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Earth Hour: Save a watt, and maybe the Earth

Now you can vote with your light switch, in a Web-savvy grassroots movement to raise awareness of global warming by turning lights off for one hour Saturday night.

Earth Hour is a sort of open-source movement against global warming. On Saturday, March 28, at 8:30 p.m. in each time zone, millions of people in thousands of cities are expected to turn off the lights for one hour to raise people's consciousness about the link between global warming and energy use.

Started in Australia two years ago, the event is mushrooming thanks in part to the Internet and social media.

One day before the start of the event in Asia, "Earth Hour" is the top search item on Twitter. A 30-second clip about Earth Hour on You Tube has gotten almost 59,000 views. Facebook groups count hundreds of thousands of members.

The goal for this year is to get 1 billion people to turn their lights off for an hour. In 2007, 2.2 million homes and businesses switched off their lights for an hour and in 2008, it went to 50 million.

But it's not just individuals: dozens of cities and 829 world landmarks, including the Eiffel Tower and the Great Pyramids of Giza, will be dark for one hour as well.

The whole point of Earth Hour is to cast a vote and make a visible statement by turning off the lights for an hour. But it's worth pointing out that that a few watts will be saved along the way and that people waste a lot of energy in their daily lives.

This week, a published study calculated that $2.8 billion is wasted from office PCs that aren't shut off properly. Perhaps people who participate in Earth Hour could unplug their home electronics as well.