Monday, 10 December 2012

Christmas lights - Am I the Grinch?

Going around my neighbourhood at night I've been both delighted and confounded by the Christmas lights decorating houses.  Delighted because some of them are pretty and imaginative; confounded because I can't imagine what the electricity bill must be like.  Against the backdrop of continuing bad news about what human activity is doing to our planet, I start to be grumpy.

When I've had this conversation about whether we can really afford electricity consumption (sourced from the burning of brown coal in Victoria) with some people, they accuse me of being anti-Christmas, a Grinch even, and tell me to lighten up. "It's Christmas!" they exclaim.

I know it's Christmas.  I love the ideas that Christmas can represent - family, giving, love, music. I don't love the ideas that it often does represent - consumption, selfishness, debt, over-indulgence.

There are competitions run in the local press that encourage whole streets to light up and go on display.  Not only does this consume (unnecessary) electricity but people often drive around in their petrol fuelled cars to look.  It's an environmental problem even before we look at the manufacture, transport and packaging of all the lights.

What I'd really love to see is someone on the roof pedaling a bicycle to power the lights.  Now wouldn't that be something?  Dressed as Santa or not, it would be amazing to see the true spirit of Christmas represented by people lighting up the world in a way that minimises harm to the planet.  Imagine a whole neighbourhood participating!  Every household taking shifts on a line up of bikes that powers the lights.  Visitors would be asked to donate some time on the bikes as their contribution to the pretty Christmas display.  The lights could even be dimmed for effect by pedaling slower.

I know that this is just a flight of fancy.  Probably.  But I do like to imagine ways to make the world better.  I don't do Christmas lights.  I light a candle every evening and I keep doing this even at Christmas time.  I also like to provoke people to think differently about things that we may not spend time thinking about.

Do you do Christmas lights?  What do you I the Grinch?

With Christmas upon us, you may like to read last year's post about gift wrapping and ways to be environmentally considerate.

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