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On March 26, 2011, at 8:30 pm local time, millions of people all over the world will turn out the lights.

The fifth annual Earth Hour is a part of a global movement led by the World Wildlife Fund to “vote with your light switch,” transforming the simple symbolic act of turning the lights off into a worldwide call to action for the environment. In the United States alone, approximately 80,000,000 million people, 318 cities, and eight states participated in Earth Hour 2009.

Earth Hour started in 2007, when the WWF and Australia’s “Sydney Morning Herald” encouraged Sydney residents to turn off all non-essential lights and electrical appliances for 60 minutes. Earth Hour went global in 2008, including 400 cities.

In 2010, hundreds of millions of people in thousands of cities across 128 countries and territories all over the world participated, making it the biggest Earth Hour yet. Landmarks such as the Empire State Building, the Las Vegas Strip, Seattle's Space Needle, the Golden Gate Bridge, the Acropolis in Athens, the Eiffel Tower in Paris, Sydney's Opera House, the Great Pyramids of Giza, Beijing's Birds Nest, and many more all went dark to call attention to the need for action to combat climate change.

If you'd like to participate in Earth Hour 2011, you can sign up by visiting and adding your name. Then just turn off the lights at Earth Hour! (But leave on any essential lights and appliances, such as refrigerators.)

Critics of Earth Hour have noted that alternatives to electric lights, such as candles or oil lamps, can actually create more greenhouse gases and thus be greater contributors to global warming than electricity. Others claim that Earth Hour is a meaningless symbol and that too little electricity is saved to make a difference, or that it doesn't make sense to say that electricity is the problem, since electricity is also necessary for so many things, like refrigerated food, medical machines, and manufacturing, that we depend on every day. To some degree, these points are valid.

But the real significance of Earth Hour is its power to unite millions of people all over the world in a single purpose. Of course, switching off the light for an hour saves some electricity--especially when hundreds of millions of people are doing it. And we can expand this tiny action of turning off the light into more actions that together can help decrease our carbon footprint, the amount of carbon emitted into the atmosphere as a result of our daily activities. There are a lot of other actions we can take every day to do our part for the environment, too.

Some easy changes we can make include making sure to turn off lights and unplug appliances when we're not using them; purchasing energy-efficient appliances; walking (or taking public transportation) more and driving less; taking the stairs instead of the elevator; eating more vegetables and other plants, which require less fossil fuel to produce; and just paying more attention to the resources we consume.

In the end, it's up to all of us to keep the Earth as beautiful and life-sustaining as we've always known it to be, and Earth Hour is a fun and easy way to remember that we're not alone!

For more information on Earth Hour go to:

National Geographic News:
“Earth Hour 2009: A Billion to Go Dark Saturday?”:
World Wildlife Fund,
“Earth Hour":
World Wildlife Fund,
“Earth Hour Kids”:

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