Prepare to turn off the lights and switch on to nature.
Earth Hour is back, and for 2023 organisers are calling on the world to reflect on those crucial carbon absorbers: trees.
Organised by the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), Earth Hour aims to raise awareness of our eco footprint by appealing to everyone in the world to switch off their lights for one hour.
The first Earth Hour was held in Sydney in 2007 and has since grown to engage millions of people in more than 185 countries.
The event begins at 8.30 pm (local time), Saturday, March 25 (also the day of the NSW Election).
“Earth Hour is an initiative to encourage individuals, businesses and governments around the world to take accountability for their ecological footprint and engage in dialogue that provides real solutions to our environmental challenges,” Kerri Major, WWF Australia’s senior engagement manager for Earth Hour, told Hope 103.2.
“Participation in Earth Hour symbolises a commitment to change beyond the hour.”
WWF International director general Dr Kirsten Schuijt said that Earth Hour “is a fantastic celebration of people, planet and nature, and this year we want as many people as possible to feel inspired and empowered to play a part, no matter how small”.
Losing 8000 trees per hour
As part of Earth Hour, WWF is raising awareness of the alarming rate of deforestation in the world, including in Australia.
According to WWF, Australia is the only developed nation among 24 “global deforestation fronts”.
Australia is the only developed nation among 24 “global deforestation fronts”.
The WWF estimates that 200,000 trees are bulldozed every day in eastern Australia – that’s 8000 trees every hour.
“Trees are being lost in every state and territory, but the greatest losses are happening in Queensland followed by NSW,” Ms Major told Hope 103.2.
WWF Australia conservation scientist Dr Martin Taylor said that land clearing rates rocketed after the axing of restrictions in Queensland and NSW.
“Despite Queensland restoring some restrictions in 2018, eastern Australia remains a deforestation front,” he said.
“That will not change until we see rates of destruction go down.”
The most significant driver for deforestation is farming – the cutting down of trees to create pasture for livestock.
The other is logging.
Add bushfires to the mix in Australia, and it equals a lot of lost greenery.
“Forest destruction was already bad enough … then the 2019-20 bushfires burned about 12.6 million hectares in eastern Australia,” Dr Taylor said.
“That’s why WWF Australia has launched Regenerate Australia, the largest wildlife and nature regeneration program in the nation’s history.”
Incredible benefits of trees
This Earth Hour, WWF is appealing for people to “reflect on the incredible benefits trees provide us and work together to protect our native forests,” a WWF statement read.
The charity is also drawing attention to how deforestation is a major contributor to climate change.
“Without putting a stop to the destruction of trees, protecting remaining forests and restoring what has been lost, we risk a future of more severe droughts and climate catastrophes,” the statement read.
Further, forest destruction removes precious habitat for many native species.
Covering over 134 million ha, Australia’s native forests are home to some of the world’s most unique wildlife and plants.
Deforestation threatens such species as the koala.
“To stop extinction Australia needs to step up our efforts to protect critical forest habitats for Australian wildlife, particularly unburned low fire-risk refuges, and let those that have been cleared regenerate,” Dr Taylor said.
So this Saturday, switch off the light, and your phone, and tune in to nature.
“Together, through one incredible moment of global unity, let’s ensure that 2023 is a year of change in order to reach our 2030 nature positive goal,” Dr Schuijt said.
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