Low-energy bulbs: A secular sacrifice

Ian Katz is incandescent with the Daily Mail for encouraging its readers to rise up against low-energy bulbs (Rage against the lights [shared bookmark], 10 January). But a cooler head might allow more light to be shed on the situation.

Katz notes that ‘lighting is reckoned to account for 10-15% of UK electricity use’. But that includes lighting used in offices and factories, public spaces and thoroughfares – where Daily Mail readers don’t change the bulbs. It has been estimated that if UK households ‘went dark’, total CO2 emissions would reduce by a mere 0.6%. (See Energise by James Woudhuysen and Joe Kaplinsky, Beautiful Books, 2008) This reduction would be smaller still if households were to only change (en masse) to low-energy bulbs.

It is remarkable that in our age of democracy, participation and inclusion the most significant act a citizen can take is to separate their rubbish, and change a lightbulb. The idea of our citizenry taking on the challenges of energy supply, infrastructure and efficiency doesn’t get a look-in.

Katz argues that ‘If we can’t convince people to change bulbs God knows how we will get them to make the much deeper sacrifices… that will be necessary to create a low-carbon economy’. But it is apparent that the sacrifices he proposes are more about reigning in our aspirations than effecting solutions. As Simon Hoggart points out in the same edition [shared bookmark], in the context of recycling, ‘we must perform these rites as a sign of our commitment to the ecological faith’. My faith is in rational and humanistic analysis and problem solving, not environmental deities.

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Published by Nico Macdonald

Communication, facilitation and consultancy around design and technology

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