How the Lights in Our Cities Became Too Bright
Every culture in world history has associated darkness with evil, Akiva Blander points out in a lengthy piece for Metropolis Magazine on how, in the name of safety, officials in cities around the world have historically taken a more-is-more approach to outdoor lighting. But something has changed in recent years, as a "new wing" of the lighting profession is rethinking how best to light up the night.
"After years of overlighting," Blander writes, "designers, professionals, observers, and others are taking a more holistic view of outdoor illumination, examining diverse sources and gradations of light, and advocating more thoughtfully conceived lighting systems that work with, rather than in opposition to, nighttime darkness."
In addition to the relatively well-established idea that more lights have a negative effect on the health of both people and animals, there are a couple of important ideas in the article, including that more lights may not mean safer streets, and that there is a cultural, social and biological benefit to letting “night be night.”
"[I]t is critical that our contemporary nocturnal placemaking not detract from the essential qualities that differentiate it from daytime uses of public space," writes Blander, "and that our awareness of lighting’s central role allow a balanced and sensitive approach to night lighting."