globe surrounded by candles

It started with an hour of darkness in Sydney, Australia, designed to shift awareness away from consumer culture and toward sustainability; a silent plea for change. Today, Earth Hour is a worldwide movement that’s as widely recognized as Earth Day.

Earth Day was established in 1970, and is celebrated in more than 190 countries each year. Earth Hour was established in 2007 in Sydney, Australia, when 2.2 million households turned off their lights for an hour to highlight the urgent need for climate change awareness. In 2018, Earth Hour was marked in 180 countries worldwide at 8:30 p.m. on March 30.

What Is Earth Hour?

Each year, Earth Hour participants observe an hour-long blackout to send a universal message about the dire state of the planet and our need to conserve resources. It’s also an opportunity to experience nighttime as something not to fear but to enjoy. Anyone can participate: individuals, families, communities and corporations.

For Earth Hour 2018, Jordan’s Royal Society for the Conservation of Nature organized 11,440 candles on top of a hill in Amman to spell out Earth Hour’s motto, “60+,” which represents the participants’ focus on the planet and positive actions to change the direction of environmental policy. Although the wind prevented the candles from being lit, the society established a Guinness World Record for the largest candle mosaic.

How You Can Participate

Earth Hour delivers its most powerful statements when entire communities participate. However, if you live in a city where it feels like you’re the only one turning off your lights, that may not seem like enough. To put some punch behind your actions, get involved with a group where you can contribute to making a bigger statement.

The World Wildlife Federation has partnered with Earth Hour to produce a starter kit to help you get involved. It includes ideas for bringing communities together to around climate change awareness and how to incorporate the message of Earth Hour into everyday life.

The starter kit includes some familiar eco-friendly suggestions such as going digital, conserving energy in your home and limiting the amount of paper used. It also suggests actions like screening climate change documentaries and hosting open concerts in green spaces — with attention to bands whose members use recycled materials for instruments (like the ones depicted in the Landfill Harmonic movie).

Earth Hour 2018 highlights
Earth Hour 2018 highlights. Image: Earth Hour

Make Earth Hour a Year-Round Event

Like the Freedom Riders who protested segregated bus terminals throughout the American South in 1961, you can also take your Earth Hour activism efforts on the road.

Douglas Shuler from the Public Sphere Project promotes Activist Road Trips, noting that the pursuit of activist activities adds meaningful experiences to travel. He also says it’s a great way “to build active networks of people who are interested in similar issues.”

Individuals can pool together for an RV and map out a route with multiple destinations along the way. Use social media to communicate what you’re doing, promote your goals, and let people know where you’ll speak along the way. Post photos and updates on your progress to maintain a following.

A good time of year to launch an activist road trip is in the fall, when the foliage is filling in and the leaves are turning color. In the U.S., the East Coast provides the best of fall with Connecticut’s Natchaug State Forest along Route 44. Ohio’s Hocking Hills — a colorful explosion along the Appalachian Mountains’ western slope — is another great route.

Although the scenery of a road trip should be enjoyed, the aesthetics aren’t the only reason to launch a trip on the East Coast. Perhaps due to the proximity of Washington D.C., some East Coast activists may feel they have more clout in the legislative arena, as this animal activist blogger personally discovered. The East Coast seems to be a great area if your chief aim is to garner support from other activists who aren’t afraid to go all-in.

Gain a Wider Perspective

To some degree, most everyone is aware that our planet is in trouble. Many disagree about the causes (or existence) of climate change. Others are undecided on solutions to the plastics that are filling our waterways, killing wildlife, and littering the landscape. The activist road trip is an opportunity to confront such questions head-on as you interact with people along the way.

The backbone of your road trip will be the speeches and panels you can organize and/or participate in. Organizing panels and joining existing discussions will give you access to an audience that wants to learn, and the ability to network with other people invested in the cause.

It isn’t advisable to conduct strenuous debates to overcome people’s beliefs. You’ll have more success if you listen to what others have to say —particularly if they disagree with your convictions. Instead of trying to convince climate deniers to see things your way, be curious about their side of the issue. They may provide you with a wider perspective of the issue to explore.

For more information, check out the Earth Hour blog and learn how people from around the world are sharing this movement and making a difference.

Did you participate in Earth Hour this year?

By Larry Alton

Larry is an independent business consultant specializing in tech, social media trends, business, and entrepreneurship. Currently he is working as a content manager at Studyclerk. Follow him on Twitter.