A Proposal To Save Electricity By Brightening The Moon

It's actually pretty fun to read.

Well, it gets points for creativity. Some pranksters—or perhaps just PR folks—at Foreo have put up a page proposing humankind solve its energy crisis by brightening the moon. A brighter moon would eliminate the need for nighttime streetlights, Foreo proposes. Super-moonlit streets would thus save electricity and reduce greenhouse gas emissions, the page says.

Now, I know Foreo is not serious, not least because it’s a cosmetics company, not a space technology one. Nevertheless, I thought it’d be fun to look at some of the consequences of brightening the moon that the folks at Foreo might have missed:

1. It would probably take a lot of resources and emissions to ship any moon-brightening technology to the surface of the moon. It’s not clear the environmental footprint of such a project would be smaller than its emissions savings.

2. Nighttime light exposure is bad for human health. There’s a lot of evidence that people who work night shift—those who spend their nights under artificial light—are at higher risk for certain cancers. Nighttime lighting has also been linked to obesity and depression, as Aeon reports. Keeping the world lit as bright as New York City at night would expose even more people to nighttime lights than already are.

3. Nighttime light is bad for the environment. Many animals also suffer from nighttime light exposure. It disrupts the navigation of species that travel at night. It also alters hormone production, which could lead to altered development and disease. In fact, instead of protecting the Earth’s ecosystems, brightening the moon could disrupt them terribly.

Foreo proposes a 30-year-long phase-in period to allow people and animals to adjust to a brighter moon. That’s not enough time for creatures to evolve, however. After all, Earth has had electric streetlights since the late 1800s and Earth’s animals are still feeling the consequences.

The next question is, Why would a cosmetics company advertise with a weird space-tech proposal? I thought of a few possibilities:

  1. Someone at Foreo is a proponent of alternative energy technologies and this is brilliant satire.
  2. Someone at Foreo reads a lot of eager-beaver Kickstarter campaigns and this is brilliant satire.
  3. Foreo makes a face-scrubby thingy (?? This is why I’m not a beauty journalist) called “Luna.” So maybe the message here is that while Foreo cannot make the moon brighter, it can make your face brighter. (?? Can you truly make your skin more reflective without putting, like, glitter on it? Maybe this is something I can actually answer in the future, as a science journalist.)