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Earth Hour 2020: Our moment to reflect on the present


As most of us around the globe are quarantined and are practicing social distancing, we ask ourselves what can we do more for our planet today? How will the Covid-19 pandemic change our lives and how will we continue live on this planet moving forward?

Earth Hour 2012 at Brandenburger. Photo by David Biene / WWF

What does Earth Hour mean to you?

Started by the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) as a momentous lights-out event at Sydney in 2007, Earth Hour is celebrated on the last Saturday of every March to “spark global conversations on protecting nature not only to combat the climate crisis, but to ensure our own health, happiness, prosperity and even survival.”

Yet the movement has been met with a variety of criticism, many quoting that a one-hour period to switch off commercial and domestic electrical appliances and devices would not significantly contribute to reducing global carbon emissions.

Keith Lockitch from the Ayn Rand Institute stated that “Earth Hour presents the disturbing spectacle of people celebrating those lights being extinguished. Its call for people to renounce energy and to rejoice at darkened skyscrapers makes its real meaning unmistakably clear: Earth Hour symbolises the renunciation of industrial civilisation.”

Despite the extreme critique, Earth Hour never intended to be a "one-hour-energy-saving" initiative, it is in fact an act of solidarity; a symbolic reminder that it takes a global effort to make significant changes for the planet. If many individuals can come together for one hour on one night in an act of solidarity, imagine what we can do together to save the environment and address the climate crisis.

Covid-19: Mother Nature’s chess move or our own doing?

A video documentary by Vox indicated that the possible source of the Covid-19 outbreak may be correlated to the sale of wildlife and exotic meats in wet markets in China. Some of the wildlife that were brought to these markets were illegally hunted from region. Peter Li, associate professor at the University of Houston-Downtown who was featured in the documentary, said that virus may have come from one species of animal and infected another species because of the conditions these animals are stored in the wet markets.

According to a report published by the BBC yesterday, two strains of coronaviruses related to the Covid-19 virus have been identified in Malayan pangolins smuggled into China, as stated by a lead researcher from the University of Hong Kong. Scientists are now calling for governments around the world to take sterner action against the sale of wildlife to stop future outbreaks that could lead to far worst repercussions.

We need to take note of how we live, how we work and how we entertain ourselves from now on. Social distancing and quarantines have created significant improvements for the environment, and we must identify sustainable ways of living by reducing our carbon footprint for the future.

As of today, the World Health Organisation (WHO), has reported more than half a million confirmed cases of Covid-19 globally and many countries have since urged organisers to cancel public events, restricted public mobility and even to some extent, sealed off borders to stop the spread of this infectious virus. On that note, many public Earth Hour events around the globe have been called off.

However, social distancing and movement restrictions have yielded some unexpected positive impacts on the environment. We are seeing reports of China’s and Italy’s air quality improving dramatically. The Venice Grand Canal, which usually would be bustling with boats and gondolas, is silent but the waters run clear. Global carbon emissions have also fallen, resulting in a phenomenon now known as the “Stay At Home” effect.

Earth Hour 2013 in Kuala Lumpur. Picture by Firdaus Latif

So what does Earth Hour mean to us now?

At 8:30PM, wherever you are in the world, at the comfort of your own homes, take time to appreciate our planet. Covid-19 has taught us valuable lessons on how we should craft our future. We need to end all sales of wildlife and exotic meats as consuming them is a major threat to our wellbeing. Now is the opportunity to push conservation and rehabilitation efforts for some of the most endangered animals due to hunting and trafficking.

We need to take note of how we live, how we work and how we entertain ourselves from now on. Social distancing and quarantines have created significant improvements for the environment, and we must identify sustainable ways of living by reducing our carbon footprint for the future. There are still a great deal of things to discuss once we tackle Covid-19, but for Earth Hour tonight, revel in the silence and darkness. Be present and give thanks for what we still have with us. Have a blessed Earth Hour.

The Last Straw News will be launching a sub-site to bring you tips and resources as we get through this period of social distancing and restricted movement in containing and reducing Covid-19 infections. Watch this space for updates to come.

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