Fun direct action against corporate energy waste

It’s been said before that the French have a lot to teach U.S.ians about protesting. For all folks back home love to claim that the United States is “the land of the free and the home of the brave”, to quote our obnoxious national anthem, it seems to take a lot more for people to take to the streets. What’s more, those few who do directly fight back when the police attack tend to be condemned as a radical minority that “goes too far”.

For contrast, here’s French firefighters responding to police attempts to put down their fight for better treatment:

Now, we’ve got another bit of direct action that’s available to anyone with the requisite athletic ability, and doesn’t even require fighting police.

Have you ever walked through a city at night, and noticed lots of business signs are still lit up, even though the businesses are closed?

Have you ever thought about how much electricity is wasted, and carbon dioxide emitted, just to keep those lights on?

Does it feel like the status quo has us begging our overlords to let us save ourselves, while being forced to watch them keep screwing us over because they can’t be bothered to act like decent human beings?

Well, a group of French activists are once again showing us the way, in an action that is not only direct and effective, but I would say is also rather hard to argue is doing any harm that would merit a societal reprimand.

They’re unplugging or switching off those signs.

Honestly, I only see one downside – it seems like this might save money for the businesses in question, and they’ve already demonstrated that they don’t deserve to have that money. This is right up there with wheatpasting or tearing down fascist propaganda (always use your keys, they sometimes hide razors behind their posters) as a method of direct action that’s within reach of most people.

Being able to do parkour obviously makes this sort of thing easier and faster (speed is important if you’re doing something and you don’t want to have unpleasant conversations), but it seems like careful use of a long stick or slower climbing could work just as well.

As I keep saying, the people in charge, at every level, very clearly don’t see climate change as an emergency. They don’t seem to feel any urgency about it at all, except perhaps for some concern over how they’ll keep the rabble in line as climate change starts killing us off.

Businesses and governments have been chiding us for years for not turning our lights off enough, and I think it’s past time to turn that advice back on them.



  1. says

    That’s great, if you’re in a country where all the businesses have the light switches easily accessible from outside. Do they do that in the USA? I’m willing to bet that’s gonna change pretty soon, so then they’ll have to actually break something to turn off those lights.

    As for why they leave the lights on at night, it’s not just advertizing; it’s to have lots of light on their streets so they don’t otherwise look gloomy and dangerous. Darkness implies poverty and decrepitude, and no business wants to look poor and decrepit, or be in a neighborhood that ever looks poor and decrepit, even for a minute.

    And far worse than wasting power on outside lights after hours, is the waste of power keeping lights on INSIDE, for the same reasons (plus that makes it easier to see if someone has broken into the pace).

  2. says

    I’m aware of the arguments about “safety” etc, but that’s not a valid reason to waste power like that, IMO.

    Nor is this supposed to solve the whole problem. Part of the point of entry-level direct action is to remind people that they CAN just do things, at a small level, to make change. I’m pretty sure NOBODY thinks store lights are the root of the problem. You get that, right?

  3. says

    I agree — as long as the city has decent streetlamps, no other lighting should be necessary. I’ve been in poor and decrepit neighborhoods: the totally dark properties look gloomy and uninviting, but the public streetlights are more than enough to show everyone what they need to see.

  4. says

    Sure, I think street lamps are a good thing – and they were definitely present in the video.

    I also think they’re important for the sake of discouraging those crimes that AREN’T driven by economic necessity, even in a more just society.

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