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2009-03-31

Mexico City joins Latin America and the world in switching off the lights

Julieta G. Pelcastre

For the first time, Mexico City switched off the lights on many of its historic landmarks as it joined Latin America and the world in “Earth Hour”, an international attempt to call attention to global warming and its consequences.

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A group of activists surround candles shaped as a number 60 during the “Earth Hour” blackout in Santiago, Chile on 28 March, 2009.  From Sydney, Australia, to Mexico City, the world united to save energy in a symbolic gesture against global warming.

A group of activists surround candles shaped as a number 60 during the “Earth Hour” blackout in Santiago, Chile on 28 March, 2009. From Sydney, Australia, to Mexico City, the world united to save energy in a symbolic gesture against global warming.

MEXICO CITY, Mexico – On 28 March, at 8:30 pm local time, Mexico City, for the first time,  joined cities around the world in turning off the lights on its major landmarks in  this symbolic gesture against climate change. 

According to Reforma, the head of the Federal District government, Marcelo Ebrard, said, “it’s as easy to save energy as switching off a light; they are simple but very important things that mean life or death for future generations”. By 8:30, nearly 15,000 people had gathered in Mexico City’s main square, reported Zócalo, to witness the hour-long blackout of almost 110 of the capital’s buildings and monuments.

Statues like the Angel of Independence, Diana the Hunter, the monuments honouring Benito Juarez and the revolution, together with the Supreme Court of Justice, and the National Palace – along with many others - were left in darkness for an hour, joining other monuments worldwide from the Sydney Opera House to the Empire State building.

According to AFP, the movement was started by the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) two years ago in Sydney, Australia. It is now supported by 950 cities and thousands of businesses and other organisations worldwide.

Omar Vidal, the WWF director in Mexico, said that the capital's participation had encouraged other Mexican cities – among them Puebla, San Luis Potosi, Guadalajara, Nuevo Leon, Nuevo Laredo, Saltillo, and Durango – to support this environmentalist initiative.

The WWF estimates that a sixth of the world's population in 4,000 cities and 88 countries responded to its “call to action”. The blackout began on the Chatham Islands, 800km east of New Zealand and progressed from there, time zone by time zone. The first major city to dim its lights was Sydney, followed by Beijing, Athens, Paris, and Madrid.

In Chile, President Michelle Bachelet and the U.S. Vice President, Joe Biden – in Santiago on an official visit – dined by candlelight after the government joined in the global blackout.

In Argentina, according to Clarín, where the event was organised by the Wild Life Foundation, the lights were dimmed on the Obelisk, the Spanish monument, the Pyramid of May, and the monuments to San Martin and on the Two Congresses. Even some supermarkets and chain stores switched off their lights.

The government of Costa Rica called on its citizens to support Earth Hour and forecast significant savings and 13,000 fewer kilograms of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. El Salvador also joined in the global blackout.

In Peru, Radio Programas del Perú reported that parts of Lima were plunged into darkness as lights were switched off around the city. First to be dimmed were the lights at the Palace of Government, followed by Lima Cathedral and the City Hall.

According to El Universal, the organisers hope that Earth Hour will “generate the political momentum needed to get governments to pass laws and to sign a global agreement to deal with climate change”.

La Crónica reported that the positive response in Mexico City inspired Martha Delgado Peralta, the capital’s environment secretary, to announce that Earth Hour will be celebrated permanently and might even be implemented there once a week.

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