Earth Hour is an event organized by the WWF to raise awareness about global warming that started off in the city of Sydney, Australia in 2007. The event’s message spread like wildfire through the internet by word of mouth through social media networks and blogs. The event usually takes place at the last Saturday of March between 8:30-9:30 p.m. local time for all the participants.
In the 2009 event, 88 countries and 4,159 cities participated in Earth Hour of that year, with the biggest participant being the USA and an estimated number of 80,000,000 participants in 318 cities across 8 states.
What is it about?
Earth Hour, at its core, is a grass root movement that has been enabled by the internet. It is spread by people and corporations who signed up to participate in the event. To show their support for Earth Hour they end up talking about it and global warming and in part raising awareness of the issue and encouraging their peers and environments to participate in it. Essentially making the message spread like wild fire among certain communities and stretching out to others as well.
It has always been popular amongst blogs and bloggers and, with time, it expanded into other networks and morphed itself into various different forms to promote the event and push the message to a wider audience.
In 2010 you were able to show your support on social networks in many ways…
On Twitter; you could register to have your Twitter profile avatar turned off at Earth Hour and have your profile send a message to your followers declaring the start of Earth hour. You could add an Earth Hour ribbon to your Twitter avatar too. There is also a similar application on Facebook which will turn off the lights on your wall.
These apps and the event itself create a sense of community and belonging to a bigger group and that feeling is capitalized on by going to the Youtube and Flickr pages and sharing your experience with others and seeing what others around the world have done. Given the nature of this event, it is one of the things that would only keep on growing as time goes on.
The format used for the event lends itself to create a buzz; if you happen to miss the #earthhour tags on your Twitter stream, then you must see the status update on your friend’s Facebook or read a blog post of one of the participants. Even if you tend to miss every mention of it online, there is a very likely chance that you will be asking yourself why the lights are out in your city and eventually learn about it.
The effect of this can be seen through the number of people who were talking about earth hour, whether it was on blogs or on Twitter and how those numbers kept on increasing as we edged closer to the event’s date.
Why did it do what it did?
Now the brilliance of this event is that it is the perfect awareness campaign for global warming and energy consumption, and it does that for many reasons but especially because of the following:
- It makes people feel like they made a difference and in turn make them feel good about themselves. Now the effectiveness of turning your lights off for an hour is definitely negligent but it has a great moral effect on people; it makes them appreciate the importance of even small steps and encourages them to make a difference in the way they live their lives.
- It is empowering. Once people started grouping and banding around this issue, it created a tipping point amongst society where people began supporting it just because others are doing it and they didn’t want to be left out. If environmental policies can garner the same kind of viral effect, they actually would have a chance of being adopted and enforced by governments and countries.
- It is all about boasting rights and people love to boast! By being all about how “YOU” are doing something that is hip, edgy and global and talking about it, made it the thing that others wanted to do as well. It created a value for others to partake in it because it was perceived as hip by others who might not particularly jump on the environmental band wagon. The event did that by infiltrating our online life through recruiting our friends to recruit us; insidious and ingenious at the same time!
What do you think of the campaign? Did you participate in it? Can its model be replicated to other causes?
Let us hear your thoughts.