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.
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!”
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.
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.
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.
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.