Meet the Acrobats Using Parkour to Fight Light Pollution

A parkour acrobat climbs a sign to flip a light switch on a building

Many of us are proud of our contributions to fight climate change. We use our metal straws, save up for electric cars and solar panels, and contact our representatives to pass significant legislation to protect the planet. We all have a role to play. 

However, it’s fair to say that few of us look as cool as the Wizzy Gang in our efforts to reduce our energy consumption. 

The Wizzy Gang is a group of nine parkour athletes based in France. Their social media pages show death-defying feats, the acrobats leaping between buildings (Tom Holland’s Spiderman costume is obsolete, I guess?), or cleanly performing a backflip over a waterfall

However, what made the group go viral was their goal to do more good. 

A parkour acrobat climbs a sign to flip a light switch on a building
Photo courtesy of Wizzy Gang

After seeing a video of someone turning off a street light using a wooden stick, Wizzy Gang members joked about their ability to jump up to high areas to turn off lights themselves.

In Rennes, France, where the group practices, lighted signs have small interrupter switches on the outside of buildings (usually storefronts). The athletes began turning off these lights in 2019, and in December 2020, posted their first compilation video on Instagram.

They call it Opération Luciole, which translates to Operation Firefly in English. While their neighbors are sleeping and the sun goes down, the group goes out on the town, turning off the lights. 

“When the Parkour training is done, the sun is down. So, it was at night in the city, we walk around and see different lights of lots of shops. And we say, ‘oh, this one, this one’, and we will turn off the light of this one and it was like a little game,” Wizzy Gang member Mathieu Brulard told Insider. “It was cool because the light pollution is a big problem here in the city and other cities. We want to show that making improvements to ecological things is pretty fun, too.” 

The Wizzy Gang hopes to travel across Europe for similar stunts and demonstrations. Their parkour initiatives thus far have inspired thousands to take light pollution into their own hands, too. 

Why is light pollution a problem? 

Although this form of guerrilla activism is a harmless and exciting way to fight climate change, the Wizzy Gang does encounter shop owners who want their lights kept on. Brulard told Insider that the group always attempts to educate businesses on why these stunts help the environment.

Light pollution is the excessive use of artificial light — most often in urban areas, where buildings, streetlights, electric cars, outdoor advertising, and factories are powered up at all hours of the day. 

This impacts human health, wildlife behavior, and even our ability to look up at the stars. 

According to National Geographic, artificial light can confuse the natural body rhythms of both humans and animals. Nocturnal light confuses our circadian rhythms and interferes with our sleep, lowering melatonin production. This can lead to increased headaches, fatigue, anxiety — and even a higher risk of cancer. 

Animals are also greatly impacted by light pollution, which can affect migration patterns, sleep habits, and habitat formation. National Geographic reports, because of light pollution, sea turtles and birds guided by moonlight often get confused and lose their way, which even leads to death. Birds can also die upon contact with light sources, as they are drawn to insects that fly near artificial light. 

Of course, it also takes a lot of energy to power large light fixtures. Traditional street lights are a huge energy drain on cities. In fact, a 2019 study by Visual Capitalist found that lighting in cities alone accounted for 19% of the world’s total electricity consumption.

However, many large urban areas have switched to induction or LED light bulbs. Smart tech increasingly allows for intentional energy decisions, but the best way to conserve energy is to reduce the amount of lights that stay on at night in the first place.  

The Wizzy Gang is not the only group to worry about how light pollution impacts humans and animals in Europe. In fact, France does have a law in place that requires shop owners to turn off their lights within an hour of employees leaving. However, this law is rarely enforced, according to the Guardian

Additionally, at the beginning of August of this year, Politico reported that a number of cities across Europe will be implementing similar protocols to save energy, including cities in towns in Austria, Spain, Italy, and Germany. 

Why is this good news? 

A parkour athlete climbs a wall to turn off a light switch

The Wizzy Gang shares on their website that they know these small actions do not eliminate the rising threat of climate change, but they do know that their work reaches people and raises awareness about light pollution worldwide.

“We are so happy that so many of you have joined us for an action like this,” the Wizzy Gang shares on their blog (which we translated from French to English). “We believe that this initiative reflects a new generation that has inherited global warming without being responsible for it, a generation that no longer expects decisions to come from the state. A generation that dares to act before it is too late.” 

How can I help reduce light pollution? 

First of all, you can make the simple switch of turning off lights around your home to save on energy costs — and reduce your carbon footprint. 

However, the most important lights you turn off are outdoor lighting. Be sure to only use outdoor lights when needed and that they are properly shielded, directing light down instead of up in the sky, where birds and other animals are less likely to be impacted. 

The International Dark Sky Association (IDA) also encourages folks to use dimmers, motion sensors, and timers on their lights to reduce illumination at night. The organization has a Seal of Approval for certain light fixtures, as well, to help you be mindful when selecting lighting options. 

Lastly, the IDA encourages people to take action, like visiting a Dark Sky Place or advocating for a lighting ordinance in their town. Check out their helpful resource page to get your community started.

And, of course, if you’re proficient in parkour… you know what to do. 

Article Details

August 18, 2022 4:10 PM
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