Societies and governments need to see the light. By not seeing so much light.

Contrary to the title of this post, I’m dead serious about the following proposals for slowing the dogged increase in intensity of global warming and resulting climate change. I am not pulling a Jonathan Swift here.

Like so many of my fellow human beings, I do not want my children’s prospects for survival to be dead in the water. Which will continue rising, by the way, and at increasingly alarming rates, if we do not do what is necessary to impede global warming and glacier melt.

The headline actually refers to the fact that the following are modest proposals for what society can do to at least partially address the climate crisis.

To be clear, governments and corporations need to initiate and follow through on actions to address the problem on a grand scale if we’re serious about staving off climate catastrophe and the very real threat to the viability of the human race.

In the meantime, however, we can push our governments to mandate these and other proposals to slow things down while they tackle implementation of the truly seismic changes that are required.

Because, let’s face it, everything that can be done needs to be done, from Lilliputian to behemoth, a la The Great Man Mountain himself in another of Mr. Swift’s masterpieces. Furthermore, everyone needs to do them, “…and that right quick,” to quote one of my all-time favorite movie props.

And yes, while it might seem extreme, I would favor time in a criminal detention center for anyone who fails to comply.

Kill the Neons

What is the point of keeping all the neon and other electric signs for businesses blazing around the clock, even when they’re not open? Top-of-mind recognition perhaps, but given the fact that we are facing mass starvation and, ultimately, extinction, I think it’s fair to require businesses around the world to forego that mediocre branding tactic.

When businesses are not open for business, none of the lights should stay lit.

Let’s kill ’em so they can’t continue killing us.

While we’re at it, we don’t need absurdities like Times Square in New York City, either. Skuttle all the blinking capitalist signs, already.

Shut ’Em Down

Related to that, why is it necessary for businesses and organizations to leave all their office lights on all night long when no-one is there? When the cleaning crews call it a night, so should the lights. I mean, smart businesses find ways to make money even when their people aren’t working; in the case of their electricity usage, why do they accept losing money while no-one is working?

Lights on in an empty office building at night

Kick the Can Lights

How is it that the mantra our parents laid on each of us at least a gazillion times when we were growing up got thrown out the window as soon as we grew up?

When you leave a room, switch off the lights.


Yet in millions of businesses, employees fail to do it when they walk out of the bathroom.

How and why has wasting electricity at work been normalized?

I got into a semi-heated email exchange about this with a fellow employee at an advertising agency I worked for back in the early 2000s.

I go to the bathroom often. Just ask my family. And every time I relieved at work, I shut off the lights on my way out of the Men’s and back to my desk. Somebody always turned them back on and left them on when they exited. And when I went back, I shut them off….

This really pissed off a certain account manager, who found it extremely onerous to have to flip on the light switch whenever he had to “drain the sea monster,” to quote one of my favorite lines from one of my all-time favorite movies. The owners, in their wisdom (but total lack of environmental foresight), declined to get involved. Since I didn’t give a shit about what the account manager thought, I continued to switch off the bathroom lights until I left the agency.

Now I work at home. I always shut off the lights in the bathroom and every other room when I leave.

A Few Words on Safety & Security

Since their advent, electric lights have been a tool in the quest for personal safety and the security of our possessions.

Crimes are less likely to occur in well-lit areas. I get it. But in my judgement, given our current circumstances, keeping the lights on is more than an absurdity; it’s an abomination. Especially when there are options.

As for the neon, fuhgeddaboudit. Absolutely unnecessary.

Lights left on in empty office buildings? With the money businesses save from killing the them at night they’ll be able to afford more sophisticated heat- and motion-sensing security systems. When they’re tripped, let the lights glare and the sirens blare! Otherwise, leave ’em off.

In terms of safety, we as citizens can decide that home, business and other property owners can pay a little more in taxes to fund additional streetlights, preferably powered by renewable energy. Sure beats the hell out of food insecurity and death by climate-change-driven disasters. We also can demand laws and regulations that ensure adequate lighting in the entryways and hallways of apartment buildings and condo complexes, as well as city streets and walkways.

Additional Benefits of Curbing Illumination

These proposals will reduce light pollution, which is a huge problem for human health. Don’t believe me? Read “The Darkness Manifesto” by Johan Eklöf. Or, cripes, just google “light pollution.”

Plus, businesses will save gobs on their electric bills.  

Can you imagine the impact these modest acts would have on electricity grids around the world? Not to mention the damaging impacts of burning fossil fuels to generate electricity? And the demand for fossil fuels in the first place?

It’d be huge, man! Huge, I say!

Cue The Great Man Mountain!

Completely Swiftless

To reiterate, this blog post is not satirical. I am not joking. I am, in fact, dead serious. Implementation of these modest proposals can make a difference.

Look – Gulliver made it out alive, as did all the innocent Irish children. But for our children and grandchildren there will be no escape unless we and our leaders take substantial and tangible steps right now.

And, look, I know – we’re all just Average Joes. But we can do it. I believe in us.

As Andy Dufresne (Stephen King) said, “I guess it comes down to a simple choice, really. Get busy livin’ or get busy dyin’.”

And the scientific fact is that changes like these are coming, whether we accept it or not and whether we like it or not. It will be better for us and the planet if we adopt these actions now, while we still have a choice, rather than later when our prospects are substantially dimmed.

Which is exactly we need to do with all the goddamn lights.

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Rosaliene Bacchus · March 19, 2023 at 1:28 pm

Makes total sense to me!

bruce · March 10, 2023 at 8:42 pm

Interesting thoughts about turning down/out lights….
What’s the most used light in many homes? Clue: the TV. And it’s where people get slimmed with propaganda. It’s replacing interacting with one’s neighbors. That interacting could (would ?) curb crime in a major way. It might also reduce things like homelessness and other serious problems.
Just something to consider adding to your proposal.

Let me know what you think!

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