Lights Off Insist Parkour Collective

French law requires stores and office buildings to turn off their signs an hour after their last employee leaves, but many don't bother. Enter Parkour Collectives using their agility to help solve and raise awareness of the issue.

The Champs-Élysées in Paris may be empty, with a strict curfew in place across France, but the shops have been leaving their signs on all the same.

So, a few months ago, a parkour collective (you know, the guys you see leaping from building to building in the movies) decided to take matters into its own hands. With members using their gymnastic abilities to climb walls and scaffolding to turn off the illuminated signs, the On The Spot collective is just one of a number of parkour collectives around France trying to raise awareness about light pollution and energy consumption as part of the Lights Off movement.

“Turning off the lights is a symbolic message about the basic efforts that businesses should be making,” said Kevin Ha, a 28-year-old completing his PhD in oceanography and the leader of On the Spot. “It’s not the efficiency of the operation that matters. Obviously we cannot turn off all the lights in Paris, but we hope to show how even small actions can make a difference.”

Leaving commercial lights on at night wastes energy and the accompanying light pollution harms local ecosystems and our own circadian rhythms as well. This was why French legislators introduced a law in 2013 requiring stores and office buildings to turn off their signs an hour after their last employee leaves. Violation of the law is punishable with a €750 (£645) fine.

But enforcement is patchy, says Ha, which is why he and others can be found hanging from ledges and perched atop doorways on the Champs-Élysées most Friday nights. While turning off the signs simply requires the flip of a small interrupter switch – meant for emergency services – outside each storefront, finding a way to actually get to those switches is the difficult part. But the challenge of getting from point A to point B in creative ways is exactly what parkour is about.