By Cam Mather

I am NOT afraid of the dark. I will admit to many fears, but fear of the dark is not one of them. When we moved to our off-the-electricity-grid home, I began to stock up on flashlights. Anyone viewing my flashlight collection might have come to the conclusion that I was afraid of ever being without light.

When I first began my “collection” the MAGLITE was my favourite. These flashlights are made in California and are exceptionally high quality aluminum flashlights. They cost me about $25 each and I ended up with 4 of them, one for every one in the family. I decided if we were going to live in the bush we’d better have good flashlights and with the size and weight of them, I knew they’d be useful as a weapon!

Then I did a keynote at an environmental fair and one of the gifts that I received for being a speaker was a flashlight. But it wasn’t just any flashlight, it was a hybrid that not only used the traditional incandescent bulb but also LEDs, and you could switch between the two. While the incandescent bulb provided a brighter light that seemed to light up a larger area, it sucked the batteries down outrageously fast, while the LED bulbs didn’t seem to.

This was just when LEDs were becoming more common in things like traffic lights and Christmas tree lights. And this is what started me down the sick and depraved path of flashlight addiction. Oh it started innocently enough. I’d be at a store and see a new LED flashlight and say, “Well it’s only $10, why not?” I’d rationalize the purchase because I lived off the grid and “needed” it. I also started experimenting with strap on headlights. These are brilliant because they allow me to work around outside at night without area lighting. When you live in the city with streetlights you have a sort of perpetual day. Here, an hour from the nearest streetlights, if there is no moon, it’s dark. Really dark. You’d have to walk around with your hands in front of you so don’t bump into stuff – it’s that dark.

So the flashlights started flowing into the house. Then the price of LED flashlights plummeted which made it next to impossible to say no to them. Suddenly 9 and 14-LED flashlights were $3 or $4 each and they were too cheap to walk away from. Every time my daughters moved into a new apartment I’d arrive with the newest and latest flashlight – you know – in case the power went off.

Then they started selling those flashlights that don’t require batteries – you shake them up to make them work. Well, I had to try a few of those. Next thing I knew I had a collection of flashlights and I didn’t use most of them. There are no “Flashlight Addicts Anonymous” groups I know of, so I’ve had to wean myself of my little addiction on my own. It’s not easy. I’ll still find myself at the Giant Tiger Store standing in front of those darn flashlights, itching to buy one. But no, I must be strong. “Cam, you are a strong person, you can get through this, and you don’t need another flashlight.”

Recently I was working on some batteries that I use for our cell-phone system. I keep our phone system independent of our home power power system. I like redundancy with an important thing like a phone system. The area I was working in was dark so I used my portable hand held “work light” which has 30 LEDs in it. It’s quite brilliant in how well it lights up a dark area and it’s rechargeable and portable. As I was using it I was thinking about the recent Princess Auto Flyer that had a newer model that had 75 LEDs. Did you hear that! 75 LEDs! Yes, I need that!

No, I don’t need that, I just want that. I talk about the concept of “enough” in my book “Thriving During Challenging Times.” The sooner you can define this word in your life and the lower you set your “enough” level of consumption, the happier you’ll be. I have enough flashlights. I never, ever, need another flashlight, or screwdriver, or adjustable wrench. I have lots. I don’t need any more.

Humans are pre-programmed to want to buy stuff. I’m no different. I usually rationalize it by telling myself that it will make me more “efficient” and therefore reduce my impact on the planet. But once I factor in the impact of the raw materials that went into it and the energy to make it and ship it to where I buy it, I know that’s bogus logic.

So I’m starting a “Recovering Flashlight Addicts” support group. Let me know if you know anyone who’d like to join. I’m going to need some help to stay clean.

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