05/24/2010 05:12 am ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Earth Hour: Not Just About One Hour

On Saturday, March 27th at 8:30pm local time, hundreds of millions of people from around the world will turn off their lights for an hour. The event, called Earth Hour, symbolizes "turning the lights off on pollution and climate change, making the switch to a cleaner, safer and more secure world." Earth Hour is described as a global call to action on climate change.

This event, which started in Australia in 2007 and went global the following year, has been criticized for being a gimmick that does not reduce global climate pollution or lead to meaningful action. How much impact can be made in an hour? However, Earth Hour is not just about one hour. It's about individual empowerment and generating an interest and a global voice on climate change action. It's about uniting people, either virtually or in person, within their community, county, state, country and across borders. It's about knowing there are millions of others wanting and asking for the same thing--a secure climate and future.

Essentially Earth Hour has several meaningful components. First, it's a global rally. One hundred and twenty countries, so far, have signed up to participate--30 more than last year. The event is unprecedented in scale and scope, which generates solidarity and attention for the issue. When iconic symbols such as Big Ben in London, the Eiffel Tower in Paris, the Empire State Building in New York City, Mount Rushmore and the Las Vegas Strip go dark, it generates curiosity and potentially awareness.

Second, Earth Hour is a demonstration of leadership on climate action within cities, states, the business community and local neighborhoods. So far within the U.S., 29 states and 130 cities, towns, counties and other municipalities have signed on along with 2,200 businesses and 600 schools. For some, participation may be an exercise in greenwashing, but for many, the event is about building awareness for climate change action. Third, and perhaps the most significant, Earth Hour is about sparking curiosity and generating individual awareness and empowerment. Often as individuals, we feel powerless against great challenges. Through utilization of the web and social media, individuals can plan Earth Hour events, invite friends to participate and generate interest in the event and its meaning.

While some participants will turn off their lights and afterwards hardly reflect on the event, many others will realize Earth Hour extends beyond the hour of lights out. Voicing concern in sizable numbers, being part of a larger movement and generating individual empowerment for climate change action is why people participate. For some, Earth Hour will be the start of a journey. For others, it's an affirmation point, reaffirming a commitment toward actions already taken and yet to be taken. Regardless of motive or commitments, Earth Hour provides a voice and platform for the climate change movement. This movement, like Earth Hour, is growing every year.