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Campus turns off lights for Earth Hour

Liz O'Donnell | Monday, March 30, 2009

Notre Dame participated in the global World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) Earth Hour 2009 this weekend as an effort to show the community, and world, the importance of slowing down global climate change.

“The simple act of flipping the switch multiplied across the world was designed to show that we care about, want solutions to, and can make a difference to slow global climate change,” said Lisa Bunn, a Notre Dame junior and member of GreeND who participated in the event.

Most of the major cities in the world took part in Earth Hour, which took place from 8:30-9:30 p.m. Saturday evening.

From coast to coast, buildings went dim as major cities in the United States observed the hour of darkness.

“The [WWF] organized the event globally, and cities in 88 countries participated by turning off non-essential lighting,” Bunn said.

Notre Dame’s contribution to the effort included turning the lights off on both the Golden Dome and Touchdown Jesus. In addition, students were encouraged to turn off their lights for the hour.

“Some students watched movies in the dark or only used the light of the television to do homework,” Bunn said.

This is the third year of the event, and Notre Dame’s second year of participation. Membership in the event is growing at a rapid pace, with the number of cities partaking in the hour increasing almost tenfold this year.

In 2007, the first year of the event, Sydney, Australia was the lone city to switch the lights off. Last year, over 50 million participated in about 400 cities, including Notre Dame.

“This year a whooping 3,900 cities participated,” said Bunn. “I am proud to say that Notre Dame was one of them.”

The event was highly focused on the task of unifying the world in the fight against climate change, Bunn said. She said she hoped the University’s participation will show Notre Dame’s concern over the issue.

“Notre Dame’s participation in this event reflects the University’s mission to have a sense of human solidarity and concern for the common good, Bunn said.

“Notre Dame united with the world to show that we care about the state of the climate and that we want solutions to address climate change issues,” she said.

The event was sponsored on campus by the Notre Dame Energy Center and GreeND, which had the task of seeing that certain actions were taken on campus to ensure its success.

“Our job was to No.1, turn off the lights on the monuments of Notre Dame, the things that symbolize our school and would declare our participation,” Bunn said. “Also, No. 2, to spread publicity to get the word out to students and staff that no matter where they were at 8:30 Saturday night to turn off the lights.”

Bunn said the movement to turn off the lights was inspiring and empowering.

“Yes, sometimes I wonder if it really makes a difference if I switch to compact fluorescent light bulbs, recycle or ride my bike instead of driving,” Bunn said. “Every person can make a difference because this is something we can only do together. “

With the data collected from this year’s Earth Hour, the WWF will go to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change in Copenhagen in December to push for legislation on dealing with the climate change situation.

“I think it already has made a statement to local and global leaders,” Bunn said. “The WWF is going to share the stats from Earth Hour 2009 in December at the Copenhagen convention when world leaders are meeting to figure out the next policy to take the place of the Kyoto Protocol, which hopefully will accurately and effectively deal with the causes and effects and find global support especially from the United States.”