Earth Hour 2011

Friday, 4 March 2011

Edinburgh Castle during Earth Hour last year

At 8.30pm on Saturday 26th March 2011, lights will switch off around the globe for Earth Hour. Richard Simmonds, contributor to Lighting magazine, asks if it’s a futile gesture.

Tower Bridge, London for Earth Hour 2010

A global expression of concern about the environment or a futile gesture that simply makes little or no difference? Opinion is divided on the effectiveness of the now annual switch-off that is Earth Hour. The event started in 2007 in Sydney, Australia, when 2.2 million of the city’s residents turned off non-essential lighting. The following year, cities around the world took part and the event has been repeated every year since, culminating in Earth Hour 2010, which involved 128 countries and about 4,000 cities – and from which the
photos here are taken.

Earth Hour is now the largest voluntary action ever witnessed, according to conservation body WWF, which is behind the event. “Earth Hour’s rapid growth over four years has proven that hundreds of millions of people want to do more to protect their planet,” says Andy Ridley, co-founder and executive director of Earth Hour.

Piccadilly Circus in central London is barely recognisable with the lights turned off

This year, the event takes place on 26 March between 8.30pm and 9.30pm local time. There are also some changes this time around. For 2011, the organisers are asking participants not only to share the stories of what they did during the hour at, but to commit themselves to going ‘beyond the hour’, by turning off the lights as part of their daily routines. There is some dispute about how much energy the event saves, and critics including libertarians and Bjørn Lomborg, author of The Skeptical Environmentalist, argue it has little or no practical effect. Some say the event is anti-technology, but that it is technology that will solve the ecological crisis.

Regardless of its impact, it is undeniable that Earth Hour raises awareness not only of the need to conserve energy, but also of the effects of thoughtless overlighting in our cities.

The Atomium in Brussels, Belgium
This article was originally published in the March 2011 issue of Lighting magazine; visit for more information on the event.