Thursday, March 26, 2009

One billion words for Earth

8:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. on Saturday, March 28 is Earth Hour. People all over the world are urged to switch off all their lights for one hour. This is not only saving energy but also casting a Vote for Earth.

This year, Earth Hour (last Saturday of March) has been transformed into the world’s first global election, a choice between Earth and global warming. For the first time in history, people of all ages, nationalities, race and background could use their light switch as their vote. Switching off the lights is a vote for Earth. Leaving them on is, well…

Voting for Earth with the use of the light switch should be easier than the 2010 automated Philippine elections. And its impact is global. Staying in the dark for an hour should be an opportunity to create activities. Before you know it the 60 minutes are over and you’d probably want to stay in the dark a little longer.

The World Wildlife Fund is urging the world to vote Earth and reach the target of 1 billion votes, which will be presented to world leaders at the Global Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen 2009. This meeting will influence national policies and governments to take action against global warming, which will replace the Kyoto Protocol. It is the chance for the people of the world to make their voices heard.

Earth Hour began as a small effort in Sydney in 2007, when more than 2 million homes and businesses switched off their lights for one hour. In 2008 this effort grew into a movement for global sustainability. Some 50 million people participated and switched off their lights. Familiar landmarks such as the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, Rome’s Colosseum, the Sydney Opera House and the Coca Cola billboard in Times Square all stood to be counted in the darkness. We should have our own Philippine landmarks darkened. What about all those billboards from hell?

This year, 2009, Earth Hour moves to the next level. The goal: 1 billion people switching off their lights as part of a global vote for planet Earth. Vote Earth is a global call to action for every individual, every group, and every community. It is a call to stand up and do something for planet Earth and its future. Over 74 countries and territories have pledged their support and millions are expected to cast their vote for Earth this Saturday. The number is growing every day.

You can watch the numbers grow in the Earth Hour and Vote Earth websites. Even social networking sites in cyberspace—Facebook, Myspace, Twitter, etc.—are participating. If you are able to navigate the Internet, or if someone could do it for you, visit You could register, send your short message and even upload a photo or two of yourself and of a spot on planet Earth. My message: “Amazing Earth, Great Mother, we pledge to protect you.” I uploaded a photo I took of the bright blue waters and the limestone cliffs of Coron, Palawan.

That is part of the Vote Earth campaign for “one billion words for Earth.” This is using the power of words for a cause. The present state and the future of planet Earth is something people should continue to talk about and write about. Words and images are key. One could do articles, blogs, messages, posters, streamers, stickers, buttons, etc. You can download “We Vote Earth” sample designs from the Internet. Lots of how-tos, too.

By the way, March 22 was World Water Day. Planet Earth is a watery planet that’s why it is also called the Blue Planet. Viewed from outer space, Earth looks like a blue jewel. It’s the water of the oceans that makes it blue.

Now, Earth, with its diverse and awesome life forms (including more than 6 billion humans) that need water, is sending an SOS. There is a water crisis.

The salt and fresh water of the earth remains constant but is it available and safe for every one? We all need fresh water to drink. But the availability of clean water—for all—is a problem.

According to UNEP reports, the crisis is essentially one of poor water governance. But the real tragedy is its adverse effects on the everyday lives of people, most especially the poor. Many of them live in blighted areas and suffer from water-borne diseases as well as water disasters. The quality of water suffers from the loads of waste dumped on waterways and water sources.

Here are some alarming facts about the earth’s waters.

The amount of freshwater in the world remains constant, but its uneven distribution and increasing demand create growing scarcities. At present some 40 percent of the world’s population live in areas with moderate to high water stress.

Species have been declining faster in freshwater than in any other habitat on Earth. About half the world’s wetlands have been lost and more than a fifth of known freshwater species have already been driven to extinction. Over the last 30 years, the Freshwater Species Index fell by 50 percent. WWF points out that the relatively smaller decline in North America shown by the index is deceptive, much of the loss in industrialized countries occurred before 1970.

More than 1 billion people lack access to a steady supply of clean, safe water, while 2.4 billion lack adequate sanitation. More than 2 million people die each year from associated diseases, including 6,000 children every day. The situation has been improving but, at the present rate of investment, universal access to safe drinking water cannot reasonably be anticipated before 2025 in Asia, 2040 in Latin American and the Caribbean, and 2050 in Africa.

And yes, we need water to grow food.

Every act, every word, every vote for Earth counts. Vote Earth on March 28.