Parkour Collectives In France Switch Off Store Signs To Raise Awareness About Light Pollution

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4 Mins Read

Despite a strict curfew across France due to the pandemic, a fair few retail shops continue to leave their store signs and lighting on. A creative group of parkour collectives has been using their physical prowess to raise awareness on unnecessary energy consumption and light pollution by switching off these illuminated signs to make a point in a movement known as Lights Off.

As part of the Lights Off movement, Paris-based On The Spot collective is using their gymnastic abilities to climb walls and switch off the store lights around the famous shopping avenue in Champs-Élysées, which currently have very few people due to the pandemic-imposed curfew.

According to data, 83% of the world’s population is living under light-polluted skies, and apart from pollution reduction, there are tremendous costs-savings to be had. For instance, Los Angeles had replaced more than 150,000 streetlights with LEDs and though LEDs aren’t exactly ideal and bring with them hidden costs, by switching to them, the city saved around US$8M every year. Said another way, this represents an energy costs savings of over 60%.

Leaving unnecessary lights on during nighttime also disturbs the ecosystems and has drastic effects on human healths, interrupting our natural circadian rhythms.

According to the nonprofit Fatal Light Awareness Program (FLAP), in Toronto, due to extreme light pollution, tens of thousands of birds including sparrows, ovenbirds, warblers, are killed every year as the light makes it tough for them to see and in several cases, blinds them.

Back in 2013, to combat this, France introduced a law that called all commercial and office building to switch off their light signs once all employees leave the premises. This was announced in an effort to save 250,000 tonnes of CO2, and this amount of energy could power 750,000 French households for a year. If anybody failed to obey the law, they would be fined €750 (approx. US$890).

However, still, several signs are still on and that’s where these parkour collective climate activists come into action. Though only the small switch needs to be flipped, many of these are at quite a height from the ground.

Parkour is usually a fast-paced movement that helps the individual get from one point to another in a difficult environment without the support of any equipment.

In an interview with The Guardian, 28-year-old leader of On the Spot Kevin Ha said that while it might not look like much, it is a start to an important conversation “Turning off the lights is a symbolic message about the basic efforts that businesses should be making. It’s not the efficiency of the operation that matters. Obviously we cannot turn off all the lights in Paris, but we hope to show how even small actions can make a difference.”

Turning off the lights is a symbolic message about the basic efforts that businesses should be making. It’s not the efficiency of the operation that matters. Obviously, we cannot turn off all the lights in Paris, but we hope to show how even small actions can make a difference

Kevin Ha, leader of On the Spot

Ha added: “This Lights Off movement is an example of this parkour in context. It is not performance just for the sake of the performance, but rather performance and action for the sake of the planet.”

Ha’s inspiration behind this idea came from another parkour collective called Wizzy Gang who saw a video in which the popular YouTuber Partager C’est Sympa flips the interrupter switches with the help of a long stick.

A member of Wizzy Gang, Félix Orain, said: “We started doing it [turning off the signs] in our own way by doing parkour and climbing the facades. “During the first few months we were only doing it for fun at the end of our sessions. Only later did we shoot a video to alert people about their energy consumption.”

This Lights Off movement is an example of this parkour in context. It is not performance just for the sake of the performance, but rather performance and action for the sake of the planet

Kevin Ha, leader of On the Spot

More than half of the companies, including French beauty multinational retailer Sephora and British home appliance company Dyson whose lights the collective turned off, refused to say anything about the matter but interestingly, Ha noticed other businesses in the area starting to turn off their sign lights.

Recently, one million young climate activists urged the government to make climate change their first priority and carry out steps that will help negate the effects of global warming. The youth also pushed for the climate crisis to be a part of conversations in schools and other education systems and also make resources available to vulnerable communities to help them better adapt to the ongoing climate crisis.

In December of last year, the UN Secretary General’s Youth Advisory Group on Climate Change unveiled a new report that highlighted the urgent need for greater investments in green jobs, a priority that is at the forefront of the 2021 youth climate agenda.


Lead image courtesy of On The Spot Parkour.


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