Turn off my Christmas light pollution

Ahh, Christmas. Who doesn’t love it? The lights, the trees, the presents… the lights. Wait, the lights? Those lights, that are fogging my vision with their intense brightness, hindering my sense of time and daylight, all in an effort to put me in the Christmas spirit?

Yes, those lights.

The Christmas lights of Perigueux went on tonight to celebrate the beginning of the holiday season. In a grandioseness that can only be found in small towns hoping to prove themselves, these lights are extravagent. I’ve been around – Tokyo, Seoul, New Delhi, New York. But never have I seen lights like these.

In every street, in every alleyway is a string of iridescent bulbs, pumping their yellow glow onto the creamy stone buildings of this old French town. Dark green trees, orange stockings, yellow stars and laces of holly. It’s quite glorious, I must say. Especially for someone who’s admittedly not much in the Christmas spirit these days, having just lost her job and not yet received her November salary.

But even still, a girl has to wonder. How much is this costing us? And has anyone in France ever discussed the issue of light pollution? In America, we are obsessed wtih the idea of an environmentally friendly Christmas, even if we don’t engage in one ourselves. But here in France, the topic doesn’t come up, either in conversation or in print.

It’s not that the French don’t care about saving the earth, but they just don’t seem to be “au courant” about the negatives of Christmas. Or maybe, like so many of the rest of us, they want to put their cares away for a few weeks and just be unforgivingly merry.

In any case, the figures are shocking. In the last ten years, light pollution has become a growing problem and France has seen a 30% increase in the general use of lights, according to the Agir pour l’environnement association. In 2007, towns in France spent more than one million euros to light up their streets during the winter. While figures for Christmas vary by town, one can venture to guess that most of those millions are spent on glittering Santas than on corner street lamps.

So what is a Christmas fan to do about the energy conundrum? Do we all just cry “bo-hum-bug” and shut off the lights? Perhaps there is a better way.

LED bulbs have become all the rage in the States, so why not spend the extra bucks in using them around town here as well. Instead of lighting the streets until the break of dawn, we must turn off the plastic Santas at some point in the night. Drunk partyers and other nocturnal beings surely won’t mind. And, in these times of economic crisis, we’ve got to employ the theory of “less is more.” One string of lights every four blocks instead of one every two will not matter to the average Perigourdin.

As I walked home tonight at 9 pm, at a time that would otherwise be night, I was again flabbergasted by the amount of light in the street. But as much of a cynic as I wanted to be, as much money as I felt was being flushed down the drain with every second, I took the moment to walk the empty, bright streets alone, and savor the Christmas spirit.

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2 responses to “Turn off my Christmas light pollution

  1. I am very lucky. We live in a corner of the UK where the councils are very aware of light pollution and the street lights are few and far between and a dull, sulphurous yellow. A tiny string of LEDs in pale blue, arranged as icicles, is the most you are likely to see on any house…. except… except for two next door neighbours in the next road who have a competition going on between them, use old fashioned large bulbs, and seemingly got their idea of Christmas from some John Candy comedy designed to make the residents look like idiots. Framework reindeer pulsating with lights in the front lawn, not an inch of wall left without a bulb on it, no colour coordination between items and nothing, but NOTHING blinking on and off at the same speed or in time with anything else. They are an epileptics nightmare. God only knows how the people opposite get any sleep at all.

    The lights go up early and come down late, so we have six weeks of this.
    Its a shame because they are having such fun being light-bullies, but they colour the Christmas night sky a ghastly throbbing orange, they make it difficult to see the road, even for people without night blindness, and I end up spending every Christmas evening dreaming of vandalism, which isn’t my idea of the spirit of the season.

    Empathy.

  2. Andrew Woodall

    LED’s are great in laptop screens for conserving energy, and in car head lights. But in the UK LED christmas lights are popular amongst the, well, trailer trash. Not that we have trailer trash, but you get the idea.

    I notice the credit crunch has hit this year, I’m seeing far less of those inflatable light up snowmen or santas, so people are cutting back!

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