On a train to London, a friend confides that he’s become a “light-switcher-offer”. That is, he finds himself devoutly switching off the lights in unoccupied rooms. To me, this is not a big deal: I’ve always been a light-switcher-offer. My friend, however, worries that his new habit is somehow miserly, and he interestingly describes it as ‘sexless’.
That it is sexless, I think, can be refuted. I suggested on the train that switching off unnecessary lights (and conserving power generally) contributes to a smaller carbon footprint. Being in-vogue, small carbon footprints are sexy. Therefore, so is the act of switching off lights. My friend remained unconvinced.
Slightly troubled over the suggestion that such behaviour (behaviour inherent in myself!) is sexless, I’ve thought a little more about it. A sexless activity, to me, is something unfruitful; something lightly Thanotistic that can only lead to internal or external decay. Oftentimes, miserliness really is sexless: the scrimping, scraping, ungenerous mentality is unlikely to be fruitful.
Sex is – literally, figuratively – life giving. This is from where the term ‘erotic’ derives: from the life-giving instinct of Eros. Leaving the lights on is the sexless activity in all this, since squandering energy is what will lead to decay and threaten the future of the species. Switching the lights off is against wastage, against the deterioration of the species and therefore virile, potent and sexy.
Be a slut. Turn the lights off.
Speaking of green matters, a rational way of thinking about renewable energy is as an economic model. This was put forward in the 70s by EF Schumacher. He wisely said that the Earth’s materials (fossil fuels and the likes) are like business capital: an initial ‘startup loan’ allowing us to develop our own sustainable systems. It is of paramount importance, Schumacher wrote, that a corporation (Humanity PLC, in this case) does not confuse capital with income. To do so, is like starving yourself and digesting your own liver. We’re finally moving toward investing some of the capital properly, by erecting wind farms and the likes, in order to start generating our own income. This is great.
I’ve found myself thinking about technology a lot this week. Why? It’s possibly because I’ve been in London, where the tube stations are currently plastered with electronic advertising for the Google Chrome web browser, or it is possibly because the Guardian has been neatly covering the Consumer Electronics Show from Las Vegas all week. I dunno why really.
I don’t use a mobile phone – seemingly the most pinnacle of all consumer technologies since the late 90s – so I’m an unlikely Evangelist for technology. But when I read about current developments and emerging technologies, I can’t help but feel optimistic about the future. In particular, Green Energy and Digital Media are highly sensible developments, triumphs of reason over instinct, and can only facilitate a cleaner, better future. My only regret is that these ideas were marginalised for so long and that the influential are only just starting to roll with them.
My interest in technology isn’t a gadgetophilia, but a pulling together of my preferences for minimalism and good design. I’m equally impressed by a well-designed milk carton and a well-designed e-reader and I don’t think I’m seduced by technology for the sake of technology.
In fact, it fails us all too often by responding with high-tech solutions to problems that didn’t actually exist. By following handy street signs, asking locals for directions, relying on natural bearings and (in case of emergency) jumping into taxi cabs, I’ve rarely been lost in a big city. This week, however, I spent a lot of time sitting on tubetrains and wondering around SW1 thanks to a friend’s confidence in the maps feature of his iPhone. To me, this is like investing money in Anglerfish DNA so that humans can have in-built torches for seeing in the dark: undoubtedly cool, but ultimately pointless. Just as our natural senses are sufficient for finding our way around in the dark, they are even better at finding our way around in broad daylight. As Tom likes to say, Shakespeare had no BlackBerry.
Having complained about it, I’m all for appropriate use of technology. The same friend who got us lost in London says in relation to large DVD and book collections, “All you need is an iPhone and a kindle”. In principle, he’s right. Would it not be better to have everything in a single handheld device than further clogging up our shelves and lofts and landfills? Technology can allow for liberating minimalism.