HONG KONG (SE): In a statement made in the run up to Earth Hour, which saw the usually spectacular vista of Victoria Harbour reduced to an odd twinkle of light between 8.30pm and 9.30pm on March 25, Archbishop Socrates Villegas reminded his flock in The Philippines that refraining from robbing the earth of what it cannot regenerate is an act of homage to the creator of all that he had made and seen “was all very good.”
Earth Hour was the brainchild of Sydney, Australia, in 1997, to encourage people to be more aware of their energy usage and its effect on the environment.
The organisers put out a call in 2007 for every town and city to bring their own special touch to the 60-minute period, adding their own identity and passion to creating a richly varied and creative Earth Hour.
Sydney itself saw its famed Opera House only as a silhouette against the night sky as the city marked the 10th anniversary of the call to use the resources of the globe in moderation.
The towering International Finance Centre in Hong Kong turned a dark face across the harbour and the iconic Eiffel Tower in Paris was only visible to aviation at its highest point.
Big Ben, the Houses of Parliament and the giant ferris wheel in London were blacked out, lights went out in Tokyo’s dazzling Ginza district, as a reminder to people that energy is a finite resource in our world.
South Africa put its focus on renewable energy, while China encouraged its people to shift to a more sustainable lifestyle.
Archbishop Villegas drew attention to the legal implications of caring for the earth, saying, “The right to a healthful ecology that the (Philippine) constitution guarantees us all will soon become hollow words when our wells run dry, our fields become arid wastelands and our air heavy with lethal pollutants.”
He warned, “In many cities of the world, these are realities. And in The Philippines, even as the rape of our forests, the pollution of our waters and the carbon footprint edges closer to irreversible proportions, many continue to pay no heed.”
But he also reminded people of the spiritual dimension that calls us to open ourselves to the vision of the magnificence, beauty and majesty of God’s creation.
The president of the bishops’ conference said that it calls our attention to our own selfishness, for the despoliation of earth is merely symptomatic of a dangerously pervasive self-centredness that is familiar only with using, but is a stranger to caring and respect.
Archbishop Villegas called on the people to mark Earth Hour in their own way as a reminder to themselves of how wasteful we can be in our habits, especially in the needless use of energy.
“When darkness engulfs us as we switch off our electric gadgets, we will allow the lights of heaven that God placed in the firmament to pierce through the veil of self-centredness and destructiveness,” he said.
“We will also unite ourselves with all those who in different parts of the world have yet to enjoy the benefits of electricity, a steady water supply and reliable food sources,” he continued.
The archbishop ended on an inspirational note, concluding, “Truly, Earth Hour can be a chance for us to submit ourselves to the discipline of Lent and to the renewal of spirit to which the season calls us.”