Wieduwilt's week: My new lamp, eco-rage and the abyss of finitude

This week I bought a small lamp and shortly thereafter lost my faith in civilisation.

Wieduwilt's week: My new lamp, eco-rage and the abyss of finitude

This week I bought a small lamp and shortly thereafter lost my faith in civilisation. Because this lamp dies a slow death as soon as you turn it on.

Some things happen slowly, then it's too late. Some like to use the example of the frog being cooked, which doesn't feel the gradual increase in heat, which is nonsense - the animals jump out of the pot if you don't close the lid. However, I was caught off guard by a heatwave: In 2022, the age of sustainability and climate protests, more than ten years after the EU's historic lightbulb ban, it has become completely normal to permanently install LEDs in lamps - so you have to buy the whole thing throw away when the light gives up the ghost.

I beg your pardon? I uncovered this scandal by buying a small lamp. It's an Anglepoise 90 Minimini, it's delicate, pretty and moderately expensive. I pulled the device out of the box and was happy: "The bulb's already in there!", I thought stupidly, and then realized: There it will stay, for all eternity.

Have I fallen for an internet scam? No, just out of time. A short, indignant search shows me, who has probably not bought a lamp for ten years, that the unholy unity of the lamp with the illuminant has become normal. The consumer center of Rhineland-Palatinate, for example, determined that the proportion of permanently installed LEDs was between 22 and 44 percent - and that was in 2016, goodness gracious.

However, I am not alone in my ignorance. I ask around in my circle of friends. "What?" asks one, "Oh God," says another, shocked emojis fly at me. We are all frogs.

Maybe 2016 was a different time. Today they cling to the outside for the climate, at conferences the end of the world is conjured up - and the industry builds disposable lamps? What comes next, an electric car with a stuck battery that you drive to the recycling center after 300 kilometers?

Appeasements are easy to find: "Don't be afraid of LED lights with built-in LEDs," writes, of course, a specialist LED retailer. Heat dissipation, size, service life, everything is better - and replaceable LEDs lead to "restrictions in dimming behavior".

Restrictions in dimming behavior are also affecting me right now. How can it be considered normal to downgrade a lamp to a single-use lamp? Alongside medieval cannons, lamps are among the few objects that make a credible claim to eternity. Lamps are simple. Electricity goes in on one side, light comes out on the other. I own a nearly 50-year-old floor lamp, Aunt Ulla's floor lamp, it glows with a halogen bulb in the cloudy November and it will still glow when you and I eat the worms.

I calculate: An LED should last up to 100,000 hours. That is 12,500 working days, i.e. 54 working years. If I save some, the little Anglepoise lamp will last longer than me I think, staring into the abyss of finitude. But does it have to be just me? Lamps from the 1920s are popular in Berlin. Does the 2020s no longer claim to be valid?

Then I feel a surge of ecological anger: I don't know if "good" is the right word, but I usually try to cope with the environment in an environmentally friendly way. Separating garbage, turning off the light when leaving a room, turning off the faucet while brushing your teeth, things like that. When politics suggests a washcloth, I politely decline, but a quick shower is fine. I accept that we don't want nuclear power anymore, even if I don't understand it.

But I expect a certain consequence. And I don't want to have to think too much. Consumer policy thinks people are instinctive idiots, and I've made myself comfortable with that worldview. I no longer ask why Dr. Oetker's fish finger pizza gets a "B" in the Nutriscore, I applaud it. If I buy a cucumber with an "organic" label, I expect the farmers to be grateful and I don't give a damn who puts the label on. But my lamp shop didn't tell me that the bulb had to remain in the lampshade - and there is no legal labeling requirement for the fact that my lamp is glued. Why?

And when did we actually forget the charm of eternity? My kitchen table comes from a Berlin antique shop. He has scratches, I love him for that. I was once sitting in a café in Strasbourg and the table was covered in deep black nicks. Gérard Depardieu drunkenly danced on it, the waitress told me, I sipped my espresso in awe and believed her immediately. Who knows who has already danced on my kitchen table.

Cost optimization and futurism have ruined the most mundane objects of our lives. Kitchen stoves, for example, are now often produced with a touch surface. This saves costs and the marketing people sell it as innovative. But a surface that becomes unusable after contact with water is safer almost anywhere than near a simmering pasta pot. So I recently bought a stove with rotary controls. The marketing promised here that the model would be suitable for older people. I'm 42 and already staring into the abyss of finitude.

The eternity of objects is of course an illusion, but a beautiful one - and it is a business model: people freeze their bodies. They buy watches for generations ("One never owns a Patek Philippe") and newly issued Leica film cameras, because these objects conceal their own impending decay. Every cheap lamp used to meet this requirement, effortlessly.

So my LED bulb dies as soon as you turn it on. And yet this transience has meanwhile upgraded them: That's how it is with scarce goods. I only turn them on when I have no other choice. I read somewhere that such an LED doesn't give up with a "whistle" at some point, but only slowly gets darker. Sometimes the color of the light changes slowly. So I eye my little lamp and ask myself: Wasn't that even brighter just now? And the light a Kelvin warmer? Another creeping development, I'm a frog again.

Out of concern, I sometimes prefer to use Aunt Ulla's lamp instead, the one with the hissing halogen bulb, this little man-made sun with a socket. You can change the man-made sun - and it gets nice and warm too.

And thanks to eco-rage, the energy balance doesn't matter at all for at least a week.