WASHINGTON – At 8:30 Saturday night, the National Aquarium in Baltimore is going dark.
As the lights go out in its Crystal Pavilion, places across the coast will be shutting off with it, plunging into a voluntary power outage for the eighth annual Earth Hour.
The environmental event sponsored by the World Wildlife Fund asks people all over the world to turn off the lights between 8:30 and 9:30 p.m. local time to demonstrate their commitment to protecting the environment.
“We’re just trying to relay the message that we all have a role to play in creating a healthy planet, not only for the animals that we have at the aquarium but also for a healthy human community,” said Laura Bankey, director of conservation at the National Aquarium.
In Baltimore, where the city is participating for the sixth year, Baltimore City Hall, the War Memorial Building, the Benton Building and PricewaterhouseCoopers are among those who will snuff out the lights, according to the city.
The event has gained popular steam since it was started in Australia in 2007. Now, 157 countries, 7,000 cities and hundreds of iconic buildings participate, said Keya Chatterjee, the wildlife fund’s senior director for renewable energy and footprint outreach.
Landmarks and businesses in Baltimore and Washington have historically taken part in the event.
The National Aquarium has worked with the Baltimore Office of Sustainability to recruit other participants.
The aquarium turns off all lights except those needed for security purposes, Bankey said. It hopes that citizens will power off electronics in their own homes.
During 2013’s Earth Hour, sites from Buckingham Palace to the Las Vegas Strip to Moscow’s Kremlin turned out the lights.
But small towns darken, too, and the event often prompts community activities — and has even spurred climate legislation in some places, Chatterjee said.
The city of Bowie is participating for the first time, after requests from residents to hold an event, said Kristin Larson, sustainability planner for the city.
“We wanted to bring out families and talk about a fun activity you can do without lights and just talk about ways that you can conserve,” she said.
The event, which includes a traveling planetarium, is already full, but Larson said there was so much interest the city hopes to do more in future years.
However, others in Maryland, including Bowie State University and Under Armour, said they did not plan to participate. The national monuments in Washington are not going dark, either, said the National Park Service.
For the East Coast, the hour collides with the March Madness NCAA championships every year, but Chatterjee said it hasn’t interfered with participation. The second of Saturday’s Elite Eight games, between the universities of Arizona and Wisconsin, begins at 8:49 p.m.
“People all celebrate in their own way and so you know, some people, I can imagine, will be huddled around the TV with the lights out with the whole family,” she said. “It is really an event that we encourage people to make their own.”