Earth Hour: Pedal power lights up Philippines map

Rhodina Villanueva - The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines – Hundreds of bikers lit a LED map of the Philippines by pedaling on stationary bamboo bikes for last night’s observance of Earth Hour, an annual global movement encouraging a one-hour switch-off to raise awareness on the over-use of non-renewable resources.

Organized by the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF), this year’s observance of Earth Hour was held at the Quezon City Memorial Circle where a LED map of the Philippines was lit by volunteers pedaling on 10 stationary bamboo bikes attached to generators, which converted “pedal power” to electricity.

Over 500 bikers converged at the venue for the annual switch-off, which was observed from 8:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m., according to Earth Hour Philippines director Gia Ibay.

“All participants got a chance to pedal for the planet and show the world that human power can light up the Philippines and the world,” she said.

“Our aim is to showcase low-carbon alternatives which all Filipinos can embrace. These range from alternative modes of transport to energy-efficient technologies like portable and household solar kits. The event was also partially powered by renewable energy, particularly solar, wind and biogas,” she added.

Electric vehicles such as e-jeeps and e-trikes were also showcased at the event.

In Taguig City, students of the Chinese International School Manila and volunteers from the private sector assembled 100 solar-powered lamps from repurposed kerosene lamps.

Tessa Sevilla, director of Liter of Light Philippines, said these lamps would benefit 100 families in the Aeta resettlement area in Porac, Pampanga.

“In lieu of simply turning or switching off lights and gadgets for an hour, MyShelter Foundation finds it more worthwhile to translate its efforts into action, through its Liter of Light Project, which taps into clean renewable energy from the sun to power and light up homes in remote, off-grid, poor communities in the Philippines and in 20 other countries around the world,” she explained.

“By demonstrating the potential of solar power and the simplicity and cost-efficiency of these lighting prototypes that can be built by hand even by schoolchildren, the foundation seeks to further its advocacy for clean renewable energy sources,” she added.

There are about 20 million Filipinos who experience energy poverty, with no means to access electricity or afford to power their homes. Through Liter of Light, the foundation is able to address the simplest need to have lights in their homes and on the streets to address the bigger issues of security, social protection and education.

“With our liters of light, mothers and children are able to go home safely, children are able to study at home while mothers are able to extend hours to do their chores at home. Soon, these lights will also enable us to help the fathers who go to the fields, to mountain plantations and even at sea,” Sevilla said.

The foundation is set to distribute the solar lamps today to its target beneficiaries.

MyShelter Foundation was founded in 2004 by Iliac Diaz to push social enterprise on clean renewable energy sources and alternative architecture for classrooms and shelters. It is known for the PET Bottle Schools, its dome house and the bamboo classroom.

The Liter of Light Project started in 2011 as a humanitarian response to typhoon-related disasters that have hit the country, like Ondoy and Yolanda.

Earth Hour is observed yearly across 24 timezones in 178 countries and territories.

First observed in 2007, the movement uses the simple action of switching off lights for 60 minutes to deliver a powerful message on the need for decisive climate change solutions.

The movement has grown from a symbolic switch-off event in Sydney, Australia to the world’s largest open-sourced environmental campaign mobilizing billions of people in over 7,000 hubs globally.

It is the ninth time for the Philippines to participate in Earth Hour. The Philippines has been championing Earth Hour since 2008 and has topped participation records from 2009 to 2013, earning it the title of Earth Hour Hero Country.

“Many more Earth Hour events are being staged across the Philippines. We are elated at the massive outpouring of support. Government agencies, media allies, corporations, schools, civil society groups and individuals have all pledged to shine a light on climate action through Earth Hour,” said WWF-Philippines CEO Joel Palma.

WWF encouraged participants to upload their Earth Hour videos and photos on social media using the hashtag #EARTHHOURPHILIPPINES.

“The most meaningful and unique celebrations shall be featured on our social media platforms,” Palma said.

Ibay reminded the people that “even more important than observing the switch-off is each group’s commitment to go beyond the hour when the lights are switched back on.”

“Earth Hour is symbolic. We’re not going to stop climate change just by switching off our lights for 60 minutes. But if we collectively reduce our energy use by shifting to renewable energy and energy-efficient technologies, we will definitely change climate change and secure the low-carbon future we need,” she added.

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