It starts with the Sears Tower antennas, the tallest points in the city. One moment they’re lit with a bright white, and the next moment they’re shrouded in darkness. Across the skyline, the diamond of the Smurfit-Stone building has gone completely out, and down the lakefront, Navy Pier’s signature Ferris Wheel has been sucked into a black hole where tacky tourism ceases to exist. The skyline begins dimming, one skyscraper after another, silently succumbing to a plague of dimness. There’s only one explanation for all this: massive electrical failure. The city should be in flames from the hordes of opportunistic looters within ten minutes.
Of course, that last part isn’t true. Chicago isn’t burning down, but rather is the flagship U.S. city in this year’s “Earth Hour,” an international effort that asks participants to turn off their lights and non-essential electrical units for one hour, from 8pm to 9pm, in order to raise awareness for energy conservation and reduce carbon emissions. Smatterings of onlookers gather in front of Grant Park’s Buckingham Fountain to witness the one-of-a-kind spectacle, and watch as the skyline goes from brilliantly lit to…sort of dim. One notable exception is the Board of Trade building, which seems to actually get brighter as 8pm rolls by, before finally going dark around 8:10pm, as if the person in charge suddenly realized, “Oh, crap, I forgot about Earth Hour!”
A group of students from Columbia have made the trek to Grant Park to witness the skyline transformation, and they seem less than dazzled. “If I didn’t know any better, I’d say it pretty much looks the same,” says Paul Alan Cope III. “I kind of wanna watch them turn the lights back on,” says Kevin Hein. The consensus seems to be that although the imagery is less than spectacular, they’re still down with the cause to some extent.
“It’s an interesting idea. Just to shut it down for an hour, see if it makes any difference, see what difference it will make. And just to kind of inspire people to get a little more Earth-friendly,” Cope says, then noticing that in the distance, the Trump Tower appears to have made a point of staying highly illuminated, prompting the group to comment on how much they hate Donald Trump. “I would imagine that Trump is riding to every single floor and just microwaving,” Cope says. “He’s going up and down his incredible tower, cooking TV dinners and leaving the gas stoves on.” (Andy Seifert)