Poor response from Irish public for Earth Hour 2011

29 Mar 2011

Saturday evening witnessed 134 countries switch off their lights for Earth Hour, but organisers of Ireland’s Earth Hour expressed their disappointment at this year’s poor participation from the nation.

Earth Hour is an annual, worldwide initiative in which individuals, businesses, governments and communities are asked to turn out their lights for one hour.

The Department of the Environment and the three major power companies supported Earth Hour 2011 in Ireland.

Friends of the Irish Environment, which co-ordinates Earth Hour in Ireland for the World Wildlife Fund, said that while figures from Eirgrid are not yet available, its website recorded a 38pc decrease in interest in comparison to last year.

Eirgrid, the national electricity supply grid co-ordinator, said there was no major drop in demand.

“There can be no doubt that the pressing problems people are facing economically has left the longer-term issues, like global warming and resource depletion, on the back burner. But these issues are not going away. On the contrary, unless we deal with them, they will only get worse – and cost us more,” said FIE director Tony Lowes.

The Government, however, played its role in Earth Hour by switching off the lights of Government buildings, Leinster House, the Custom House and the Four Courts. Top tourist destinations were plunged into darkness for an hour, including the Rock of Cashel, Cahir Castle, Ormonde Castle, Carrick on Suir, Donegal Castle and Trim Castle.

As part of Earth Hour, six cyclists powered an open-air cinema in Dublin. In Cork, Blackrock Observatory hosted a special screening of The Pipe, the documentary about the Shell to Sea Campaign, and a child-friendly launch of sky lanterns took place on Kinsale beach to highlight the event.

All the major power companies supported Earth Hour with Airtricty noting Earth Hour “challenges all of us to consider how we can become more sustainable people in everything that we do and make real and powerful behaviour changes to help protect our environment and our planet”.

Lowes said a well-funded national media campaign was absent due to lack of serious support from the business community. He suggested this was the reason for the poor response from the public.

Lowes explained FIE was notified of international companies that support Earth Hour in order to approach their national branches, “but when we do we are told the issue of sustainability is not at the top of the boardroom agenda in Ireland. While sustainability is at the top of the agenda of European and international businesses, in Ireland we were disappointed with the level of understanding.”