Courtesy of Margaret Wever
For the first commemoration of Earth Hour on Aruba, the small island nation answered enthusiastically to the call for action. It all started with an interchange of ideas on Facebook between Elthon Lampe, Edward Erasmus and Stanley Brown about how to increase awareness on the island about Earth Hour. The three soon realized they had to take the initiative themselves and therefore banded together to form the Earth Hour Aruba Community Group. With limited resources the group exemplified Earth Hour’s open-source, grassroots spirit and the power of social media, setting up Facebook and Twitter pages to encourage people to participate. Within just a few days the group saw their messages and photos being tagged and shared by a great deal of people, many they had still to meet in person. The response was overwhelming and they caught the media's attention, bringing about more support than they had ever expected. Aruba's Youth Minister of Environment, Marifer Aguirre-Broca joined these efforts and with great energy helped spread the word as well.
The group chose the island's oldest structure as Aruba's landmark to go dark for Earth Hour. With the help of friends, Earth Hour Aruba Community Group got the Minister of Economic Affairs, Social Affairs and Culture involved to put out the lights at Fort Zoutman and Willem III Tower. Minister Michelle Hooyboer-Winklaar, together with the board of the historic museum which is housed in the fort, also made the courtyard available as a meeting place for the group and their friends. The Minister, who encourages responsibility for the environment, flora and fauna and drives one of very few hybrid vehicles on the island, attended the event at the landmark with her family, lighting candles and enjoying the ambiance.
Earth Hour 2011 at Fort Zoutman had a special family picnic atmosphere, with everyone contributing with snacks and beverages, kids playing about, live "unplugged" music and amiable conversation.
Some families organized events at their homes, enjoying a meal or snacks together by candlelight, while some people simply turned off their televisions, air conditioning and lights, lit a few candles and enjoyed the peaceful silence. The business community and the public sector also showed their support for the event; numerous hotels, shopping malls, business establishments, the government’s central office and Parliament building switched off for Earth Hour.
Earlier promotion of Earth Hour in 2012 brought about immense support, with a noticeably larger group of people joining the efforts. The team of Earth Hour Aruba Community Group was expanded with two new members, freelance marketer, Ana Maria Martinez, and the newly elected Youth Minister of Environment of Youth Parliament, Aditya Gupta. Corporate sponsors approached organizers and even the local electricity distribution company N.V. ELMAR, which has been investing in solar energy projects and greener energy production, has committed funds to the active, island wide promotion of Earth Hour 2012.
Also, the Education Department and the Ministry of Justice and Education are encouraging all schools to turn off all unnecessary electricity between 8:30 and 9:30 a.m. on Friday, March 30 to make participation with their students possible. By participating in this way, the schools will use this time to raise extra awareness for the protection of our planet and hopefully this action will encourage children and their parents to enjoy Earth Hour on Saturday at their homes as well.
Furthermore it is clearly noticeable that a huge number of teenagers are getting involved in the Earth Hour campaign this year. Not only the Youth Parliament is directly involved again, but also service clubs like Builders Club Kiwanis of Juliana School, Kiwanis Circle K of the University of Aruba and Kiwanis Key Club of Colegio Arubano have expressed their support and spreading the message through their channels.
The Earth Hour public event at Fort Zoutman will be on again, with Minister Hooyboer-Winklaar doing the honors of turning off the lights.
In addition to all the wonderful news and attention Earth Hour is getting on Aruba, with many more people and organizations pledging their participation, organizers were most honored to receive news from the Dutch Queen's representative on the island, Governor Fredis Refunjol. His offices, located across from Fort Zoutman will also go dark Saturday night, while his family will also be turning off all unnecessary lights and electricity at their residence.
In the spirit of Ryunosuke Satoro's words "Individually, we are one drop. Together, we are an ocean" and Mother Teresa of Calcutta's expression "We ourselves feel that what we are doing is just a drop in the ocean. But the ocean would be less because of that missing drop", a group of motivated, concerned parents, their friends and families set out to actively demonstrate their commitment to Mother Earth, while educating their children on the importance of loving and respecting the planet. With every drop that joins Earth Hour efforts island-wide, one can rest assured that people on Aruba have their hearts in the right place and an ocean is imminent.
Happy Earth Hour 2012 from One Happy Island.