-Innes, EnviroHealth Editor, Health24, February 2009)
South African cities and celebs commit to action on climate change, WWF press release, 19 February 2009
Health24 will be counting down to Earth Hour from 1 March.