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.


Published by Nico Macdonald

Communication, facilitation and consultancy around design and technology

Leave a comment