Earth Hour, the environmentally symbolic annual switch-off of lights for one hour that took place last night, extended into space this year, with the International Space Station taking part for the first time. A post-Muammar Qaddafi Libya was also to be a newcomer to the event.
The Dutch astronaut Andre Kuipers, who this week oversaw the trickier task of receiving supplies from one of Europe’s unmanned spacecraft, was to share photos of Earth and live commentary as landmarks from the Eiffel Tower to the Sydney Opera House switch off their lights.
“There is no better way to raise awareness for the future of the most beautiful planet in the universe,” Kuipers said earlier this month.
From Egypt’s Tahrir Square to New York’s Empire State Building, thousands of cities were to turn off lights for 60 minutes from 8:30pm local time, with switches flicked in around 150 countries and territories.
Environmental group WWF, the event’s organizers, said this year would see record participation, with 5,411 cities and towns, and 147 countries taking part, up from 5,251 and 135 last year.
Organizations including the International Trade Union Confederation and World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts have asked their members to take part, and UNESCO has asked World Heritage sites to take part.
The Acropolis in Athens, churches and convents of Goa and Angkor in Cambodia were among those going dark. In the UK, Buckingham Palace, Tower Bridge and Big Ben were all to switch off their lights.
This year, Libya was to take part as Mohammad Nattah, 19, has decided to organize Earth Hour in Tripoli.
Since it began in Sydney in 2007, Earth Hour has grown to become what WWF organizers say is the world’s largest demonstration of support for action on carbon pollution.
“Earth Hour 2012 is a celebration of people power — the world’s largest mass environmental event in support of the planet,” WWF Australia chief executive Dermot O’Gorman said yesterday.
“And we’re seeing hundreds of millions of people in different countries around the world take actions to go beyond the hour in support of positive actions for climate change and the planet,” O’Gorman said
Sydney’s Opera House and Harbor Bridge were among the first landmarks to plunge into darkness from 9:30am GMT, and they were followed by the likes of the Tokyo Tower, Taipei 101 and the Great Wall of China.
In the Philippines, more than 1,780 police stations and training centers turned off all non-essential lights and electrical equipment.
In Beijing, Olympic Park’s two landmark monuments the Bird’s Nest and Water Cube were to spend an hour in darkness.
And in Singapore, 32 malls — many located in the glittering Orchard Road shopping belt — and more than 370 companies including luxury brands such as Louis Vuitton and Armani were to turn off non-essential lighting.
“We will turn off the lights in the offices, but not the lights in the perimeter because our detainees might escape,” Philippine national police spokesman Superintendent Agrimero Cruz said.
In New Delhi, lights at three iconic monuments, India Gate, Qutub Minar and Humayun’s Tomb were to be switched off.
“We have a lot of power cuts in our neighborhood so we’re used to going without power, but my kids want to turn out the lights for Earth Hour — they’ve been learning about energy conservation at school,” Delhi mother-of-two Sangeeta Dayal said.