Earth Hour is a very effective awareness raising tool to call the attention of the large public to climate change. This event became a major public conservation happening in the past years across the globe and proves that individuals have the power to change!
Our team at the European Wildernsss Society was wondering how the Earth Hour can actually benefit Europe’s wilderness. First of all we should look at Europe’s satellite image and we can easily recognise that the attempt to call people switching off their lights would not have an effect in wilderness areas. Large scale wilderness places, like the ones certified according to our standard, are the few locations where we – Europeans – can still enjoy real dark sky! The light pollution is minimal!
But climate change is affecting wilderness areas as well. Habitats might change due to changing climatic conditions, new species will invade areas, and there might be more forest fires and extreme weather conditions. However wilderness areas, especially if they are large enough, might be more resilient to these effects.
A large scale awareness raising campaign can also help to call the attention of non-professionals to the increasing pressure on protected areas, especially on wilderness. WWF Russia for instance linked to the 2013 Earth Hour campaign to lobby for improved forest protection and removing industrial scale logging from protected areas.
Isn’t it bizarre to lobby for removing industrial scale logging from a protected area? We, conservation professionals, just got used to the term of paper parks, but the larger public, the non-professionals would surely be surprised to hear that protection must be enhanced in a protected area. But unfortunately many protected areas are only designated on paper, and are left without any effective means of actually accomplishing their ultimate goal: protecting biodiversity!
We might learn from the success of the Earth Hour. Climate change discussion became a mainstream in the political and the corporate agenda as well. Despite we are living now in the UN Decade on Biodiversity, no one really speaks yet up for wilderness on the scale of climate change. It is time to think now how to create a major awareness raising campaign for wilderness! The Wilderness Hour when people can make a clear commitment to Europe’s wilderness. I can visualize an event (eg. last day of June) when thousands of people march on the street of Brussels asking for a European Wilderness Convention, or one family hikes up to the mountain top of Majella to carry a flag of wilderness!
By the way, I do not really have a special commitment for the Earth Hour. But I promise that the four weeks starting from 23 March 2013 will be special. I make a commitment: I will shave my hair off if at least 1000 people donate 100,000 EUR to wilderness protection in the four weeks between 23th March (starting from the Earth Hour) and 20th April… and I promise being one of the 1000! So we need only 999!