Mayor Sheila Dixon has announced that Baltimore will join "Earth Hour," a nationwide event meant to highlight concerns about climate change.

The event, sponsored by the World Wildlife Fund, asks individuals, businesses and governments to turn off their lights for one hour to make a statement about the issue and the need to find solutions. More than 950 cities worldwide already have joined the campaign, according to the fund.

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Per Mayor Dixon's commitment, City Hall and other municipal buildings will go dark for an hour at 8:30 p.m. on Saturday night March 28, according to the city's Office of Sustainability.  Hannah Freedman, one of the members of the office's youth advisory group, is quoted in the release saying she hopes that in addition to making a tiny reduction in energy consumption the event will raise public environmental awareness.

Climate change is a serious issue, according to President Obama and every major scientific organization that's looked at it - but it's one that the public doesn't seem to think is a priority, according to recent public opinion surveys.  Perhaps this event will raise its profile.

But there's an opportunity to do more, closer to home. Earlier this month, City Council adopted a sustainability plan  for Baltimore. Will it be more than lofty language?  Will it prompt any real changes in how the city grows or does business - shrink Baltimore's carbon footprint and make it a more livable community?

One of the plan's goals is to eliminate litter throughout the city.  How about phasing out plastic grocery bags as a start?  That's not mentioned, but some other communities are doing that.  Reducing water use is another goal - a good one for a city occasionally gripped by drought.  How about pricing water to encourage conservation and recycling?  Improving transit is an aim, too.  One suggestion I've heard many times before - how about giving light rail trains priority at traffic lights?  That would make transit faster than driving and probably boost ridership.  Elected officials routinely reject that, saying it would worsen vehicular congestion.  But wouldn't that make transit even more appealing?

Just asking, mind you.  They don't pay me to have opinions.  But after the lights come back on at City  Hall, I'd like to hear more about how the sustainability plan will make a difference, and how quickly.  Now there's a chance to make a statement.

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