This Earth Hour, let's start turning out the useless and excessive lights

Earth Hour 2019
via Earth Hour 2019

Celebrate Earth Hour Saturday night at 8:30 and start a movement to end this visual assault.

Ten years ago, Earth Hour was a very big deal. People around the world turned out their lights at 8:30 on Saturday night, lit candles, had a good time. It never caught on in the USA where it was instantly politicised and polarized, but north of the border in Ontario, Canada, so many people participated that there was a significant drop in power consumption.

That probably wouldn't happen today. Thanks to the LED revolution, energy consumption for domestic lighting has plummeted. I could turn off all the 100 percent LED lights in my house and my electric meter wouldn't even notice.

Base of Taipei tower© MVRDV

But outside, it is a different story. Buildings are being encrusted with LED screens and lights. Light pollution is spreading like mad. One study found that the earth's artificially lit outdoor area grew by 2.2% per year, with a total radiance growth of 1.8% per year. Cheap blue LED streetlights are keeping people awake and messing with their minds. As the Institute of Astronomy in Cambridge noted,

The scientists expect that the upward global trend in use of outdoor lighting will continue, bringing a host of negative environmental consequences, including harm to wildlife, threats to human wellbeing and of course, spoiling everyone's view of the night sky.

In New York City, LED billboard barges are floating on the rivers and the Mayor is complaining, "Our waterways aren’t Times Square. These floating eyesores have no place on them.” A city councillor picks up on this: “Nobody wants to be walking along New York Harbor or the Rockaways only to be visually assaulted by a 1,200-square-foot TV screen running commercials on loop.” But everywhere else but the Hudson River, that is what we all are assaulted with. LEDs are being used in ways that nobody ever could have imagined.

This Earth Hour, let's start thinking about all the incredible waste of energy and materials going into excessive and unnecessary lighting, the garish buildings, the giant billboards, the decorated bridges. Each little LED doesn't eat up much electricity, but the billions of them that we are putting on everything add up to a lot.

New York City wants to ban visual assault on the Hudson River; why not extend that to, say, everywhere? Earth Hour is a good time to start.

This Earth Hour, let's start turning out the useless and excessive lights
Celebrate Earth Hour Saturday night at 8:30 and start a movement to end this visual assault.

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