Sun, Apr 01, 2007 - Page 1 News List

Sydney switches off for Earth Hour

AFP , SYDNEY

The main lights that illuminate the Harbor Bridge are turned off in Sydney yesterday to draw attention to global warming.

PHOTO: AP

Australia's largest city was plunged into darkness for an hour last night, as Sydney underwent a self-imposed blackout to raise awareness of global warming.

Residents and businesses across the city of 4 million flicked off the lights for "Earth Hour" at 7:30pm.

Tourists had to view the famous Sydney Opera House by moonlight, while the Harbour Bridge's steel span and the clown's face of the waterside Luna Park fairground were also blacked out.

The neon on a huge blinking Coca-Cola advertising board in Sydney's Kings Cross nightclub district flickered off for the first time since it was installed in 1974.

Restaurants served diners by candlelight and pupils went to school for special Earth Hour parties.

The Newtown Hotel, which bills itself as Australia's oldest gay pub, even organized a special drag show where the audience were handed mini-torches to light up performers' sequins.

Many of Australia's biggest companies signed up for the event, with local McDonald's restaurants turning off the "golden arches" for the occasion.

The World Wildlife Fund (WWF) believes the switch-off could be copied by major cities around the world in a drive to reduce the greenhouse gas emissions blamed for climate change.

Oscar-winning Australian actress Cate Blanchett described Earth Hour as a beginning.

"It's an hour of active, thoughtful darkness, a celebration of our awakening to climate change action," she said.

The WWF, which has spent 10 months organizing the event with city authorities and a major newspaper group, said there had been a massive groundswell of support across the city.

WWF Australia spokesman Andy Ridley said the city got behind the initiative.

"It was extraordinary," he said. "The levels of support we had was huge. Seeing the city in darkness was an amazing sight."

He said the event was aimed at raising awareness about climate change and showing that an action as simple as turning out a light could make a difference.

"It's only by joining together that you can make a difference," he said.

"The world has moved into a time where we see climate change as a serious risk, but we want people to realize that it's not all doom and gloom, individuals can take action to help address the problem," he said.

"One of the things about Earth Hour is really to get the issue out of the scientific and specialist areas and into the mainstream," he said.

Ridley said the WWF hoped to capitalize on the popularity of the event in the longer term with a campaign to reduce Sydney's greenhouse gas emissions by 5 percent over the next year.

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