Feature

Egypt’s Pyramids Go Dark For Climate Change Awareness

Egypt’s Pyramids Go Dark For Climate Change Awareness

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The Pyramids before going dark. Egypt’s government shut down the complex and did not organize for anyone to record the event. Footage taken from across the road at Mena House instead. CREDIT: Omar Mohamed Ali

By Mohamed Khairat, Founder, EgyptianStreets.com

The Pyramids of Giza were plunged into darkness for the first time since 2009 to mark Earth Hour with dozens of other famous landmarks across the globe.

Egypt’s city of Giza was among 7,000 cities in 162 countries participating in Earth Hour at 8:30PM in their time zones.

Egypt is one of the most polluted countries in the world, with the World Health Organization reporting that breathing the air in Cairo for just one day, is equivalent to smoking 20 cigarettes.

Darkness: the Pyramids switched off at 8:30PM
Darkness: the Pyramids switched off at 8:30PM. CREDIT: Omar Mohamed Ali

While Egypt’s announcement that the Pyramids and Sphinx would participate in the global climate change campaign came just hours before the ‘switch off,’ Earth Hour’s CEO and co-founder Andy Ridley hailed the decision.

“The Pyramids are the greatest human build icon on the planet. It is the most recognizable symbol for the progress and development of a society,” said Andy Ridley to Egyptian Streets.

“Since my school days, I have always been a big fan of Egypt, inspired by their inventions. In 2009 the Pyramids switched off the lights for the first and only time until today. Seeing it will definitely touch my heart again.”

While some politicians and critics have argued that Earth Hour is ineffective, Andy Ridley disagrees. “Earth Hour 2014 is breaking all records…even though Climate Change is not really on top of the political agenda this year. People care for our planet!”

The Pyramids in the darkness (exposure increased). CREDIT: Omar Mohamed Ali
The Pyramids in the darkness (exposure increased). CREDIT: Omar Mohamed Ali

More importantly, Ridley explained, has been the ability of Earth Hour to influence and inspire grass-roots campaigns.

“We see more and more projects happening beyond the hour. In many counties, the teams on the ground use Earth Hour to promote their existing projects or kick-start new campaigns,” said Ridley. “That is exactly what we wanted to achieve when we started Earth Hour in 2007.”

An Egyptian government source, explaining the lack of enthusiasm on the part of the government to hold larger events, stated that some in government believe the event will not have a wide impact on climate change.

The Pyramids by day taken from approximately the same location as the Earth Hour ones.
The Pyramids by day taken from approximately the same location as the Earth Hour ones.

Yet, Andy Ridley contends that Earth Hour tends to be misunderstood. “Earth Hour is not about the direct carbon impact, it’s about creating a platform where hundreds of millions can connect and create positive change and outcomes,” explained Ridley.

“Two things are crucial to fight Climate Change: Awareness and Action. Earth Hour aims to do exactly that…we try to provide an hour of inspiration, and we have hundreds of millions of people joining the hour.”

Among the projects Earth Hour has supported are efforts to save the Great Barrier Reef in Australia and planting the world’s ‘first Earth Hour Forest’ in Uganda, to asking people to invest in the world’s first pollution-free factory and the largest air, water and life producer: the Amazon Factory.

Efforts to improve the environment Egypt have recently been boosted by Egypt’s Minister of Environment Laila Rashed Iskandar. For over 20 years, Iskandar has worked with grass-roots organizations, particularly focusing on the environment.

Smog over Cairo as seen from a plane.
Smog over Cairo as seen from a plane.

According to a source in the Environment Ministry, events like Earth Hour are “inspiring” and that the Ministry wished the greater population and the government would increase their focus on the impacts of climate change on Egypt and the world.

Instead, Egypt recently decided to use coal to fuel its cement industry, an industry which as quickly expanded in Egypt shortly after being banned from Europe.

“Pollution and smog has multiple effects on cities, and they all cost money. We’re seeing that all over the world. Take alone the costs for health care. Economies are moving to environmentally friendly and sustainable energy will be the best ones for the future, both for their citizens and their economy,” said Ridley.

A 2002 World Bank report estimated that damage caused by pollution cost the country $US 2.42 billion each year. This number is thought to have multiplied since then.

Despite the grim picture, Earth Hour’s campaigners see Egypt’s involvement in this year’s hour is a sign that perhaps change will come soon. And if it doesn’t come from the government, it might come from grass-roots efforts by the youth.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xqIO0i98eBA]

Egyptian Streets would like to thank the photographer Omar Mohamed Ali, who, with less than two hours notice, decided to go to the Pyramids and encounter confused security guards to record the event for Earth Hour. We’d also like to thank CEO and Co-Founder Andy Ridley for the interview.

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  • Guest

    Egypt is ceöebrating Climate Awareness Day at least four times daily – and not just regarding the pyramids, households go dark as well….

    • bystanding witness

      Your’re right, “Guest” – LOL – that’s one way to look at it! But you forgot to mention that it doesn’t hit certain areas where diplomats and affluent people reside … one of the “misteries” of this beautiful country!

      What really disturbs me a great deal is the fact that the Government has not seen it necessary to launch a campaign to teach people and raise awareness how to safe our precious energy. We still see street lights being on DURING DAY-TIME; we see lights burning on balconeys all-night long; we see lights burning the whole night in appartments which are under construction after the workers are long gone home; lights burning in house entrances where at best a dim one would do to find the light switch to a more powerful oone; we see plenty of powerful lights concentrated in one spot where they are an absolute waste; we see useless laser beams at every shop opening which disturbe on top of it the neighborhood; why do all the lights have to be on in an appartment when the family sits in maybe two rooms and the rest is empty; hy do we need everywhere at least 100 W lamps if 40 W or 60 W would do? And so on and so forth – the list can go on and on!

      There’s so much which could be safed with so little effort if people where made aware of it … and if people would start thinking for themselves again!

  • bystanding witness

    I think this was a great idea and unfortunately it was not widely announced to use the opportunity to create awareness. Yes, it will not change over night the environmental problems – but it can make people aware of how easy and thoughtless we squander our energy resources.

    It could also serve as an inspiration to ease the hopefully only momentary shortage of fuel for our electricity network. The whole country faces daily power cuts which are cumbersome. But I have neither seen any effort to effectively curb the power consumption through an awareness campaign by the Government nor does it enter people’s mind to use power sensibly.

    The moment the power is back EACH AND EVERY light is back on too. The street lamps DURING daytime (!!!), the high voltage lamps everywhere, the lights on balconies which are deserted, each and every shop has to have lights which make the sun pale in comparison … and so on and so forth. And while at it – why not stop having all shops open until way past midnight and instead go back to the system which was in place: i.e. get up IN THE MORNING and open the shops at 8 o’clock and close them at 8 o’clock at night (just an example)?! Imagine all the power which could be saved other than that it would bring back a normal life style? We have to use the day – not to sleep but to work!

    I understand that such awareness and wise use of resources doesn’t come over night – but PLEASE make an effort. Never mind the cosmetics; we all know that our Government is lacking funds to buy enough fuel. So it is up to us who want to re-build Um el Dunya to do our part and support the Government. They can’t perform miracles – but we can stretch out our hands and help and together we can make it happen!!!

    7,000 years of great history and counting – GO EGYPT!

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