Why Being Luddites Won't Get Environmentalists Anywhere

More of these:

Means fewer of these:

I belong to a listserv for people in my region who are interested in local food. Usually posts announce a conference, ask for assistance on a local farm, etc, but for the past two weeks, people have been shooting emails back and forth about the evils of compact fluorescent bulbs (CFL's). And this drives me nuts.

People have brought up the three main issues, 1) They're expensive 2) They cast a harsher light than incandescents and 3) They pose a disposal problem because they contain mercury. (Note that many recycling centers accept CFLS and it's a miniscule amount of mercury)

Now, I'm not going to tell you to spend more than you can afford or change your mind about the warmth of the light, but these people jump from expense and disposal problems to GIANT CORPORATE MONEYMAKING SCAM (the easiest cop-out in the book for environmentalists) and "there's nothing wrong with a good, old-fashioned incandescent bulb." Wha?

I'll be the first to tell you that I don't watch TV because I think it's expensive and I hate the commercials, and thus am something of a Luddite myself. But to be so knee-jerk anti-progress gets us nowhere. People will continue to use lightbulbs. CFLS consume less energy than incandescents, but cast a harsher light and require a little extra effort to dispose. LED's trump them all, but they aren't widely available and really ARE expensive. The Luddite conclusion? Don't use CFL's and wait until something better comes along! They're damning the good for the sake of the perfect. The only outcome of such thinking is a continued demand for energy provided almost exclusively in Virginia by coal-fired power plants and to an extent by mountaintop removal mining.

My grandmother reads this blog, so I'll only say quit your...carping and replace your bulbs with CFLS when they burn out, decide that the light isn't so bad and take them to the recycling center in about 3 years when they burn out. Ok? Ok.


Live Better Lizzie said...

Right on!
When we moved here 1.5 years ago I started replacing all of our bulbs with CFLS. My sometimes-Luddite-seeming husband got very annoyed by the bulbs. He wouldn't let me change them all, and made many jokes about the slightly alien quality of light they shine. Bah! While he is continually replacing his old-timey bulbs, it seems that one blows out about every 3 months! I have not needed to replace a single CFL. The fact that the old bulbs blow out so frequently from the surge of energy used to turn them on seems to me to be a big hint that using CFLS - which also produce less heat (no fears of fire as when using 80 watt bulbs in spotlight-type lamps) is a very obvious way to go, especially since I have not even run into the disposal issue yet.

Condo Blues said...

Does the CFL "harsh light" folks know that they are now available in soft and daylight versions like their old school counterparts? I put soft light CFLs in my bathroom where I do my makeup and can't tell the difference in the light from my old bulbs.

It saddens me that part of being an environmentalist is the sniping that goes on about how X or Y green's practise isn't environmentally friendly enough. Unfortunately very few if any things are 100% complient. We should celebrate doing what we can, even if it's something small because non-enviros have to start somewhere.

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