Tuesday, April 29, 2008

On street lighting and stupidity

(Originally written in march)
Woozle' bucket begins to rock and scratching noises come from inside and suddenly a small head pokes over the top and...
One of the things that bugs me the most about our society is the hypocrisy that nobody seems to see. We received yet another pamphlet a while ago telling us to save electricity. It showed us how to do it and advocated buying energy saving light bulbs or going along to the electric company’s showrooms and getting them free. We have had crap on the news about how important it is to switch the standby mode off. One video recorder on standby all night consumes x amount of kws and this combined with the TV and printer and modem and answering machine etc costs incredible quantities of energy! For example for Germany alone the standby losses amount to about 20.5 billion kilowatt hours (kWh) per year. There are calculations of the damage to the environment and atmoshere that this causes. Everywhere now there is this pseudo-drive to save on everything. So what do we do, we buy low energy light bulbs, we switch the TV off at the plug we take all our crap to the recycling bins. Many, maybe most of us care about our environment but still walk about with their eyes closed.
30 odd years ago my first car was a VW beetle. It had headlights yes but compared to the brightness of today’s headlights it was more like having candles rather than bulbs. The street lighting was limited to residential areas and bypasses. The most powerful accessible car was the rover 2000. Very fast, 110 mph if I remember rightly. Wow was it fast. But this was the exception. My beetle did 72mph with a tail wind. I don’t remember anyone having any difficulties with negotiating the roads. When iwas a kid I remember going t omy cousins in Scotland. From Kent to London and it was village with street lighting, darkness village with street lighting, darkness all the way to London, then thru London and up to Scotland and most of the way was in darkness. Now no longer, from south kent to London street lighting all the way. The road to Scotland as well.
Now, our car has two powerful headlight, plus two powerful fog lights, abs airbags and all the other crap we seem to need these days. I can do 100 mph, but no more even though it a turbodiesel it’s French and slow. A friend’s german car, BMW I think, can do close to 200mph. It too has powerful headlights. When I had my little 4x4x panda with normal headlights, I spent most of my night time driving blinded by powerful headlights.
Coming home a while back there was a massive power cut covering our village and a few adjoining villages. I drove home in my panda with its 5 candlepower headlights, top speed 70 mph with absolutely no problem. I had headlights you see. In the years since then there has been an absurd increase in the power of headlights to compensate for the increase in speed of the cars and a corresponding increase in the number and intensity of the street lights. Britain is a bit better but Italy… well here it’s madness. Everything is lit up like daylight. When I lived in Turin, I lived under a tower. If you went out at night you’d get crapped on by seagulls and swallows and Kites and stuff who were all rushing about all night to catch the insects and each other. It was that bright. Avian life gone mad thanks to us.
So, as I was saying after the pamphlet and news reports telling all the numbskulls to switch their standbys off people actually started to do it. They really did, and still do. And don’t protest either! How stupid can you get? They say that 90+ percent of the energy consumed by a video recorder is consumed when it is on standby. I can believe that, it makes sense. So? SO? People worry about that. But nobody, except me or so it seems, worries about the fact that you can no longer see the stars sometimes because of the useless streetlights which are on all night. Nobody is out all night to see them. So I would imagine that 90+ percent of the energy given out by the street lights goes unseen by 99% of the population. Where’s the sense in that? It doesn’t prevent crime that’s for sure, it doesn’t make driving any safer as far as I can see because we all have super powerful blinding headlights. If it was more dangerous then we’d all be getting killed in country lanes and on motorways where there are no street lights. Usually, if we can’t see, despite powerful headlights, we slow down. I’m just as bad as anyone else. When I drive on country lanes where there are no people I go relatively slowly, when I’m in the town, where there are more potential targets I speed up. Uh, Brian!!
We don’t need street lights on at night. One of the arguments is crime. Well crime takes place anyway and with the infrared technology available at dirt cheap prices why not install a security camera. They already exist everywhere, put some more. It’s got to be cheaper than lighting up the world with street lighting. Light your house up, I agree with that. And Joe’s fish’n’chips or the tandoori curry house or Smith’s building supplies why do they have to have their signs lit up all night. At the risk of repeating myself, there’s nobody about. Most companies talk about returns on their investments, illuminated hoardings and signs cannot possibly have a good return.
We have a trout fishing lake near here. It is near the river about 400 yards from the road. You can’t even see the writing on the sign from the road it’ just a yellow blur but every night without fail it gets switched on when the place closes and switched off again next morning when it opens. It is also at the end of the valley in the smallest village where everybody knows of its existence anyway. I can just imagine the owner carefully pulling the plug on the VCR before going to bed, people are that stupid.
So what am I advocating. Well, totally ban sign lighting, totally, well except on shop fronts during the hours when the shop is open. Eliminate street lighting after a reasonable hour, say 1am and with the money we have already just saved, give reductions to those that want to install porch lighting or house lighting.
Give a free LED torch to everyone. I have one (anti-boar) which lights up the woods at night. I’ve had it a year and never changed or recharged its single battery.
Stick cat’s eyes in all the roads if necessary.
So forget voting for these waste of time politicians, vote for me instead. Nominate me dictator of the world and I will save the whole shooting match in a couple of years, starting with street lighting. Woozle for world dictator, you know it makes sense.

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