Described as ‘an incredible success," by World Wildlife Fund International Director General James Leape, Earth Hour 2009 saw monuments, castles, public buildings across Ireland join 88 countries around the globe in going dark for one hour.
Last year Ireland was the only country in Europe to take part in Earth Hour. This year the 65 European Union buildings in Brussels went dark as 500,000 households turned off in 193 cities, towns and municipalities in that country alone - about one in three households.
Iconic buildings across Ireland turned their lights off, including Government buildings, Leinster House, the Custom House, and the Four Courts. Countrywide, the Rock of Cashel, the most visited heritage site in Ireland, was plunged into darkness as was Cahir Castle, Ormonde Castle, Carrick on Suir, Donegal Castle and Trim Castle in Co Meath, the largest Anglo Norman castle in Ireland.
EirGrid reported a reduction for the hour of 70 MW, enough to power 45,000 homes or 100,000 plasma TVs.
More than 100 cities and towns in the UK participated. 200 UK landmarks and world famous cultural symbols went dark- including Big Ben, the Palace of Westminster in London, and Edinburgh Castle.
Iconic buildings all over the globe disappeared into darkness. In China the Bird's Nest and Water Cube landmark structures were part of a series of prominent buildings in the Olympic Park area blanketed in darkness. Time Square went dark. Even MacDonald's arches dimmed their lights.
The term Earth Hour was searched on the internet more than one million times in the final 24 hours while Friends of the Irish Environment recorded record hits on its website.
The planet's brightest spot from space - Las Vegas' Strip - went dark for the first time since Frank Sinatra death in 1998. Brazil reported a country "partying in the dark".
The Philippines topped the Earth Hour global register for cities, towns and districts taking part in Asia, with more than 650 communities taking part.
Earth Hour had its longest passage through Russia, traversing 11 time zones through the world's largest nation by area as estimated 1 million Russians took part.
In the extreme north, members of the Catlin Arctic Survey expedition videoed themselves counting down to Earth Hour. The survey is conducting the first ever ground survey of the thickness of Arctic sea ice. Predictions are that the summer sea ice could disappear within a generation, leading to catastrophic consequences for this vital global ecosystem.
Earth Hour Global Director, Andy Ridley, expressed his amazement at the unprecedented volume of support and participation in the lights out campaign.
Ridley said initial fears that the global economic crisis would dim enthusiasm for Earth Hour had dissipated as organisers realised it had the opposite effect. "Earth Hour has always been a positive campaign; it's always around street parties, not street protests, it's the idea of hope, not despair. And I think that's something that's been incredibly important this year because there is so much despair around."
Minister for the Environment John Gormley said that ‘at this time of economic turmoil, the investment needed to tackle climate change can help lift economies out of financial crisis. We will need to invent new ways to reduce our reliance on oil and other fossil fuels. We will need to invest in upgrading our buildings, our transport systems and our energy systems. Hundreds of billions of euro invested around the world will generate millions of jobs.'
The critics were not silenced, however.
The American Foundation for the Defence of Democracies called Earth Hour an ‘immensely destructive gesture', attacking UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon's support for the event.
Climate sceptic Bjorn Lomberg, author of the ‘Sceptical Environmentalist', said that the event could ‘actually increase emission', citing the inefficiency of candles. Another US scientist suggested that Earth Hour has taken ‘the one thing that symbolises man's advance over animals - man's ability to create light - and turned it into a bad thing'.
"Sometimes we need darkness to see clearly," said Italian celebrity stylist Giorgio Armani said.
The President of the World Wildlife Fund, Carter Roberts, explained that ‘Earth Hour is an event that is designed to raise people's consciousness, to show people that they can take positive steps to make a difference and to knit together the global community in taking action at the same time.'
Ridley emphasised that Earth Hour is symbolic. ‘Earth Hour is absolutely symbolic. Symbolism is an important stage of dealing with a major problem, so I don't think we are ashamed to say that in any way", he said.
Tony Lowes of Friends of the Irish Environment, who last year introduced Earth Hour to Ireland and who coordinated the event again this year, said that the response had been unprecedented - but that ‘nothing had changed. After the euphoria of last night, its really hard today to face again into the huge job we have to make our politicians and business leaders take the extreme actions that are needed more urgently every day.'
WWF EARTH HOUR Website:
FIE Irish EARTH HOUR website:
International: Billy Gentle, Earth Hour Global T: +61 2 8202 1243 / M: +61 (0) 410 161 789
Andrew Sedger, Earth Hour Global, T: +61 2 8202 1224 / M: +61 (0) 438 387 792
WWF is one of the world's largest and most respected independent conservation organizations, with almost five million supporters and a global network active in more than 100 countries. WWF's mission is to stop the degradation of the earth's natural environment and to build a future in which humans live in harmony with nature, by conserving the world's biological diversity, ensuring that the use of renewable natural resources is sustainable, and promoting the reduction of pollution and wasteful consumption.
Friends of the Irish Environment is one of the smallest environmental non-governmental organisation in Ireland. A network of environmentalists with a particular interest in European environmental law and Ireland's international obligations, FIE runs Ireland's longest established campaigning website and provides a widely read free environmental news service.