For one hour last Saturday night, lights went out. They went out at the iconic Empire State Building, Big Ben in London, Sydney Opera House, the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C., the Acropolis in Greece, Paris’ Eiffel Tower, the Colosseum in Rome, the Pyramids of Egypt and Red Square in Moscow. Yup, Moscow.

They were among a reported 3,000 landmarks across the globe from 187 countries that turned off their lights for the 10th annual Earth Hour. They included such far-flung places as South Africa, Ukraine, Albania, Turkey, India, Sri Lanka, Lebanon, Greece, Sudan, Bulgaria, Macedonia, Spain, Taiwan, Finland, Madagascar, Sweden, Uganda, Iraq, Kurdistan, Singapore, Tanzania and Germany. Our closest neighbors, Canada and Mexico, also participated.

Lights went out at my house, too.

Earth Hour is sponsored by the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) although you may recognize them as the nonprofit formerly known as World Wildlife Fund with the cute Panda logo. Their Australian affiliate sponsored the first Earth Hour in 2007.

What’s Earth Hour all about? As a conservation organization, WWF wants to shine a light on the negative impact of man-made carbon dioxide emissions on the earth’s climate. The way they bring this awareness is by asking people and businesses to turn the lights off.

In truth, one hour without lights will not significantly reduce global warming. However, it is interesting to note the group did commission research that indicated as many as one in four Australians now participate in Earth Hour.

WWF has said it sparks other environmental initiatives like creation of a 3.4-million-hectare (one hectare is equal to 100 acres) marine park in Argentina, a ban on soft plastics at the Galapagos Island and planting a forest in Uganda.

On Saturday, people took to social media to say they played board games by candlelight, took a walk in the dark, or gathered at community-sponsored events to play with lit balloons. Me? I posted a photo of a candlelit kitchen on Facebook, did dishes by hand, and followed along on the web, using my unplugged laptop, as photos were posted of famous landmarks with lights on, then lights off. Folks from around the world had or were busy tweeting their support, some added photos. As I noted the countries they said they were from, I was struck by how easy it can be to unite people over something good, as opposed to, well, you know.

Had I not grown up in a generation when women were not encouraged to pursue careers in the sciences, I suspect I would have chosen science over journalism. My dad took us to the local park to hike and fish. We loved Clifton Beach where we spent many summers on the beach. We worked with our dad in our gardens, pulling weeds until we were old enough — i.e. trusted enough — to dig a hole deep enough for tender flowers to survive. In retirement, he pursued a lifelong dream and bought a farm. We maintained a huge vegetable garden, picked apples off trees and raspberries from bushes. No surprise I grew to love nature.

I may not be a scientist, but I am not afraid to get dirt under my nails or learn about the environment. I understand we may differ, but I do believe the earth is getting hotter. I also believe it is, at least partly, our fault.

For those who do believe the earth is warming, and that there could be serious downside if we do not try to slow it, WWF suggests a few easy, inexpensive things you can do to reduce your carbon footprint. One is to just turn out the lights you do not need to keep on. You might just save yourself a few dollars, too.

WWF suggests “moving your thermostat down just two degrees in winter and up two degrees in summer could save about 2,000 pounds of carbon dioxide per year.”

If you are really interested, they have lists of tips on their website.

Another of WWF’s big initiatives has to due with forest destruction and degradation. This gets close to my heart when I think about Lorain County Metro Parks, especially Kopf Reservation. Trees are living things. They can get disease, they can break limbs in extreme situations, and they die. The recent windstorm we had took out a huge tree in the woods behind my house and knocked down a number of large branches, toppled tall pine trees and set the stage for even more damage at some point in the future as a result of exposing saplings to wind pockets and sun where they were once protected. It won’t be long until I see the results — if any — of the seeds, flower and ferns we planted last fall at the wildflower garden at Kopf. I suspect, like other years of this project, there will be some wins and some losses. But I am going to stick with it. I owe it to Mother Earth for all the beautiful experiences she has brought to my life. What about you? You willing to give her a hug, too?

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