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Wednesday, December 22, 2010


For our trip to the great wet Northwest, we left early in the morning. REALLY early. (Did you know there's ANOTHER four o'clock?) We drove along truck-filled highways in pouring rain. And we were struck by the number of lights.

Not streetlights, of which there were virtually none: commercial lights. Halogens shining down on auto dealerships. Multicolored neon beacons advertising the presence of a Best Buy or a Raley's or a Chuck E. Cheese. The Genentech compound with its glowing sign. Bear in mind, we saw all these lights around five o'clock in the morning. On a Sunday.

Not that all the lights bore a commercial message. We passed several refineries--of what, we are unsure. All of these facilities had decorated for the holidays: "Happy Holidays." "Seasons Greetings," "Merry Christmas" strung in lights across vast exterior walls. Most buildings also also had a star glowing from their highest points. We wonder what poor slob in the maintenance department gets stuck risking life and limb to spread joy to the highway riders.

You've probably seen pictures showing the world's illumination at night.

How much energy goes into keeping these retailers brightly lit throughout the night? As the burning of fossil fuels threatens global catastrophe, how much CO2 is released as a result of this needless marketing to virtually no one? How much blood and treasure are sacrificed in Mideast misadventures to ensure a constant flow of oil to light the signs proclaiming "Peace on Earth"?

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