By Anthony Galloway, NBC News producer
Turning off the lights to America's fourth largest metropolis is no easy task.
I learned that first hand by calling various San Francisco authorities, trying to get them to give me a demonstration of what the city will look like on Saturday, October 20; the date when the "Lights Out San Francisco" campaign hopes residents and business owners throughout the city will turn off all non-essential lights between 8 and 9pm.
I was surprised when one of the representatives for the Bay Bridge actually agreed to turn the bridge's lights off a couple of days before the main "Lights Out" event. The night of the demonstration I prayed they would only turn off the bridge's decorative lighting, as we'd discussed, so that hundreds of motorists wouldn't be left in the dark.
Strand by strand, over the course of 40 minutes, the bridge's decorative lights -- and only the decorative lights -- were turned off. I was on the phone with Nate Tyler, the campaign's main organizer, when one section went dark. I could hear his volunteers cheering in the background as our news chopper circled overhead.
Tyler says if everyone heeds his call, the city could save 15 percent of an average Saturday's energy use. Still, he concedes that turning off the lights for one hour on one day will barely make a dent in greenhouse gas emissions. It's only a start. The real goal, he says, is to raise awareness about energy consumption and make turning out the lights an everyday affair.
Climbing to the top of San Francisco's iconic Ferry Building was no everyday affair for me, though. Three flights of stairs and one ladder up, I stood there with an engineer who agreed to flip the famous "Port of San Francisco" neon lights off, just for a second.
Standing there I wondered whether the entire city would really follow suit. Would restaurants operate by candlelight? Would families tell scary stories at home in the dark? Would office buildings turn their lights out?
The concept worked in Sydney, Australia, earlier this year. But it flopped in Salt Lake City last month. This Saturday, Los Angeles, Long Beach and Santa Barbara will join the San Francisco effort.
If it works, campaign organizer Nate Tyler will ask all Americans to turn the lights out next March. Someday he hopes to go global. Talk about a hard task.