Buildings across the UAE go dark for Earth Hour 2021

This year's campaign focused on how nature loss is linked to an increased risk of pandemics

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Buildings across the UAE went dark on Saturday to mark Earth Hour.

The event takes place every year on the last Saturday in March to raise awareness about the environmental issues facing the planet.

Millions of people and hundreds of businesses joined in by switching off their lights in solidarity with the Earth for 60 minutes at 8.30pm.

They included attractions at Yas Theme Parks and CLYMB Abu Dhabi on Yas Island, in addition to Al Ain Zoo, which also held online events for staff to further develop “ a culture of environmental protection”.

Elsewhere in Abu Dhabi, the Founder’s Memorial and Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque joined in, among others.

The annual event is usually marked by in-person events, but the campaign has moved online for the last two years due to Covid-19.

Each year has a special focus, and for 2021 it was about how the destruction of nature raises the risk of pandemics.

Evidence suggests that Covid-19 is a zoonotic disease – one which jumped from animals to humans.

A World Wildlife Fund report, published in 2020, warned of the risk of a new zoonotic disease in the future.

It predicted that the likelihood of a disease that could be transferred from animals to humans was "higher than ever, with the potential to wreak havoc on health, economies and global security”.

Researchers in New Zealand have previously linked the emergence of Ebola, one of the world’s deadliest viruses, with the destruction of animal habitat due to deforestation in West and Central Africa.

Like Sars-Cov-2, the virus is believed to have originated in bats, which are the natural reservoir for hundreds of deadly viruses.

This included the Marburg virus and Nipah viruses, which have caused outbreaks in Africa and India.

On Monday, thousands of people across the GCC pledged their support to the Water Hour campaign on this year’s World Water Day.

They promised to conserve water with a few small changes to daily life.

These included pledging to wash dishes in a dishwasher rather than by hand, turning off the water when brushing their teeth and fixing all leaky faucets and showers.

Cities around the world go dark - in pictures