Earth Hour Shines the Light on Las Vegasby Don Knapp
Even when it turns off the lights, Las Vegas has a way of outshining other cities. To hype up Earth Hour, Vegas style, the City brought out showgirls to prance and pose with the World Wildlife Fund panda. In a City-produced PSA video, Donny and Marie Osmond drummed up support for the cause, and in another PSA, Alanis Morissette, uh, clipped her toenails to fight climate change.
Hey, it worked. Hundreds of people showed up on the strip and were given glow sticks as they watched the casino lights go black, one by one. Perhaps thousands more in the city dimmed their lights and maybe even learned for the first time why using energy creates greenhouse gas emissions and leads to global warming. Yes, the same thing happened in 4,000 cities across the world, but Vegas’ event is a big deal to me: One of the brightest cities in the world went dark for a full hour. Vegas has always been symbolic, but now we have to ask, symbolic of what?
Maybe I just want to be the one to point out that in 2009, Americans
not only have a president committed to climate action, we have
dancing Vegas showgirls doing their part as well. Times have
changed. The success of Vegas’ event, and its inclusion as one of six
Earth Hour flagship cities, showed that climate change is recognized on the street as an issue that matters, even in places you think it's not supposed to matter. You probably weren’t surprised that
San Francisco darkened its city hall lights for Earth Hour; but the
marquee at Caesar’s Palace? That’s a newer twist.
If you wanted to shoot holes in this line of thinking, you would argue that Vegas is only in it for the publicity, and that a wattage-wasting desert city isn’t really doing anything about climate change. Except that it is. The City of Las Vegas has adopted an aggressive Sustainable Energy Strategy that commits to reducing the city’s carbon footprint 30 percent by 2030. A slew of smart energy initiatives are already in place, and LEED-certified buildings are in the works across the city. City planners are eager to combat the perception that Las Vegas is an unsustainable city whose community doesn’t care about energy and climate. I think that perception may change. Earth Hour suggests it’s always darkest before the dawn.