Sunday, March 29, 2009

World switches off

Organisers are calling Eart Hour 2009 a 'global election', with switching off the lights a vote for the Earth and failure to do so, a vote for global warming. -- PHOTO: FAIRFAX MEDIA 2007

LONDON - FROM Sydney Harbour to the Eiffel Tower, cities and world landmarks plunged into darkness as a symbolic energy-saving exercise unfolded across the globe.

The pyramids at Giza in Egypt, the Acropolis in Athens and the Houses of Parliament in London cut their electricity as part of 'Earth Hour", a worldwide call for action to avert potentially devastating climate change.

Some 371 landmarks were due to power down worldwide, including Niagara Falls, the Empire State Building, the Las Vegas casino strip and Beijing's 'Bird's Nest' Olympic stadium.

The switch-off was due to end in Honolulu, capital of the US state of Hawaii.

The global event began dramatically as Sydney's iconic Opera House and Harbour Bridge plunged into darkness on Saturday night, killing their lights for an hour, followed later by the glittering waterfront of Hong Kong.

Millions of people turned out Sydney, while Melbourne, Australia's second-largest city, came to life with a pedal-powered concert and others enjoyed moonlit picnics and barbecues.

The global grassroots movement began in Sydney two years ago, when 2.2 million people switched off their lights. Earth Hour has since grown to include 3,929 cities, villages and localities across the globe.

'It is a very positive, hopeful campaign,' Andy Ridley, the event's director, told reporters in Sydney.

'We want people to think, even if it is for an hour, what they can do to lower their carbon footprint and take that beyond the hour.'

Mr Ridley said he was aiming for one billion participants, hoping the event would send a resounding message to world leaders about significant emissions cuts.

Scientists have warned that global warming caused by burning fossil fuels on a massive scale could devastate the planet, hitting the poorest countries hardest with floods, droughts and disease. -- AFP

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