30 March 2009

Earth hour hailed as a success

Earth Hour was a huge success internationally and South Africans switched off a total of 4.7 million 60 watt light bulbs between 8.30pm and 9.30pm on Saturday.

For environmental activists, the message was clear: Earth Hour was a huge success. Now they say nations have a mandate to tackle climate change.

"The world said yes to climate action, now governments must follow," the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) said.

From an Antarctic research base and the Great Pyramids of Egypt, from the Colosseum in Rome to the Empire State building in New York, illuminated patches of the globe went dark Saturday night to highlight the threat of climate change.

Time zone by time zone, nearly 4 000 cities and towns in 88 countries dimmed nonessential lights from 8.30pm to 9.30pm WWF called the event, which began in Australia in 2007 and grew last year to 400 cities worldwide, "the world's first-ever global vote about the future of our planet."

SA saves 400 megawatts
And South Africa was no exception, with cities all over the country taking part. In fact, Eskom noted that South Africa saved about 400 megawatts during Earth Hour.

This meant South Africans switched off a total of 4.7 million 60 watt light bulbs between 8.30pm and 9.30pm on Saturday, as part of a global initiative for action against climate change, said spokesman Fani Zulu.

"This also means one unit of power at each of our small power stations was saved," he said.

In Melville, Johannesburg a few restaurants opted for candlelight. The Johannesburg skyline looked decidedly dimmer, although the Vodacom advert on top of the Ponte tower still flashed merrily.

At music venue and restaurant the Blues Room in Sandton, patrons were asked to light the candles which had been put on all the tables, before the lights were turned off.

Where Earth Hour began
The United Nations' top climate official, Yvo de Boer, called the event a clear sign that the world wants negotiators seeking a climate change agreement to set an ambitious course to fight global warming.

Earth Hour officially began when the Chatham Islands, 800 kilometres) east of New Zealand, switched off its diesel generators. It moved on through Asia, Europe and then crossed the Atlantic to North and South America.

"Earth Hour has always been a positive campaign," said Earth Hour executive director Andy Ridley. "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." – (Sapa, March 2009)

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