By Tamara Johnson
The rainy, gloomy weather all day Saturday may have deterred many students’ weekend plans, but it was not an issue for the over 400 attendees of the Freshman Council’s Blackout Party that night. The party did have to be moved indoors from the Campanile to the stage area of the Student Center Commons, but Freshmen Council managed to run the event with very few bumps.
The party signified Tech’s participation in Earth Hour, a global event encouraging people worldwide to turn off all of their lights from 8:30-9:30 p.m. on a Saturday in March. Earth Hour initially began in 2007 in Sydney, Australia, where 2.2 million homes and businesses turned off their lights for an hour to “give the Earth a chance to breathe”. The event became a worldwide sustainability movement in 2008 when 50 million people on all sides of the globe took part.
Amidst the food and music a petition by the World Wildlife Federation circulated around the room. “The petition is part of the WWF’s “toolkit” for this event,” Charbonnet said. “The global results of Earth Hour will be presented to the international delegations at Copenhagen. The petition encourages our federal government to ratify the Protocols and impose a cap-and-trade system on carbon emissions.”
Global landmarks such as the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco and the Colosseum in Rome stood in darkness during the last Earth Hour, paving the way for notable Atlanta buildings to participate this year. The Bank of America Tower as well as the Coca-Cola building turned off their lights at 8:30 p.m., and students had a chance to go outside and take in the darkened skyline.
Joe Charbonnet, first-year ENVE major and Freshmen Council member received inspiration for the Blackout Party from his hometown of Gainesville, Fla.’s participation in Earth Hour last year. He presented the idea to the Council, and the movement began from there. “After emailing people [to participate in Earth Hour] the passion became contagious, and the student body became really excited,” Charbonnet shared.
Notable guests in attendance included Buzz our mascot, who entertained the crowd throughout the night, and Kwanza Hall, member of the Atlanta City Council and advocate of sustainable initiatives in Atlanta. After a short speech, Councilmember Hall did the honors of switching a giant decorated light switch at 8:30, which turned off the stage lights and launched the night’s festivities.
The night included performances by both indie rock band Foreign Breakfast and indie folk band Autovine, the latter remaining onstage for an encore performance. While the bands played students socialized around the darkened stage, talking with each other and munching on the snacks provided.
So why did some students feel that Earth Hour was important? “[This event] matters from the point of view of changing people’s mindset,” said Nick Wellkamp, undergraduate student body president. “Sustainability, the green movement…these have been buzzwords for the past few years, and many people still don’t know what they mean.”
A few students had other remarks about the event. Whitney Wright, a second-year CE major, felt that Earth Hour was good idea for Tech students since “we are poor and are trying to save money” but instead of for just one hour “it should be done for a whole day”.
Stallings Blakeley, a second-year INTA major, also enjoyed the event but was “mad that they did not turn off all of the lights”, commenting on the apparent presence of electricity throughout the party.