El Niño Underscores Urgency of Earth Hour

Sectors and Communities Urged to Switch to More Responsible Lifestyles

With El Niño wreaking havoc on the nation’s water, food and power supply, this year’s Earth Hour has assumed special significance.

“El Niño is drying up our farms, aquifers and water reservoirs; this is a stark reminder of the perils of global warming,” explained Yeb Saño, newly-appointed Climate Change Commissioner and Earth Hour National Director. “The symbolic act of together switching off our lights for one hour signifies our potential to make a difference if we take united and sustained action in terms of best energy practices and more responsible lifestyles.”

Earth Hour, the world’s largest social mobilization event for two successive years, conveys a powerful symbolic call to action on climate change by urging individuals, corporations, institutions and communities to turn off their lights for 60 minutes. This year, from 8:30PM to 9:30PM on March 27, around one billion people across time zones all over the world are expected to take part in this massive display of solidarity for the planet.

In 2009, the Philippines ranked first among 88 nations in terms of local participation in Earth Hour. Over 10 million Filipinos in 647 cities and municipalities switched off their lights during Earth Hour, saving an estimated 611MWh of electricity – equivalent to a temporary shutdown of a dozen coal-fired power-plants. This year, the event organizers – WWF-Philippines, the Department of Energy, Green Army Network Foundation and SWITCH Movement – aim to mobilize 15 million Filipinos in 1000 towns, cities and municipalities to take a symbolic stand against climate change.

Roadshows Drum Up Support

Toward this end, Energy Secretary Angelo T. Reyes is leading an Earth Hour roadshow to tap key stakeholders and networks nationwide. In Davao, Iloilo, Cebu, Baguio, Bataan, and various various cities of Metro Manila, thousands of stakeholders, representing multi-sectoral groups, gathered to lend their collective support to Earth Hour.

“The response to our call for support has been heartwarming,” Reyes said. “Whenever the Earth Hour roadshow visits a town or city, people bring in new energy. Unique ideas are born. Support streams in. In the wake of recent natural calamities and the challenges wrought by El Niño, it is encouraging to see the Filipino spirit of Bayanihan shining through. We’d like to harness that spirit to effect massive adoption of efficient energy practices – such as switching to compact flourescent bulbs and biofuels and encouraging local investments in solar, wind, mini-hydro, biomass and other sources of renewable energy.”

Emphasizing the inter-relationshop between climate change and energy, Secretary Reyes added: “Understanding the impact of energy on climate change requires not just a review of our energy policy and programs, but also a review of how energy is used.”

The roadshow is slated to hit Ilocos Norte, Laguna, Bicol, Puerto Princesa in Palawan, Tuguegarao and Clark in the next two weeks.

Mob Dance Surprises Onlookers

To further generate interest in Earth Hour among the youth, WWF mounted the first in a series of flash mob dances along the SM Mall of Asia Baywalk in Pasay City. In twos and threes, over 100 dancers emerged from the crowd to execute a lively dance routine – to the delight of hundreds of onlookers.

The dance culminated in a gigantic ‘60’ formation – signalling the 60 minutes of Earth Hour. The video of the mob dance is now spreading rapidly through Youtube.com, Facebook.com and various social networking sites. It may be seen on Youtube.com under ‘Earth Hour Mob Dance at Mall of Asia.’ A second mob dance took place on 13 March at the Serendra High Street in Fort Bonifacio.

Massive Support From Public and Private Sector

“Every day, our roster of allies grows,” notes Green Army Secretary General Dr. René Azurin. Official Earth Hour 2010 partners include Ipanema, Motolite, the Century Pacific Group, Sustagen, Philips, Meralco, Arthaland, Shell, First Gen, Energy Development Corporation, McDonald’s, Jollibee, SM Malls, Ayala Malls, Bonifacio Global City, Shangri-La Hotels, GMA-7, ABS-CBN, Net-25, Philippine Daily Inquirer, Philippine Star, Infinit-1 Communications, FocusMedia Audiovisuals, Leo Burnett, ECC International, Dig It All, Friendster, Discovery Channel and the National Geographic Channel.

Catherine Maceda of the SWITCH Movement says, “While the Philippines accounts for only .29% of the world’s energy-related CO2 emissions, the massive outpouring of support from all sectors of Philippine society shows that Filipinos have embraced their role as advocates in finding a global solution to the climate crisis.”

Sectoral consultations have been yielding strong commitments for more sustained efforts on climate change. Amongst the groups that have pledged commitments are the Archdiocese of Manila, University of the Philippines, Technological University of the Philippines, Manila Doctors College, Silliman University, Asian College of Science and Technology, Colegio de Santa Catalina de Alexandria, Foundation University, St. Paul University Dumaguete, REACT, Philippine Business for Social Progress, Ortigas Foundation, Girl Scouts of the Philippines, Manila Jaycees, Hotel and Restaurant Association of the Philippines, Philippine Science Centrum, World Youth Alliance, Habitat for Humanity and Gawad Kalinga.

Other companies that have pledged support include the Filipino-Chinese Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Shangri-La Hotels, the Ascott Group, Dusit Thani Manila, Hilton Cebu, Robinsons Malls, Chevron, Abenson, Chowking, Unilever, Globe, PLDT, BME, PhilBIO, Piandré and Toyota.

Earth Hour Philippines (EHP) continues to call on corporations, national agencies, local government units, schools, villages and individuals to participate in the massive global event. All Filipinos are urged to register at www.earthhour.org and to make known how they intend to participate in Earth Hour by emailing the Earth Hour team at ehp2010secretariat@gmail.com and visiting www.greenarmynetwork.net/earthhour2010.

Earth Hour Photo Contest Slated

To broaden avenues for Earth Hour participation this year, organizers are launching an EHP visual documentation contest in three categories: (a) cell phone photos (b) digital camera photos, and (c) videos. The contest is open to all Filipinos aged 15 and above. All entries should capture the spirit of Earth Hour in any of the Earth Hour 2010 events nationwide.

To qualify, contestants must register via SMS through 5777. Their respective mobile numbers will serve to tag any number of entries.

Photo entries, taken with digital cameras, must be printed on an 8R template and sent with a copy in CD format. Cellphone photos must be printed on a 4R template and sent with a copy in CD format. The CD must contain the name, registered mobile number, address, email, category and signature of the contestant. Contestants may caption photos.

Video entries must be one to three minutes long and submitted as an mpeg or avi file, with live or recorded audio or music, burned into a DVD, and stored in a hard plastic DVD case. Name, registration number, address, email, mobile number, category and signature of the contestant must be written on both DVD and its case.

Photo and video entries must be submitted (or at least postmarked if sent through mail on the said date) by 31 March 2010. All entries should be addressed to the Earth Hour Secretariat, 6/F PNOC Building 6, Energy Center, Merritt Road, Ft. Bonifacio, Taguig City, Metro Manila. Winners will be notified by text and email.