Global Warming Event Leaving Las Vegas in the Dark

It’s usually an event reserved for dignitaries and celebrities held in high esteem, but the City of Las Vegas is setting a new precedent … this time in the name of global warming awareness.


At the behest of a global warming activist organization, the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), Las Vegas and surrounding jurisdictions are going to dim their lights for an hour to raise awareness for global warming on March 28 as part of the WWF’s “Earth Hour.” The 2008 event drew coverage from all three networks as reporters worked to cover climate change because, as ABC put it, “the discussion about global warming has become a hot topic in news and Hollywood.”


“Locally, all the jurisdictions are going to participate – city of Las Vegas, North Las Vegas, Henderson and Clark County,” Heather Curry, public information officer for the City of Las Vegas said to the Business & Media Institute. “I know personally here, the World Wildlife Fund approached our mayor and asked him if this would be something he would be interested in participating in and we have quite a few sustainability initiatives – so he thought it followed quite in line with our other initiatives.”


According to Curry, the famous Las Vegas Strip isn’t actually in the city limits of Las Vegas. However the casinos up and down the Strip, in unincorporated ClarkCounty will still participate.


“The Strip is not in the City of Las Vegas,” Curry said. “It is actually unincorporated ClarkCounty. A lot of people don’t know that – seems kind of weird because their address actually says Las Vegas, but they’re not in Las Vegas.”


She explained the event would just include non-essential lights as far as the city was concerned. However, she said the event could also prove to be a boost for the city from tourism standpoint, although it has been struggling in the current economic environment.


“I know they’re trying to get some of the Strip properties to maybe hold special events, you know viewing parties. There’s a few of the nightclubs that actually overlook the strip, so would that be something cool – to be on that patio and see all the lights go off and then come back on a hour later? Yeah, it’s pretty cool because it doesn’t happen.”


In 2008, “Earth Hour” was featured on all three broadcast networks multiple times according to a Nexis search, after the city of Chicago shut its skyline lights off to mark the event. But there are questions as to whether this seemingly political event that was once a sacred gesture will really raise awareness about global warming.


“I think it speaks to the politicization of what was once a non-partisan gesture,” David G. Schwartz, director of the Center for Gaming Research at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas told the Business & Media Institute. “I think that’s probably a bad idea. The people running Strip casinos should be working on how to boost visitation so they can hire more people, not tell us that we should have our awareness of climate change raised.”


Schwartz raised an interesting point on his blog about the so-called environmental effort that hasn’t been raised. Assuming the event does in fact not only draw media attention for the global warming cause, but also brings in added visitors, there’s a carbon footprint that’s being ignored.


“The funny thing is that fewer tourists is actually better for the environment,” Schwartz wrote. “Flying to Las Vegas is a pretty wasteful expenditure of carbon. The more people who come here, the more fuel burned for transportation, lighting, and heat or cooling.”


Schwartz explained it was doing little to address the environmental issues, and was doing more to address “green” guilt.


“It’s a feel-good move, maybe, that I don’t think is the right one,” he said. “You really don’t want to turn a resort hotel into a place where people think deeply about excess consumption, do you?”


The rare occasion has previously been done for the deaths of Ronald Reagan, Sammy Davis Jr., Frank Sinatra and John F. Kennedy, and following the terrorist attack on Sept. 11, 2001. But it has usually only been done as a moment of silence – never for an entire hour.


“When they do that, it’s only a couple of minutes,” Curry added. “Kind of like when you do a moment of silence – you just turn them off for a few minutes, then they come back on. Not for an hour. I don’t think anyone can remember ever doing it for an hour. Our mayor couldn’t remember that, our county officials couldn’t.”