In Solidarity with the Earth

Author: Rachel Novick

Earth Hour logo

This weekend, Notre Dame will participate in Earth Hour by turning out the lights on the Golden Dome of the Main Building and the Word of Life mural on the Hesburgh Library. Earth Hour, which takes place on March 31st at 8:30 p.m., has become an international symbol of support for climate change action.

This year’s Earth Hour will be celebrated by hundreds of millions of people in over 130 countries. Lights will be turned off on such iconic landmarks as the Empire State Building, the Great Pyramids of Giza, the Parthenon, the statue of Christ the Redeemer in Rio de Janeiro, and St. Peter’s Basilica at the Vatican.

“We encourage every member of the campus community to participate in Earth Hour by turning off their lights at 8:30 on Saturday evening and by making a long-term commitment to conserve energy,” said Sarah Misener, Associate Vice President of Campus Services. “Community involvement is essential to achieving our sustainability goals."

“Our participation in Earth Hour reflects our values as a Catholic university,” added Rachel Novick, Education and Outreach Program Manager in the Office of Sustainability. “Climate change disproportionately impacts those who are poor and vulnerable – who have contributed the least to our environmental problems and have the least capacity for adaptation. During this year’s Earth Hour, we are focusing in particular on solidarity with island nations facing enormous challenges due to sea level rise.”

The habitability of low-lying island states such as Kiribati, Tuvalu, the Marshall Islands and the Maldives is threatened by sea level rise, and a number of these nations have already begun setting aside funds and initiating negotiations to purchase land in other countries in order to relocate their populations. Citizens of these nations stand to lose their homelands as well as their indigenous cultures.

Earlier this semester, GreeND, the Center for Social Concerns, and the Office of Sustainability co-sponsored a screening of the award-winning documentary Sun Come Up. The film follows the experiences of the Carteret Islanders, a community living on a remote island chain off Papua New Guinea that is forced to relocate due to sea level rise. For Earth Hour, GreeND is continuing the focus on island communities by joining the Hawai’i Club for their annual Lu’au.

“We hope students will take the opportunity to turn off their own lights and head over to the Lu’au this Saturday from 5 to 8 p.m. at Stepan Center,” said Elizabeth Davis, co-president of GreeND. “Sun Come Up gave us an opportunity to see up close the impact of climate change on island communities. On Saturday night, we’re excited to celebrate island culture as we work to preserve it.”