Earth Hour: The Challenge
The Haribon Foundation
In March last 2013, astronaut Chris Hadfield snapped a photograph of Manila from a vantage point only a few have been worthy enough to be in, the orbiting International Space Station which happened to be floating right on top of the country. Hadfield shared the photo on his Twitter account (@cmdr_hadfield), and, within a week, it had been retweeted by more than a thousand times across the world, picked up by various media outlets, and featured in television segments all over the Philippines.
Part of the appeal could be the all too familiar subject seen from a unique perspective that sends off simultaneous feelings of smallness and grandeur. It is a warming thought that humankind has made it to the stars, but still finds the most beauty in the earth they come from.
This March 2014, millions of Filipinos orchestrated their own slightly different kind of light show for Earth Hour. This time around, the lights of homes and businesses were momentarily shut down as friends and strangers alike paid homage to a beauty that first inspired men and women to head to the stars and uncover the secrets that lie within them: the Earth.
Between the twin views of galaxies above and of the city that attempts to competes with their shine below, these nights might be called equals save for one difference. While Manila-from-orbit showcases the space where 10 million individuals reside, Earth Hour gives 7 billion people the chance to become a community united for a cause much larger than their individual selves.
With the bright and sometimes blinding landmarks of day to day city life dimmed down, the attention turns towards these taken for granted wonders in our surroundings that have been pushed back in recent times. During this time, the connection of people with life sustaining forests and oceans are renewed and celebrated.
More than an hour of reduced energy use, Earth Hour makes people remember that they are part of a global community with the power to dictate their impact on a fragile environment. It provides a rare opportunity where race, faith, and status are discarded and replaced by a shared heritage of having lives dependent on the resources of a healthy earth.
The act of dimming lights is not symbolic of the necessity of taking a step back in to darkness for the sake of the environment. It is just the opposite: Earth Hour is a message to keep on moving forward, but in a different direction where old destructive practices are left behind. In short, it is a challenge that lasts not just an hour, but the entire future.
After all, if there’s one thing humans are good at, it’s expanding frontiers to find new ways to do things.