Lights were going out across the world on Saturday as millions of homes and businesses in major cities went dark for one hour in a symbolic gesture to highlight concerns over climate change.
In Australia, floodlights of the Sydney Opera House were extinguished as the city’s iconic harbor kicked off events for Earth Hour, a day-long energy-saving marathon stretching through 88 countries and 24 time zones. The event’s Web site reported that hundreds of people lined the harbour for a glimpse of the dimming skyline at 8:30 pm — the local time that nearly 4,000 participating cities around the world were expected to switch off non-essential lights. Sydney became the birthplace of the Earth Hour campaign in 2007 when 2.2 million turned off their lights, igniting a grass roots movement that has become a global phenomenon. In China, illuminations at major buildings including the “Bird’s Nest” Olympic Stadium and the Water Cube were extinguished as 20 cities joined in, according to the official Xinhua news agency.
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Other landmarks around the world expected to join the World Wildlife Fund-sponsored event were the Egyptian pyramids, Vatican, Niagara Falls, the Eiffel Tower, the Empire State Building, the Acropolis in Athens and the Las Vegas casino strip. Earth Hour events got off to an unofficial start in the remote Chatham Islands in the southern Pacific Ocean where locals switched off their diesel generators, organizers said. Shortly afterwards, 44 New Zealand cities and town joined in the event. Organizers say they hope this year’s event will send a message to world leaders meeting Copenhagen in December for a major summit on climate change. “We are asking one billion people to take part in what is essentially the first global vote for action on climate change by turning off their lights for one hour and casting a vote for earth,” said executive director Andy Ridley.