Earth Hour doesn't claim to be an energy or carbon reduction exercise. It is a symbolic action to encourage individuals, businesses and governments to be accountable for their ecological footprint and to work together to find solutions to environmental challenges.
Earth Hour launched in Sydney in 2007 with backing from the city’s mayor. Inspired by this, San Francisco held "Lights Out" a few months later. By 2008 there was widespread participation with many landmark buildings around the world turning off non-essential lighting including the Sydney Opera House and the Empire State Building. In 2009, The United Nations observed Earth Hour at its Headquarters in New York and at other UN facilities around the world.
It provides an interesting point of reference when considering how to bring about change. Switching off the lights is a symbolic act. It also provides a direct and memorable sensory experience. It is something that people can do themselves, share with others and witness others doing. It raises awareness, creates connections with a wider community of interest and creates a bigger context for further actions. Also, critically, people join in because they want to. People take whatever actions they choose.
If you are wondering about how to engage people in your organisation, there are good principles here, far removed from the usual corporate programmes that tell people exactly what to do but in other ways leave them “in the dark”.
A longer version of this post can be found at Carbon Visuals.