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Chapel goes dark for Earth Hour 2010

Saturday, the Duke Chapel went dark ­to commemorate Earth Hour 2010.

The symbol of the University was just one of many illuminated monuments worldwide that switched off its lights for an hour to make a statement. The Golden Gate Bridge, Great Pyramids of Giza and Eiffel Tower were among the sites supporting the international effort to save energy and promote sustainability. Earth Hour is organized annually by the World Wide Fund for Nature.

Duke students have participated in Earth Hour before, but this is the first year the Chapel was a part of the demonstration. The symbolic gesture was coordinated by the Office of Sustainability.

“We wanted to send a message with the Chapel [because it] is such an iconic building [and] is something important to Duke,”  said Casey Roe, sustainability outreach coordinator.

An estimated one billion people united by turning their lights off between 8:30 and 9:30 p.m. local time Saturday. Last year, 4,100 cities in more than 80 countries on seven continents participated in the event, according to the Earth Hour Web site. Nationally, about 80 million Americans in 318 U.S. cities participated in 2009.

“In the U.S., where we are already feeling the impacts of climate change, Earth Hour sends a clear message that Americans care about this issue and want to turn the lights out on dirty air, dangerous dependency on foreign oil and costly climate change impacts and make the switch to cleaner air, a strong economic future and a more secure nation,” the Web site notes.

The idea to include the Chapel was proposed by sophomore Ben Soltoff, co-president of Duke Environmental Alliance.

“I suggested the Chapel because I always noticed that the light’s usually on and it’s not really serving to light the campus,” Soltoff said. “It was more aesthetic than functional.”

Soltoff worked with Roe and Tavey Capps, environmental sustainability director, who were the primary coordinators for the event.

Although the Chapel was the most obvious manifestation of Duke’s growing concern for climate change and support of Earth Hour, smaller-scale participation took place as well. Roe said Soltoff played a large role in promoting the event to the Environmental Alliance. Soltoff added that he encouraged the members of the group to join the Earth Hour Facebook page and to turn their lights off during the hour.

“Duke’s participation in Earth Hour was one way we hope to raise awareness across campus of our efforts to reduce energy and address our climate footprint,” Capps wrote in an e-mail.

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