CHICAGO – From an Antarctic research base and the Great Pyramids of Egypt to the Empire State Building in New York and the Sears Tower in Chicago, illuminated patches of the globe went dark Saturday for Earth Hour 2009, a campaign to highlight the threat of climate change.
Time zone by time zone, nearly 4,000 cities and towns in 88 countries joined the event sponsored by the World Wildlife Fund to dim nonessential lights from 8:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. The campaign began in Australia in 2007 and last year grew to 400 cities worldwide.
Crowds in Times Square watched as many of the massive billboards, including the giant Coca-Cola display, darkened. Steps away, the Majestic Theater marquee at the home of “The Phantom of the Opera” went dark, along with the marquees at other Broadway shows.
Mikel Rouse, 52, a composer who lives and works nearby, came to watch what he called “the center of the universe” dim its lights.
“C’mon, is it really necessary? … All this ridiculous advertising … all this corporate advertising taking up all that energy seems to be a waste,” Rouse said.
In Chicago, one of 10 U.S. Earth Hour flagship cities, a small crowd braved a cold rain to count down as Gov. Pat Quinn flipped a 4-foot-tall mock light switch that organizers had to brace against high winds. A second later, the buildings behind him went dark.
“I don’t see why people shouldn’t always turn off the lights,” pondered 15-year-old Chicagoan Tyler Oria, who was among those gathered.
More than 200 buildings pledged to go dark in the city, including shops along the Magnificent Mile.
The Smithsonian Castle, World Bank, National Cathedral and Howard University were among several buildings that went dark for an hour in the nation’s capital.