Last month I wrote about an experiment in the UK that involved getting people around the country to turn off their lights at a specific time… which they called off because of the possible disruption of the national grid.
Well, someone here in the Bay Area didn’t heed that warning, and has organized the same kind of lights out nonsense.
Turning off the lights is going to be politically as well as romantically correct tonight, as San Francisco seeks to send yet another message to the world.
It’s something called Lights Out San Francisco and, precisely at 8 p.m., the entire city is supposed to turn off all nonessential lights for one hour.
The idea is to save energy, fight global warming and, just maybe, have a romantic candlelit dinner and watch the stars.
“This is something simple that anyone can do,” said Nate Tyler, who came up with the idea after watching a similar lights-out display on a trip to Sydney in March. “On an emotional level, it’s an important first step.”
The thing is, one hour with the lights out won’t make even the tiniest bit of difference. I mean, 90% of those lights are already out for most of the day, and if they’re home lights they are also out most of the night as well! In fact:
At the Bay Bridge, the lights-off hour will involve turning off 1,200 decorative fluorescent lights on the western span, according to bridge spokesman Bart Ney of Caltrans. That will save a total of 11 kilowatt-hours of electricity, or about $1.30 worth.
It’s a feel-good gesture that will have no effect at all, will not open anyone’s eyes to energy policy or how to save energy, and if it were important enough to go down in history it would be as good for nothing.
Ordinary folks are supposed to use the hour to replace at least one incandescent bulb in their homes with an energy-saving fluorescent bulb, Tyler said, although he did not explain how best to do that in the darkness.
Update, Sunday: Everyone is trumpeting the Lights Out event as a great success — but I beg to differ. What difference did it make other than as a momentary novelty? I direct you to the event’s website where they feature before and after images. One look at these images tells me that it was only successful as a gimmick to get landmarks to reduce their lighting — the Golden Gate Bridge, Bay Bridge, Coit Tower, etc. But when one looks at the city surrounding these dimmed landmarks, there is absolutely no difference at all. Photo after photo shows the city lit up as usual with no discernible dimmed areas whatsoever.
They’re planning on doing it again on March 29. I applaud the ideals of the event, but seriously — one hour every four months does not a movement make, nor does it conserve anything at all.