WEST ORANGE, NJ - The cold and drizzly weather put a damper on an observance of Earth Hour in West Orange on March 31. The West Orange school system encouraged teachers, and students and parents to assemble at Eagle Rock Reservation and watch as numerous buildings in New York City planned to turn off its lights for one hour beginning at 8:30 p.m.
Earth Hour is an annual global protest that is meant to advocate action on climate change in which homes, businesses, and offices switch off their lights between 8:30 p.m. and 9:30 p.m. local time, beginning at the International Date Line and continuing westward. The event began with a similar demonstration in Sydney in 2007 and has been held globally on the last Saturday in March every year since then. In 2011, over 5,200 cities in 135 countries switched off their lights in protest against climate change inaction, symbolically saving the energy necessary to power those lights.
"Global warming is the greatest threat facing our planet today," EarthHour.org, the Web site of the events' organizers, says. "A warming planet alters weather patterns, water supplies, seasonal growth for plants and a sustainable way of life for us, and the world’s wildlife. Climate change has already started, but it’s not too late to take action."
The Essex County Sheriff's office was on duty at Eagle Rock Reservation for Earth Hour, expecting approximately a thousand people. Only about a dozen people, however, were at the September 11 memorial at the overlook to see the lights of the Manhattan skyline go dark. Those who were there could see lights going out all over New York, including much of the Empire State Building, though its red beacon remained on. The effect lost some of its drama, however, given the limited visibility caused by the weather. The lights of the buildings under construction at the World Trade Center site remained on.
West Orange Councilman Joe Krakoviak, his wife Clare, and their sons, Paul and Thomas, were among the few who did brave the chilly night, and the councilman took notice of the lights going out one by one.
"Look, there's another light going out!" he said to his sons as he pointed them out. "And another!"
The irony of the Earth Hour protest was that essential lighting, exempted from demonstrations, became more visible. Clare Silvestri Krakoviak said she couldn't help but notice how traffic signals in areas visible from Eagle Rock stood out against the darkness caused by the protest.