Environment

Man Seeking Stars Asks City to Turn off Lights

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Nate Tyler wants to see more stars and save energy. His plan? Have San Francisco turn off lights for one hour next Saturday night.

SCOTT SIMON, host:

Everyone enjoys a nice candlelight dinner - our next guest may be taking it too far. Nate Tyler wants his town of San Francisco to turn off the lights next Saturday night for one hour. As he flipped his switch, he joins us from member station KQED in San Francisco.

Mr. Tyler, thanks for being with us.

Mr. NATE TYLER (Founder and Executive Director, Lights Out San Francisco): Thanks for having me.

SIMON: Now you saw this in Sydney, Australia, I gather.

Mr. TYLER: I did. I was traveling in Sydney a few months ago. They had an event down there where they turned out the lights in the city there. And I was inspired to start a similar organization here in San Francisco.

SIMON: What happens when the lights go off in a great city?

Mr. TYLER: Hopefully, it will look darker and improve our ability to see the stars. And ultimately what we're hoping for is accumulative savings of energy.

SIMON: You're not talking about every light in the city, right?

Mr. TYLER: We're talking about non-essential lights, so the lights that you and I can turn off - the ones at our homes, the ones at our offices. We're inviting restaurants to throw candlelight dinners throughout the city - those kinds of things.

SIMON: So streetlights stay on and hospitals that sort of thing.

Mr. TYLER: That's right.

SIMON: Any chances it will work next Saturday night? What kind of response have you gotten?

Mr. TYLER: We've got an amazing response thus far. The Golden Gate Bridge, the Bay Bridge, Alcatraz, the city buildings have all signed on to turn out lights that night as well as local businesses like Safeway Insurance, the Gap have all signed on to turn out lights.

SIMON: When you were in Sydney, could you see the stars better?

Mr. TYLER: I was actually inside of a restaurant so I didn't look up to see the stars. I could see the Sydney Opera House, and it went dark. And it was quite beautiful.

SIMON: Well, have you heard that people in theory could see the stars then?

Mr. TYLER: Yes, indeed. If everybody does turn off their lights, which we hope they will do next Saturday, October 20th, we're hoping that one of the benefits of that would be a greater ability to see the stars at night.

SIMON: And you hope this idea might take flight nationally?

Mr. TYLER: That's right. So when we started Lights Out San Francisco, we were contacted by cities throughout the country and the world asking us how they might get involved. And I might add, on October 20th, Los Angeles has joined us and they are going to be turning out lights down there on their city hall and the Hollywood sign.

But in addition to Los Angeles, we've been receiving interest from cities really everywhere asking us to join on the 20th. And so what we've done is we started an effort called lightsoutamerica.org and we're going to do a similar effort nationwide on March 29th of next year.

SIMON: Expecting any kind of, well, let's speak this bluntly, baby boom nine months from October 20th?

Mr. TYLER: Well, one of the slogans that we have is: Good Things Happen in the Dark. So I guess we'll just have to see.

(Soundbite of laughter)

SIMON: Mr. Tyler, thanks so much.

Mr. TYLER: Thank you very much.

SIMON: Nate Tyler is founder and executive director of Lights Out San Francisco and Lights Out America joining us from San Francisco.

And this is NPR News.

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