If you notice a number of Derry’s key landmarks with their lights out this Saturday evening,
don’t be alarmed, writes Steve Bradley.
It won’t be a power cut, a lack of 50ps in the council’s meter box or, even, a spread of the virus that afflicted Ebrington’s ‘Mute Meadow’ sculpture for so long.
No, it will be a sign that Derry is playing its part in an annual global event designed to
raise awareness of environmental issues and show solidarity with the planet.
‘Earth Hour’ is a worldwide movement that began in March 2007. Environmental group
WWF was looking for ways to engage Australians on climate change and secured
agreement for a major one hour city-wide switch off of non-essential lights in Sydney.
From that small seed, the global ‘Earth Hour’ event has grown which this year takes place on
Saturday, March 24 at 8.30pm.
The list of local landmarks that will have their lights switched off for one hour include the Guildhall, Council Offices, O’Doherty Fort, Maldron Hotel, Richmond Centre, St Eugene’s Cathedral, City Hotel and Magee College.
Local environmental group Zero Waste North-West will also be gathering at Ebrington Square
before 8.30pm to watch the lights switching off in locations across the city centre and to
celebrate with live music and snacks.
Turning off non-essential lights for one hour of the year will realistically do little to save the planet on its own - but, then, that is not the point. It is a symbolic gesture designed to raise consciousness of environmental issues amongst ordinary people and to get conversations
started on the issue.
Climate change is such a huge all-encompassing problem that it can often leave ordinary individuals feeling powerless to tackle it. So, Earth Hour is a simple way of reminding us all that, in our own daily choices and actions, we can either contribute to the problem of climate change or be part of the solution.
Tackling climate change and fossil fuel dependency is also about our future in ways we
don’t realise. If you have a pension, it is highly likely that part of it is currently invested in fossil fuels via oil or gas companies. Not only is that bad for the environment, it’s also unwise for your own financial health – as the writing is on the wall for these businesses.
To help tackle this, Friends of the Earth has launched a campaign to push for Northern
Ireland’s local government pension fund to divest from fossil fuels. This is important not
just for current/previous council workers who would be directly affected by such a positive
change, but also in sending a signal to these industries and other investors that people
don’t want their own future shackled to companies that undermine environmental well-
Last week saw the death of the celebrated theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking who
spoke repeatedly about the dangers of climate change. In one of Hawking’s most famous
quotes, he urged us all to remember to look up at the stars more often and not just down
at our feet. This Saturday would be the perfect opportunity to pay tribute to his memory by
switching your own lights off at 8.30pm, peering up to the night sky and pondering whether
future generations will get to enjoy that view in the decades ahead.
For, in the words of Archbishop Desmond Tutu, “Hope is being able to see that there is light despite all of the darkness”.
Steve Bradley is a commentator and regeneration consultant. He can be followed on Twitter at @Bradley_Steve