Students Fight Climate Change With S'mores and Bonfires

For one hour on the evening of March 31, students gathered around the crackling fire pit in Waring Commons (WC) amidst smoky wind and marshmallows as part of the international event known as Earth Hour.

SEAC (Student Environmental Action Coalition) hosted the St. Mary’s Earth Hour event, which occurs when “people in over 130 countries turn off their lights and electricity for just one hour to raise awareness of climate change,” said sophomore attendee Danielle Manos. “By the way, fun fact: climate change is real,” added SEAC president, sophomore Ashok Chandwaney.

“Basically,” continued Manos, “it encourages people to leave their houses and save energy.” During Earth Hour, Chandwaney announced that SEAC members will be traveling to Annapolis to advocate wind energy and bring it to the attention of the state government.

All of the materials needed for the making of s’mores were provided at the fire pit, and gooey chocolatey goodness was had by all. Sophomore Evan Mahone attempted to cook a meal of chickpeas and spinach in a pan over the open flame, and he remarked later that his dish was quite good. To maintain the fire, old copies of The Point News were used as kindling. “Finally, The Point News is useful for something,” joked Chandwaney.

The camaraderie around the fire pit was obvious, as a constant stream of students chatted and ate for the entire hour from 8:30 to 9:30 p.m. Junior Peter Robertson noted that the event “brings us together, and keeps our friendship warm. Literally.” Earth Hour was successful in recognizing that the world’s habit of energy over-use must be broken in order to prevent climate change, all while providing students with a delightful Saturday evening.

Campus Blacks Out for Earth Hour

During Earth Hour, members of the campus community had the opportunity to band together in multiple venues.
During Earth Hour, members of the campus community had the opportunity to band together in multiple venues.
On Saturday, Mar. 27, St. Mary’s students gathered for an hour and turned off all of their lights and electronics in honor of the energy conservation movement, Earth Hour.

Earth Hour is a worldwide movement sponsored by The World Wildlife Fund to try to promote energy conservation by encouraging the turning off lights and electronics for an hour. “Everyone is supposed to start at a local time, so that every hour another time zone is switching off their lights to save energy,” said first-year Paula Riner, the Student Environmental Action Coalition (SEAC) member who headed St. Mary’s Earth Hour preparations.

The purpose of Earth Hour is to show that small actions, such as turning your lights off for an hour, can have a very big impact on the environment when a large number of people participate. “More than just about awareness of energy consumption, the act of turning off lights for an hour is a united, high profile way to show worldwide understanding of and a commitment to climate change,” said SEAC member Emily Saari.

Here at St. Mary’s, Earth Hour began at 9 p.m. and there where a number of different activities for students to partake in during the hour. There was a campfire at the Waring Commons fire pit, BBQ at the Dorch Circle, and events on the Campus Center Patio, such as, live acoustic music, food, and coloring.

Before all of this could take place SEAC members, Residence Life, and Public Safety had to work together to make sure that as many lights as possible were turned off on campus and that students remained safe and had fun during the hour. SEAC members went around to the academic building checking light switches and practicing for Earth Hour.

According to Riner, they also asked faculty and staff members to turn off all of their office lights before heading out on Friday. “We contacted the RHC’S and RA’s so they could organize activities, inform their residents, and put up flyers [in their halls],” said SEAC member Johanna Galat.

While the ‘official’ Earth Hour only took place for an hour, SEAC members hope that students will take something away from the experience and look at the bigger picture. Many do think it will make students more aware of their energy usage. “When we turn off our lights and realize how much we can still do, we realize that much of the lighting we use is extraneous,” said Galat.

Campus Turns Out the Lights to Celebrate Earth Hour

Students turned off their lights and met in the circle between the dorms for a cookout during Earth Hour. (Photo by Brendan Larrabee)
Students turned off their lights and met in the circle between the dorms for a cookout during Earth Hour. (Photo by Brendan Larrabee)

On March 28, lights went out across the globe at 8:30 p.m. local time.  Starting with New Zealand, countries around the world began to turn off their lights as part of Earth Hour 2009.  Las Vegas, Nevada, went dark, as did Times Square in New York City.

As the official Flagship Campus of Maryland for Earth Hour 2009, St. Mary’s was no different.  Starting at 8:30, Eastern Time, the lights in many of the residence halls, townhouses, suites and apartments went out one by one. With a variety of activities occurring across campus, there was no just sitting in the dark.  Students could chose between hide and seek and flashlight tag at Calvert, a block party at Prince George, Caroline, and Dorchester, s’mores and glow sticks at Queen Anne, and a bonfire at Waring Commons.

Earth Hour, started in Sydney in 2007 in partnership with the World Wildlife Fund, is a global movement in which people turn off their lights at the appointed hour to “vote Earth.” Turning off the lights symbolizes supporting finding solutions to climate change and demonstrates concern for the planet.

The students at the College were among the millions of people who participated.  Earth Hour 2008 saw 36 million people and 200 million cities across the globe turning off the lights.  The results of Earth Hour 2009 will be presented at the 2009 Global Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen.