On the 29th of March, South Africans joined the world to celebrate the World Wide Fund for Nature’s Earth Hour 2014, and express their united commitment towards a more sustainable future. A host of activities and events were held across the country.
Celebrations in Cape Town were particularly festive following the announcement that the city had triumphed over 163 entrants from 14 countries to win the Earth Hour City Challenge. A ceremony was held at the V&A Waterfront where WWF South Africa’s CEO Dr Morné du Plessis and Mrs Jenny Clover, Senior Manager of ICLEI, handed over the Earth Hour Global Capital award to the Executive Deputy Mayor of Cape Town, Alderman Ian Neilson.
Other noteworthy Earth Hour events in South Africa included an Earth Hour Camp-out at the Johannesburg Zoo, a switch-off at the Hilton Hotel in Durban, a switch-off and candlelight hour at Sun City, an Earth Hour Pyjama party at the Harold Porter Botanical Garden in Betty’s Bay and an Earth Hour @ the Green Urth Market in Bloemfontein.
According to Eskom, South Africans saved 575 megawatts of electricity during the hour. The amount saved was enough to power a city the size of Polokwane in Limpopo Province. Although Earth Hour is about more than saving energy, this substantial figure shows the commitment of many South Africans to take positive action for the environment and signal their connection with environmentally aware citizens across the globe.
In what has become an Earth Hour tradition, Table Mountain joined several famous places and iconic landmarks including: the Pyramids of Giza; the Sydney Harbour Bridge and Opera House; the Tower Bridge in London; the Christ the Redeemer (statue) in Rio de Janeiro; the Wat Arun Temple in Bangkok; Times Square in New York City and the Las Vegas Strip, in a dramatic switch-off which swept across the globe.
Embracing the global shift of Earth Hour from an event to a movement, WWF South Africa developed a promise platform and invited the public - throughout the month of March - to log in and answer the question, “How Do You Honour the Earth?”. Every promise submitted visually transformed a degraded virtual Earth into a beautiful restored planet. A wide range of South African individuals, companies and communities responded to the call and made commitments. Promises ranged from simple acts such as saving electricity to more ambitious gestures such as installing solar water heating systems and radically transforming their food choices. Other promises spoke to the uplifting spiritual benefits which nature provides with some promising to take longer walks in the great outdoors and others committing to care more for their immediate surroundings.
The success of the platform is evidence that South Africans have a genuine will and desire to live in harmony with nature. We know that promises (or intentions), when converted into actions result in change - and this is the power of Earth Hour.