Earth Hour celebrations led by Tauranga

By Hana Garrett-Walker

An e-waste centre was launched in Hamilton, the Sky Tower's lights were switched off, and a sustainable film festival was held in Geraldine to recognise Earth Hour last night.

Millions of people around the world switched off their lights between 8.30 and 9.30pm last night as part of the sixth annual Earth Hour.

In New Zealand, the celebrations were led by Tauranga, in recognition of the community's efforts to clean up the environment after the Rena oil spill six months ago.

More than 1500 people went to Sulphur Point for a night market and acoustic concert to mark Earth Hour.

Around the rest of the country, a barn dance was held in Selwyn, a lantern riverwalk and sustainable film festival in Geraldine, and Hamilton's mayor launched an e-waste centre.

Hundreds of landmarks from Berlin's Brandenburg Gate to the Great Wall of China went dark on Saturday night as part of the global effort to highlight climate change.

Tokyo Tower was also dimmed and in Hong Kong buildings along Victoria Harbour also went dark.

The WWF, the global environmental group which organises the event, says the number of countries and territories participating has grown to 147 from 135 last year.

"Global warming is a big issue," said Rudy Ko of Taiwanese environmental group Society of Wilderness. "Everybody can help reduce the problem by turning the lights off."

Ko said children should invite parents "to turn the lights off, go out, go to the parks to do some exercise and enjoy some family time instead of watching TV or playing video games".

In Europe, 5,000 candles were lit in the form of a globe in front of Berlin's Brandenburg Gate before city officials switched off the monument's lighting.

More than 230 monuments and major gathering points in Paris dimmed lights for an hour - including Notre Dame Cathedral, the Arc de Triomphe and fountains and bridges over the Seine.

However, the Eiffel Tower went dark for only five minutes "for security reasons".

Big Ben, Buckingham Palace, Tower Bridge and St Paul's Cathedral were among the London landmarks to go dark. The Savoy Hotel planned to light its lobby, bars and restaurants with candles.

"Let us stand together to make of our world a sustainable source for our future as humanity on this planet," the Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory said in a tweet.

Across the Nordic nations, government buildings and municipalities joined in, including Stockholm's royal castle and the Swedish capital's globe-shaped sports arena.

In Sweden's second-largest city, Goteborg, the main boulevard was bathed in an hour's darkness.

People launched paper lanterns into the air in St Petersburg, Russia.

Washington's National Cathedral and New York's Empire State Building also took part.

Libya, Algeria, Bhutan and French Guinea were among the nations participating in Earth Hour for the first time.


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