Space–Time Design of the Public City: 15 (Urban and Landscape Perspectives)

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The first step is to clarify how darkness is, or could be, conceived as an environmental good. The five commonly agreed upon effects of light pollution are taken as a starting point: energy , ecology , health , safety , and the night sky IDA ; Morgan-Taylor However, it must be noted that safety will not be discussed further in this section. There are two reasons for the choice to exclude safety from this framework.

Re-populating the nighttime city: hospitality and gender

First, research and discussions about safety and security at night rarely articulate darkness as valuable —instead, most research seeks to show that it is value-neutral by questioning the assumed relationship between more light and more safety e. Second, safety at night does not lead to any environmentally-relevant value of darkness.

Thus, the question of where and when and how much lighting is useful for improved or optimal safety is a topic in itself—one that should be put in dialogue with this framework in the future, but outside of the scope of this paper. As such, questions of safety will be put aside until the conclusion. The four relevant effects of light pollution have been re-conceptualized as nine ways by which, or through which, environmental value is derived from darkness. Recent works giving serious consideration to questions of value and the night sky have served as useful foundations for this list.

They are also meant to better capture the moral arguments made against light pollution.

Urban and Landscape Perspectives: Space-Time Design of the Public City 15 (2013, Hardcover)

For example, arguments against the adverse effects of artificial nighttime light to ecosystems and wildlife—while a diverse and complex field of research—appear to follow a coherent moral argument focused on conservation efforts. Comparatively, arguments for the protection of dark or natural night skies seem to rely on a more varied if interrelated set of moral concerns. As such, an expansion of that category was deemed appropriate. In what follows, each of the nine identified valuations are briefly defined.

Efficiency: Outdoor nighttime lighting is a large consumer of energy. Unneeded or wasteful nighttime lighting can be a particularly visible form of excessive consumption, and a reintroduction or protection of darkness becomes symbolic of the efficient use of lighting resources, only using lighting where and when it is needed.

Darkness, when understood as a manifestation of efficiency, can conceivably have immense economic value, particularly in urbanized regions. Considered in this way, the wastefulness of outdoor lighting can be associated with energy usage and greenhouse gas emissions. The use of outdoor artificial lighting is a significant contributor to greenhouse gas emissions, to the degree that cutting all wasted light in the United States could have the equivalent effect on CO 2 emissions as removing 9.

From such a perspective, advocating for darker nights becomes a way to promote responsible energy usage and mitigate CO 2 emissions. Ecology: Research indicates that nighttime lighting has profound effects on wildlife, notably migratory birds, sea turtles, and bats Pottharst and Konecke ; Rich and Longcore Species and ecosystems have evolved within natural diurnal cycles that are being drastically altered by artificial light at night, especially in urbanized areas.

It can be argued that naturally occurring levels of daylight and darkness at night are not only essential to the protection of species and habitats, but also inherent to their functioning and thriving. As such, the protection or re-introduction of darker nights is closely aligned with species and biodiversity protection, as well as nighttime habitat conservation efforts. Healthiness: Humans are also affected by excess artificial nighttime illumination.

Our bodies have evolved within natural cycles of light and dark, and the relatively rapid change may have negative effects. The disruption of our circadian rhythm has been linked to reduced visibility at night, obesity, insomnia, and certain types of cancer Chepesiuk ; Cho et al. Thus, allowing access to, and the experience of, darker nights can be seen as valuable for personal health.

In this capacity, it would appear that darkness is less analogous to a broader societal value, but rather a physical characteristic that one should seek to achieve and foster towards the goal of a healthy lifestyle. Happiness: There can be a further distinction made between physical well-being and psychological or emotional well-being.

With respect to the latter, Gallaway proposes a link between happiness and access to a natural night sky, outlining the many beneficial traits of dark nights. In this analysis, Gallaway draws on recent economic literature, as well as research from environmental psychology asserting the restorative and beneficial effects of contact with natural settings e. Gallaway posits that the night sky can contribute to happiness via factors such as: the focus on experiences rather than consumables; increasing small, regular experiences of pleasure over infrequent, intense ones; the pleasure derived from experiences of natural beauty; and, the relaxing and restorative powers of interactions with natural nights skies.

Thus, darkness can be seen as something with the potential to facilitate and promote psychological well-being, broadly conceived.

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Connection to nature: Fostering a connection to nature, and the ability to experience natural settings, is a central concern within environmental philosophy. It is also an identified goal for some conceptions green design e. Buchanan ; Wines Let There Be Night Bogard offers a collection of reflections on the powerful experience of natural nighttime conditions, an in particular the night sky, made accessible via darkness. In this respect, darkness can be understood as analogous to, or symbolic of, natural nighttime conditions.

Concerns over the loss of the night are not about a literal loss—the night is not going anywhere. Rather, a lack of darkness signifies the vast anthropogenic changes that have occurred to nightscapes during the last century. Artificial lighting is altering nighttime conditions, to the extant that the ability to experience natural nighttime conditions is becoming increasingly rare. Thus, promoting dark nights can be understood as a way to preserve a connection to the more-than-human world. In most urbanized areas you are lucky to see a few dozen stars, compared to a few thousand on a clear, dark night.

This concern is often practical, as astronomical observatories have been relegated to remotely inhabited areas. However it has also emerged as an aesthetic, spiritual, and moral concern. Starlight is a central feature of natural nighttime conditions, and often invoked as the primary aspect of the night we risk losing. Darkness at night, and especially dark skies, is a precondition for access to the firmament. Heritage and tradition: Historically, the night sky has played a central role in various cultures and traditions across the world, having a prominent role within mythology, religion, art and literature, navigation, conceptions of time, and scientific discovery Gallaway The loss of the night also implies the loss of this heritage, and darkness at night is the precondition through which continued access is possible.

The preservation of the night sky, made possible by dark nights, is therefore also a preservation of this heritage for present and future generations. Wonder and beauty: Darkness at night, and in particular the features of the night made accessible by dark skies, is an awe-inspiring experience.

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Re-populating the nighttime city: hospitality and gender : WestminsterResearch

To look out at the night sky is a truly sublime experience in which you instantly travel across unimaginable distances and sense a universe larger than our own world. The wonder and beauty of the night sky is often argued to be of immense value, and a value that cannot be properly captured in quantitative terms e. Thus, it is important to recognize the aesthetic appeal of the night sky—inextricably connected to the preservation and promotion of darkness.

This list offers a comprehensive overview of the ways in which darkness is valuable and likewise conceived as an environmental good. The following three sections build on these definitions by comparing their characteristics in three ways: by type of good, temporal outlook, and spatial characteristics.


  • Re-populating the nighttime city: hospitality and gender.
  • Place and Place-Making in Cities: A Global Perspective: Planning Theory & Practice: Vol 11, No 2.
  • Introduction: Darkness at Night as a Moral Issue!

It should be noted that a definitive claim about the completeness of this list is not being made. It is certainly possible that an environmentally-relevant reason for valuing darkness is missing, or that an argument can be made for further separating or combining one or more of the above values.

That said, it is postulated that any such amendment will still fit into the framework developed here, thus ultimately serving to strengthen its usefulness. As a first step in assessing the relationship between these nine values of darkness, a distinction can be made between those values for which darkness is inherent —meaning that darkness is an intrinsic quality of the desired end—and those values for which darkness is merely instrumental to their achievement.

The main question under consideration is thus: is darkness a means to some other end, or a component of the end itself? The distinction comes with important implications. To achieve certain values in the context of designing nightscapes, such as a stellar visibility, darkness is inextricably linked to the desired end. It is darkness itself that we seek to preserve or promote, because of the good it is expected to bring about. To see darkness as intrinsically valuable attaches an increased, and arguably more permanent, importance to its preservation or protection.

Alternatively, to see darkness as instrumental makes it only valuable insofar as it achieves a pre-established end, and thus highly conditional. To say that darkness is valuable for sustainability or efficiency only remains true so long as darkness does in fact lead to energy reduction and cost savings. If new lighting technologies reach the same end of, say, a certain percentage reduction in energy usage, that goal is presumably satisfied regardless of any increase in darkness.

The same could be said for achieving the health-related benefits of darker nights. Because of this, instrumental valuations of darkness are likely much less robust, and contingent upon technological developments. Thus, the valuations of darkness can be categorized into two broad types of goodness: inherent and instrumental Fig. However, while each valuation has been placed into a single category, this does not imply mutual exclusivity.

Rather, these categories can be understood as qualitative lenses that clarify the meaning and importance of darkness in relation to desired ends. The temporal nature of environmental problems has become a salient topic in environmental ethics. But compared to other environmental concerns, the effects of light pollution do have somewhat unique temporal characteristics. The night—and by proxy darkness—is not actually lost, but rather access is hindered or obstructed.

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However, this does not necessarily make the effects of diminished darkness less important, or less impactful. We can consider the temporal characteristics of each valuation of darkness, and specifically how the longevity of their implied objectives relate. For some valuations e. Other arguments have an ongoing outlook, seeking to mitigate certain effects over a period of several years or decades e.

This, one could argue, is the temporal category of strongest moral concern, as these effects are largely irreversible. Thus, these valuations have been categorized as imperatives to signify that they have both an immediate and ongoing temporal importance. Still other arguments rest on a duty to protect access to the night sky for future generations, and ensure these meaningful experiences are recovered or preserved.

For these arguments, there is often an assumption that many people have already lost, or are in the process of rapidly losing, these features of dark nights—an assumption supported by the world atlas of artificial night sky brightness mentioned in the introduction Falchi et al. Actions taken now can therefore reverse or halt the disappearance of the night sky. As such, these have a future - oriented temporal characteristic. Thus, the valuations darkness can be further categorized into three broad temporal outlooks: present - oriented , imperative, and future - oriented Fig.

Avery Broderick Public Lecture: Images from the Edge of Spacetime