Always a Working Light Bulb

No one who has lived in the west and has observed the rampant consumerism and waste will be surprised by yet another example of still functioning goods thrown away, but when people learn about the light bulbs, are still right to be surprised.

One of the most common items to be discarded is a lamp. For some reason people throw them away more often than end tables or towel racks. Perhaps that is due so a misguided fashion sense, the notion that the old lamp does not match the new decor, and therefore should be sent on its way. When this happens, however, the lamp is almost always accompanied by a bulb. One might guess that part of the dissatisfaction with the lamp has to do with a burned out bulb, but this is rarely the case. Instead, in the seventy percent of lamps discarded with a bulb, the bulb is nearly always functional.

That phenomenon is so that I have taken to collecting the bulbs even if I don’t have a way to test them on the spot. Each time I check a lamp for a bulb, however, and marvel that it contains one, I can’t help but wonder where the person thinks they are going that they will never need a bulb again. If they are near death and moving into palliative care, I can understand their situation. Likewise, if they are moving overseas and the familiar—to North Americans at least—Edison threaded fixture will not be available, then they should probably leave the bulb behind. They might better give it to a friend or donate it to a charity, but at least leaving it behind makes sense.

The many others, who are merely moving across town, or who bought a new couch which clashes with the old lamp, are impossible to understand. Where are they going that they will never again need a light bulb? Some of the newer bulbs are expensive enough to be worth carrying over into the new lamp or new apartment, and likely the new lamp didn’t come equipped with a bulb.

Of course the discarded bulbs are as much an analogy about waste as they are a loss of resources in themselves. The sheer bloody-mindedness of the casual discard informs the rest of western culture as well. clothing is made to be worn merely a few times, people buy paper plates so they never need to wash dishes—as though that were such a formidable task—and paper cups and fast food packaging litter our roads and streets.

Although we have only recently mastered producing the re-sealable container—in the form of the ubiquitous drink container found in every ditch—they quickly became taken for granted. While such a screw-top container would have graced an aristocrat’s table two hundred years ago, now children pitch them away and buy thicker containers—which they soon discard—to show off their environmental sensibility.

The many people around!/quality/90/? the world who struggle daily for their sustenance understand those who are dismayed by such flagrant waste. One light bulb at a time, we are casually and thoughtlessly ensuring that we are poorer, our landfills are bulging, and our insult to the planet is registered in some fashion.

About Barry Pomeroy

I had an English teacher in high school many years ago who talked about writing as something that people do, rather than something that died with Shakespeare. I began writing soon after, maudlin poetry followed by short prose pieces, but finally, after years of academic training, I learned something about the magic of the manipulated word.
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