Europeans Hoarding Light Bulbs Like It's The End Of The World

Who doesn't hate the new light bulbs?
Who doesn't hate the new light bulbs?
Kathrin Spoerr

In just three weeks, the final stage of the EU phase-out of incandescent light bulbs will start. The EU campaign began in December 2008 with the EU Commission’s Ecodesign Directive stating that the manufacturing and sale of “light bulbs with low energy efficiency” would be forbidden in member states after a gradual phase-out.

The directive has led many people to do what most only do in dire emergencies – hoard – because they don’t want to use the EU-approved energy saving bulbs. It doesn’t appear to bother even the environmentally-conscious Germans that the old light bulbs – which some hoard in fork-lift pallet quantities – only turn 5% of the energy into light and the rest into heat, thus giving them a significant carbon footprint.

As of September 1, light bulbs with clear glass that do not meet certain minimum energy efficiency requirements – as is the case with the old regular light bulbs – are forbidden and must be replaced by energy saving bulbs. The new bulbs, filled with toxic mercury, produce a cold, blue-ish light for about two minutes before they reach full efficiency and the color of light featured on their packaging. They cost several times more than the regular bulbs.

Hoarding, loopholes and profit

If outlets selling light bulbs have been doing overtime meeting the demand of hoarders, manufacturers have been busy too -- in fact, they’ve found a loophole in the EU directive that they are presently turning into a hefty profit. The EU directive concerns “household” bulbs but does not address “special-purpose” bulbs. Household bulbs as their name implies are meant for home use, whereas special-purpose bulbs, which are more sturdily made, can also be used in farm outbuildings, gardens, saunas, and more. By law, special-purpose bulbs have to state on the packaging that they are not intended for household use. But they are perfectly fine for such use, as every manufacturer and savvy consumer knows.

So sales of special-purpose light bulbs are currently going through the roof. Every retailer worth his or her salt carries them -- and nobody asks customers exactly what “special purpose” they are going to be using the bulbs for.

The catalogue of German luxury mail order firm Manufactum features a whole selection of these special-purpose bulbs and while the text does say that they are “not designated” for use in the home, it adds that they are “unreservedly suitable” for such use.

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Chinese Students Now Required To Learn To Think Like Xi Jinping

'Xi Jinping Thought' ideas on socialism have been spreading across the country since 2017. But now, Beijing is going one step further by making them part of the curriculum, from the elementary level all the way up to university.

Children from Congtai Elementary School, Handan City, Hebei Province

Maximilian Kalkhof

BEIJING — It's important to strengthen the "determination to listen to and follow the party." Also, teaching materials should "cultivate patriotic feelings." So say the new guidelines issued by the Chinese Ministry of Education.

The goal is to help Chinese students develop more "Marxist beliefs," and for that, the government wants its national curriculum to include "Xi Jinping Thought," the ideas, namely, of China's current leader.

Xi Jinping has been the head of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) for almost 10 years. In 2017, at a party convention, he presented a doctrine in the most riveting of party prose: "Xi Jinping's ideas of socialism with Chinese characteristics in the new age."

Behind this word jam is a plan to consolidate the power of the nation, the party and Xi himself. In other words, to make China great again!

Communist curriculum replaces global subjects

This doctrine has sent shockwaves through China since 2017. It's been echoed in newspapers, on TV, and screamed from posters and banners hung in many cities. But now, the People's Republic is going one step further: It's bringing "Xi Jinping Thought" into the schools.

Starting in September, the country's 300 million students have had to study the doctrine, from elementary school into university. And in some cities, even that doesn't seem to be enough. Shanghai announced that its students from third to fifth grade would only take final exams in mathematics and Chinese, de facto deleting English as an examination subject. Beijing, in the meantime, announced that it would ban the use of unauthorized foreign textbooks in elementary and middle schools.

But how does a country that enchants its youth with socialist ideology and personality cults rise to become a world power? Isn't giving up English as a global language the quickest way into isolation?

The educational reform comes at a time when Beijing is brutally disciplining many areas of public life, from tech giants to the entertainment industry. It has made it difficult for Chinese technology companies to go public abroad, and some media have reported that a blanket ban on IPOs in the United States is on the cards in the next few years.

photo of books on a book shelf

Books about Xi-Jinping at the 2021 Hong Kong Book Fair

Alex Chan Tsz Yuk/SOPA Images/ZUMA

— Photo:

Targeting pop culture

The regime is also taking massive action against the entertainment industry. Popstar Kris Wu was arrested on charges of rape. Movies and TV series starring actor Zhao Wei have started to disappear from Chinese streaming platforms. The reason is unclear.

What the developments do show is that China is attempting to decouple from the West with increasing insistence. Beijing wants to protect its youth from Western excesses, from celebrity worship, super wealth and moral decline.

A nationalist blogger recently called for a "profound change in the economy, finance, culture and politics," a "revolution" and a "return from the capitalists to the masses." Party media shared the text on their websites. It appears the analysis caused more than a few nods in the party headquarters.

Dictatorships are always afraid of pluralism.

Caspar Welbergen, managing director of the Education Network China, an initiative that aims to intensify school exchanges between Germany and China, says that against this background, the curriculum reform is not surprising.

"The emphasis on 'Xi Jinping Thought' is being used in all areas of society," he says. "It is almost logical that China is now also using it in the education system."

Needless to say, the doctrine doesn't make student exchanges with China any easier.

Dictatorships are always afraid of color, pluralism and independent thinking citizens. And yet, Kristin Kupfer, a Sinology professor at the University of Trier, suggests that ideologically charged school lessons should not be interpreted necessarily as a sign of weakness of the CCP.

From the point of view of a totalitarian regime, she explains, this can also be interpreted as a signal of strength. "It remains to be seen whether the Chinese leadership can implement this so thoroughly," Kupfer adds. "Initial reactions from teachers and parents on social media show that such a widespread attempt to control opinion has raised fears and discontent in the population."

Die Welt
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