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Jennifer Robison

Las Vegas Strip to go dark

10 March 2010

LAS VEGAS, Nevada -- The Strip will go dark the evening of March 27, as the annual Earth Hour event comes to Las Vegas for a second year.

The World Wildlife Fund's Earth Hour, designed to raise global awareness of climate change, will roll across the world and reach the Strip at 8:30 local time, when high-profile hotel-casinos and government agencies plan to dim or turn off their exterior lights for 60 minutes.

Leslie Aun, Earth Hour's managing director, said Las Vegas' participation as an Earth Hour flagship city in 2009 proved "critical" to advancing the event and its popularity. Unlike turning off the Eiffel Tower -- the real one, in Paris -- or Mount Rushmore, blacking out the Strip and surrounding areas requires the cooperation of myriad business executives and public officials, Aun said. That makes Las Vegas an ideal representation of what Earth Hour is all about.

"Las Vegas is a great metaphor for what we're trying to do across the country, which is to get everyone to participate, instead of a place here and there," Aun said. "Las Vegas was a pretty big momentum builder last year."

The World Wildlife Fund unveiled its local plans for Earth Hour 2010 at a Tuesday press conference.

Las Vegas Mayor Oscar Goodman and Clark County Commissioner Larry Brown attended the event, held underneath the "Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas" sign at the Strip's south end.

Goodman called Earth Hour "a perfect fit for the city and its sustainability initiative."

Goodman asked businesses and residents across the Las Vegas Valley to join resort operators and government agencies in celebrating Earth Hour.

So far, Boyd Gaming Corp., Harrah's Entertainment, Las Vegas Sands Corp., MGM Mirage and Wynn Resorts Ltd. have all said they'll flip off the switch outside all their local properties. Trump International, Treasure Island, the Imperial Palace, the Stratosphere, the Tropicana, the Sahara, the Riviera and Fashion Show also plan to participate. Off the Strip, the Las Vegas Springs Preserve, the city of Las Vegas, the Las Vegas Convention Center and Clark County have all said they'll go dark for the hour.

During 2009's Earth Hour, demand for power in Las Vegas fell by 65 megawatts, or 3 percent, local power utility NV Energy reported shortly after the event.

Earth Hour 2010 comes as polls show waning concern about climate change. A 2009 Pew survey placed global warming at No. 20, in last place on a list of Americans' top concerns. In October, Pew found a 14 percentage-point drop in the share of Americans who say there's solid evidence the planet is warming. A 2009 Gallup poll posted similar findings, with sizable declines in the number of Americans who reported seeing signs of a hotter planet. Controversies related to climate-change science, including e-mails that appear to reveal scientists tampering with temperature data and the reversal of United Nations reports on melting Himalayan glaciers and rising sea levels in Europe, haven't helped the cause.

But Aun said she sees increased interest in sending a message about climate change. The number of state governments that say they'll take official part in Earth Hour has tripled, from seven in 2009 to 21 now. Earth Hour has already secured commitments from 92 countries, up from 88 a year ago. And organizers are still booking participants.

So even though acute concerns such as the economy and job security might be top-of-mind for most Americans these days, Aun said, Earth Hour shows that people still worry about the fate of the planet. Plus, there's something in the event for everyone, she said.

"It's inspirational, fun and engaging. Whether climate change is the most important issue to you, everybody supports the notion of being more energy-efficient, being less dependent on foreign sources of energy, creating green jobs and having America continue to be a leader in economic growth based on green businesses," she said. "We're about people coming together. America has always been a leader in solving tough problems."