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Lights Go Out as Global Climate Campaign Begins

Earth Hour, the global event to raise awareness about climate change, has begun in the Chatham Islands, a tiny South Pacific territory governed by New Zealand. The environmental campaign began in Sydney, Australia in 2007, when more than 2 million people turned off their lights for 60 minutes to show their concern for the environment. Last year, more than 4,000 cities in 88 countries participated in this symbolic event. Organizers expect the event to be bigger this year.

International landmarks from Sydney's Opera House and the Forbidden City in China, to the glittering Las Vegas Strip and Buckingham Palace in London, will be plunged into darkness Saturday as campaigners renew their efforts to highlight the dangers of climate change.

Millions of homes in 125 countries are also expected to take part by switching off their lights for 60 minutes in a show of global solidarity.

The event, in its fourth year, has the support of the United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, who said it was "both a warning and a beacon of hope."

Earth Hour was the idea of activists at the Worldwide Fund For Nature in Australia.

The project's global director, Kirsten Hodgon, says it has captured the imagination of vast numbers of people...

"Earth Hour has been embraced by absolutely everyone across the world. This really is a world citizens' campaign," said Hodgon. "We developed Earth Hour so that people could pick it up and make it their own. It could stand for what they wanted it to stand for in their local area. They could make it as big or as small as they want to."

The first community to switch off their lights in Earth Hour 2010 was the Chatham Islands, 800 kilometers east of New Zealand.

The wave of darkness will roll across Asia to the Middle East, Europe, Africa and the Americas and will include more than one thousand famous landmarks, among them New York's Empire State Building and Egypt's pyramids.

Organizers say the symbolic event is a potent sign that ordinary citizens care deeply about the environment and the threat of global warming.

However, critics of Earth Hour have called it part of the "rampant alarmism" surrounding global warming.

The event concludes in Samoa, a remote Polynesian archipelago in the South Pacific, later Saturday.