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Earth Hour: Why people across the world are turning their lights off

<i>Mauro Pimentel/AFP/Getty Images</i><br/>The statue of Christ the Redeemer is seen after being plunged into darkness for Earth Hour on March 26 in Rio de Janeiro
AFP via Getty Images
Mauro Pimentel/AFP/Getty Images
The statue of Christ the Redeemer is seen after being plunged into darkness for Earth Hour on March 26 in Rio de Janeiro

By Zoe Sottile, CNN

Each year, millions of people from over 190 countries and territories coordinate to turn off their lights for just one hour. The event is part of an annual tradition to raise awareness about climate change.

Here’s what you need to know ahead of the 16th annual Earth Hour celebration.

What is Earth Hour?

Earth Hour was launched in 2007 by the World Wildlife Fund and its partners in Sydney, Australia, according to a news release from the organization. The nonprofit describes Earth Hour as the “largest global grassroots movement for the environment.”

“Earth Hour aims to increase awareness and spark global conversations on protecting nature, tackling the climate crisis, and working together to shape a brighter future for us all,” the WWF says on the Earth Hour website.

The Earth Hour campaign has led to other actions related to curbing climate change. The WWF’s chapter in Uganda, for instance, created the first “Earth Hour Forest” in 2013. Additionally, Argentina used its 2013 Earth Hour campaign to help pass a Senate bill for 8.4 million acres of marine protected area in the country, according to the WWF.

What time is Earth Hour?

To participate, all you’ll need to do is turn off the lights in your home from 8:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. in your local time zone on Saturday.

Iconic landmarks like the Empire State Building in New York, the Space Needle in Seattle and the Willis Tower in Chicago will recognize Earth Hour by going dark.

How turning off the lights helps the environment

According to the WWF, turning off the lights is a “symbolic” way to raise awareness about climate change.

“The hour of darkness pulls us out of the busyness of our daily routines and allows us to reflect on the one home we all share,” said the organization in its news release. “In the face of accelerating biodiversity loss and climate change, there has never been a more crucial time to come together and take action for our collective future.”

The Earth Hour website points out that the planet is on track to reach over 1.5 degrees Celsius of warming, “in doing so risking irreversible environmental degradation and runaway climate change that will affect all our societies and economies.”

The organization encourages participants to use their lights-off hour “doing something positive for our planet.”

This might mean reading an article or listening to a podcast about biodiversity or climate change, spending time outdoors to reconnect with nature, picking up trash in your neighborhood, or sharing information about climate change with friends, family, or local politicians.

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