2010-12Zeitschriftenartikel DOI: 10.18452/21567
The Dark Side of Light
A Transdisciplinary Research Agenda for Light Pollution Policy
Although the invention and widespread use of artificial light is clearly one of the most important human technological advances, the transformation of nightscapes is increasingly recognized as having adverse effects. Night lighting may have serious physiological consequences for humans, ecological and evolutionary implications for animal and plant populations, and may reshape entire ecosystems. However, knowledge on the adverse effects of light pollution is vague. In response to climate change and energy shortages, many countries, regions, and communities are developing new lighting programs and concepts with a strong focus on energy efficiency and greenhouse gas emissions. Given the dramatic increase in artificial light at night (0 - 20% per year, depending on geographic region), we see an urgent need for light pollution policies that go beyond energy efficiency to include human well-being, the structure and functioning of ecosystems, and inter-related socioeconomic consequences. Such a policy shift will require a sound transdisciplinary understanding of the significance of the night, and its loss, for humans and the natural systems upon which we depend. Knowledge is also urgently needed on suitable lighting technologies and concepts which are ecologically, socially, and economically sustainable. Unless managing darkness becomes an integral part of future conservation and lighting policies, modern society may run into a global self-experiment with unpredictable outcomes.