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Earth Hour is undergoing a shake up, and at the helm of the new-look campaign is former Young Environmentalist of the Year Anna Rose

Anna Rose made headlines in 2012 with the ABC doco I Can Change Your Mind About Climate. The then 28-year-old activist went head-to-head with former finance minister Nick Minchin in an attempt to convince him that human behaviour is the main contributing factor to climate change – filming was an experience which Rose later used for her first book Madlands: A Journey to Change the Mind of a Climate Sceptic.

So when WWF, the organisation behind Earth Hour, was looking to widen the reach and impact of the annual 60-minute ‘lights out’, Rose was a perfect fit.

“Twenty-nine per cent of Australians participate in Earth Hour. It’s huge. And, from our market research, they’re the kind of people who care about the environment but they’re not ‘greenies’,” says Rose. “We’re relaunching Earth Hour to make it more of a year-round movement, not just a moment.”

Now in its eighth year, Earth Hour’s new focus is saving the Great Barrier Reef – and in the firing line will be the impacts from Australia’s coal and gas industries. “Rising sea temperatures are affecting the Reef; ocean acidification is having heartbreaking impacts on turtle eggs and the implications for turtles as a species… So there’s this incredible story of the Great Barrier Reef that most Australians still don’t know.”

The big change is that Earth Hour wants people to turn on and tune in, prior to the 8.30pm lights out, and watch a special 30-minute documentary about the impacts of climate change on the reef – and how Australians can help save it. The doco, which will be presented by Australian vlogger Natalie Tran (known online as 'communitychannel'), will broadcast on Channel 10 at 4.30pm, and supporters are encouraged to host screenings.

“It’s still about the symbolic turning out the lights. It’s a statement, not just to conserve energy. We have this hour where we can focus the nation’s attention on climate change and we can use that to help us reflect on why we need to act.”

Rose’s passion was sparked at the age of 14, when she set up environmental initiatives at her school in Newcastle. She became a climate change campaigner after her grandparents' farm was affected by drought – and there’s a key political link for this year’s initiative: Earth Hour coincides with the release of United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report, which represents the work of scientists from 120 nations, and is expected to spell out a short future for the Reef without urgent global action.

“If people don’t talk about an issue, then we can’t get to a critical mass of concern that has any implications for government or business policy… I want Earth Hour to stimulate honest conversations about climate change, because if we’re saying that it has no costs or that the change process is not going to be difficult for some sectors, then we’re not being honest. Ultimately, if we don’t make the transition it’s going to be much harder on everyone.”

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By Emma Joyce   |   Photos by WWF Australia Troy Mayne

Earth Hour 2014 details

Sydney, Sydney 2000

Date Sat 29 Mar 2014

Open 8.30-9.30pm

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