Last week, we bought a light fitting from Ikea. Yesterday, I installed it. We now have something remarkably like a flying saucer floating above the dining table. All we needed now was a lightbulb that would actually fit. None of our existing ones have the same fitting, of course. What we should have done last week was open the box in the shop, read the instructions and then purchase the correct, presumable Swedish screw-fitting lightbulb. Or read the instructions on the shelves telling us we needed custom lighbulbs. (There are no such instructions.)
So today, we returned to Ikea and purchased not one but two bulbs. Both physically fit but one is brighter than the other and we don’t really know how many candellas or lumens of brightness we need, nor power consumption. All we can say is, we would like it as bright as an old-fashioned 60-watt or 100-watt incandescent lightbulb.
On the way back home, my mind replayed the conversation that must have taken place one day in a dark, smoky room somewhere.
There’s too much CO2 in the atmosphere, greenhouse effect, global warming, we should do something about it.
Yes, I agree. But what?
How about these new energy-saving lightbulbs? We can force everyone in the world to use them instead of the old, reliable, bright, incandescent ones.
So each household will use less energy?
Well, sort of, yes, that’s right.
But they’re not very bright, are they.
We’ll get used to that. And brighter ones will come along soon.
They take a couple of seconds to light up when you turn them on, correct?
Yes, that’s to save even more energy.
Oh of course! But some people like to dim their lights at night, and you can’t do that with these new-fangled energy-saving lightbulbs.
Not all of them, no, but there are dimmable ones available. You just need to buy a special dimming device with each such bulb.
Won’t that use more resources when we’re meant to be saving on energy and materials?
A bit, maybe. The idea is to give people the impression that they’re doing something for the environment: they won’t necessarily be saving any actual energy, overall.
Oh, is that why they’re manufactured in China?
Yes: all the energy saved by not lighting up people’s houses properly is instead used for transporting lightbulbs half way round the planet.
Seems good to me. And when these bulbs stop working, they’re just thrown away?
No, they contain some very dangerous and rare elements and they should be disposed of in a controlled manner, not just thrown out with the rest of the rubbish.
Old lightbulbs came in a cardboard box, is that still the case?
No, of course not. These lightbulbs are much more expensive. They’ll be sold in non-reusable blister packs made from non-recycleable plastic. And there’ll definitely be no way to check that they work while you’re in the shop.
Hardly a giant leap forward, is it?
No, I think it’s fair to say, they’re not to everybody’s taste.
One more question, if I may?
Lightbulb: is it one word or two words?