A British-American bluestocking living in the UK writes about politics, pop culture, and emerging new paradigms as they unfold on both sides of the Atlantic. (New content.)

Monday, 31 August 2009

The End of the Light Bulb...The Dim-Watts of the E.U. Strike Again


I spent the better part of the afternoon ordering light bulbs. That's right...ordering incandescent pearl light bulbs. The kind that you use in lamps. As of tomorrow, September 1st, they are going to be outlawed by the E.U. You will be able to buy the clear ones but only until 2012. Then, those will be outlawed, too. So, now, any electrician or small shop that has a few light bulbs and continues to sell them will no doubt be snitched upon (by the neighborhood children that are being paid by the government to snitch) and hauled off to court and treated like heroin dealers. Oh, no, wait...heroin dealers are okay with the E.U. as they don't hurt the environment. (My attempt at humor in an otherwise humorless day.) So, here we go again, there will now be "lightbulb enforcers" coming to our houses...to add to the five hundred other "enforcers" we have. I am waiting for someone to come measure my bum and decide it's much too large and outlaw that, too. According to environmentalists we can save 15 million tons of carbon dioxide every year by banning the incandescent bulb. That is a tiny bit of the 4 billion tons that the E.U. produces every year. Well, we have to start somewhere, says the E.U. How about outlawing all the airplanes that the E.U. Parliament travels in all over the world? That's a better start and that has a bigger carbon footprint.

Oh, but these new bulbs will be energy efficient and so much better. Will they be better? If you flip a switch to turn on a light in the room and you only need it for a few minutes, it takes a lot more energy to power up that dim bulb. A regular light bulb would go on immediately, you could get what you wanted and shut it right off. They do not give off the same amount of light either. Even after warming a CFL light for ten minutes, it's still relatively dark and green. Artists and illustrators are not going to enjoy this at all.

Just in case the swine flu vaccine doesn't get us, these lights will do their best to continue the pollution of our health. The flourescent lights flicker at a very low level and they can trigger epileptic fits,migraine headaches and also contribute to skin disorders. They also deplete the body of energy. This has been known for at least three decades. I remember being in university when Reagan was President, and a fellow student showed me an article where she had been interviewed by a magazine because she was "allergic" to flourescent lighting. It made her really ill. When I was working at a college a few years ago, the parents of a student who wanted to enroll at the college actually came in and paid for all the flourescent lights to be changed in the main building where her courses were to be taken so that the student could be allowed to attend. The flourescent lights also made her ill. They also have been known to weaken the immune system. Never mind the mercury-filled tubes...where are we going to dispose of them properly? How green is that? Has anybody thought about that? No. Has anyone thought about all the lamps that will have to be thrown away because they will not accomodate the new bulbs? No. No one has. It's just another half-thought-out way to regulate our lives.

Shopping for light bulbs would seem simple right? I did mine on the internet since the shops have been out of bulbs for months. It's not easy. The UK does not have one uniform screw-in light bulb as we do in the USA. Screw-in and different sizes and watts is what we have in the USA, pretty simple, right? Well, in the UK they have screw-in and bayonet fittings. They have lamps that take the above or the smaller golfball sized bulbs, also in screw-in or bayonet. They have opal and pearl and clear. They have small screw-ins and large screw-ins. They have small bayonets and or large and others in between. I came home a few years ago with two lovely lamps and found out when I got home that they took an obscure light bulb that gave off only 15 watts and had such a strange fitting that it took three days of research to figure out what kind of bulb it used. Useless lovely lamps I have now. A candle gives off more light. You get the idea, there is nothing uniform and easy in this country. It's like making your way through an electrical maze. And once my "cache" of incandescent bulbs are gone, I will have to toss out all the lamps.

Aesthetically,I am sure that to a lot of people light bulbs make no difference. But I have this thing about the "good lighting". When I lived in Australia, I was aghast that people just lit their homes with one bare bulb in a socket in the middle of a room. (Okay, well, it was in the Australian bush, where mood lighting is for "tall poppies from the city", but still.) It looked like prison lighting. Lamps just give off a warm and cozy glow especially when it is dark and cold outside. Overhead bulbs bulbs just contribute to the feeling of overall nausea. It's bad enough living in a country that is dark for most of the year. When you take away incandescence, you might as well live in a cave. Mood lighting? Let's hope candles aren't banned or you will find yourself making love to someone that looks a bit like an aging Martian.

Technologically, we are supposed to move forward. Every invention usually has us moving forward, improving and perfecting an old technology. So, why are we replacing perfectly good technology with something that has not been effective and may be hazardous to our health? I believe that we do need to conserve our natural resources, don't get me wrong here, but replacing a cheap bulb that has worked for decades with something inferior and possibly toxic is just madness. There is even talk that the manufacturers had a talk with the E.U. bosses and pushed this bill so that they could off-load this awful technology and re-coup their money as no one wanted these awful lights.

Now, that's the only "green" that the E.U. really cares about. We can change our light bulbs, recycle our trash...but they are still living the high life with payouts and sweet deals from big corporations and carbon footprints the size of boardroom dinosaurs. There is nothing ethical or environmental about that. They don't care if the planet goes to hell in a recycled handbasket. And that's what is sad about this whole situation.