Light has long been seen as a positive force in our environment. Artificial light allowed us to overcome nature’s darkness. It is Enlightenment in its most concrete form.
Light represents economic activity: Factory workers in brightly lit production facilities during the night shifts, office workers burning the midnight oil, greenhouses that illuminate the cloud cover and window displays bathing their merchandise in light at night.
Light stands for (social) safety. Streets, squares and highways are lit to improve visibility for road users. The more different traffic participants share a space, the more light is required.
Light gives identity to a place. Remarkable buildings, infrastructure and objects deserve iconic lighting. Let there be no doubt about their importance. Places where many people gather are also brightly lit: Festivals, concerts and football matches. The more people, the more light, it seems.
All these reasons for illuminating our environment form layers of light. They amplify each other and sometimes try to overpower each other out. After all, in a brightly lit environment even more light is needed to highlight. Light can be seen as an ‘augmented reality’, a technical layer added between our experience and true darkness. Darkness has not disappeared, but is concealed in the light.
More light is not always better. Human health does not benefit from all this light. Our body needs darkness to relax. This also applies to flora and fauna. Patterns of nocturnal animals such as bats and insects are disrupted. It turns out, even trees are stressed by nights that don’t get dark anymore. Our overexposure disrupts all kinds of systems. We ourselves are part of these systems, of a larger whole. Stories from the past often emphasize our cultural connection with the stars and the universe. We experience that connection with a glance at the natural night sky. Illuminating the starry sky is not sustainalbe if we want to be careful with ourselves and our earth. Unnecessary light is a pure waste of energy.
Could we deal with light in the city more carefully? Can someone turn off the light?
Read more about this nightly expedition at Stad in de Maak: https://www.stadindemaak.nl/nachtexpeditie-rotterdam/