Light pollution is a topic that should concern every one of us*—but does it?
For most people, the problem is kind of intangible. And solutions are perceived as a bad compromise or even creating inconveniences. Additionally, it may be hard for them to care for insects (pesky), the Milky Way (never seen), or even personal health risks (going to bed with their phones and tablets). So, all the things that would improve or benefit from less light pollution. These are probably some of the reasons, why already existing concepts that could help solve light pollution get so little attention.
The Milky Way is hidden from more than one-third of humanity, including 60% of Europeans and nearly 80% of North Americans.The new world atlas of artificial night sky brightness*
We aim to change that. We want to make people care by showing them the tangible impact on their everyday lives. To spark curiosity and trigger a thought process.
Therefore, we showcase ordinary everyday situations in a world, where the problem of light pollution has been solved. (Maybe at the last minute before a major artificial light crisis or catastrophe?). The absence of artificial light is so ordinary, that our daily interactions, communication, and products have adapted to this world. A world where nights are dark—but we are still going out, enjoying each other’s company and exploring new places.
There are many complicated solutions proposed against light pollution, but the solution is quite simple: Just turn off the light.
If you aren’t familiar with speculative design here is some background information.
So, what if we live in a world, where artificial light (specifically atmospheric light) is absent? We still have artificial light in our houses and for indoor uses but otherwise, the world becomes dark at night. How will our social behavior change? How will our consumption and experiences change? What kind of products would emerge as new needs arise?
Light pollution is one of the most pervasive forms of environmental alteration.P. Cinzano, F. Falchi, C. D. Elvidge*
You would think on the left is how the city looks like at night. But, every modern city looks like the right picture at night. We’ve come a long way since the invention of the light bulb 200 years ago.
What if we could help our eyes to enjoy the darkness…
In this scenario, we are exposed to a lot of changing light conditions when we go out at night. From a brightly lit restaurant into the night outside. Crossing one of the few high-security areas that do have outdoor lighting, and back into darkness. And so on. To help our eyes cope with this adjustment stress, we need a technical solution. This could be a pair of glasses that adapt to the rapidly changing light conditions. They would create soft transitions between the two extremes. On the one side, protecting our eyes from sudden stark lighting when entering a shop. And then slowly letting through more light as our eyes adjust. On the other side, they would gradually darken our vision before we exit the bright indoors. Adjusting our eyes for the darkness outside when we leave.
Let’s turn on the darkness … for a brighter future!
What if you’re hanging out with your friends in the dark, and all you can see is their silhouettes and shady faces? And what if it’s not your friends, but a hundred strangers at a party?
The setting of new trends, social and behavior change will help and motivate people to accept the new circumstances. Something common like makeup can make people happy about the darkness surrounding them.
Cosmo Glow is a new makeup that is only visible in the darkness. Nowadays, people put on makeup for styling and fun. This can be prolonged. We’re thinking of a glowing powder. A cosmetic product people can wear to show their creativity and engage with darkness in a fun way. And it will solve the communication problem that comes with the darkness. Cosmo Glow makes facial expressions, moods, and emotions visible which are so important in human interactions.
It can easily spawn new trends (like TikTok tutorials, Instagram challenges, etc.). Leading to a broader acceptance of the new normalcy. In this case, people come together outside at night, with no artificial light.
What if artificial light becomes the new brand experience?
One of the biggest economical contributors to light emissions is the advertising industry. But the good news is, that companies could—actually TODAY—utilize the next idea.
What if people would pay for the experience of late-night shopping (thus compensating for the light emissions with midnight-tear prices)? Artificial light wouldn’t be seen as something always present, surrounding us, but more like a luxury good. If companies were required to compensate lit ads and shop windows engulfed in light, it will start to create a bigger awareness of the problem of light pollution. Companies would need to (re)consider and redesign the relevance of their advertising for consumers. If it doesn’t offer any added value, who would pay for it?
To access this new artificial light experience, consumers would need an interface to manage and pay for their additional light consumption/emissions, e.g. when late night shopping in the city. The interface needs to be haptically to work in the dark. And it should attach to our existing interfaces and displays, like smartphones, shop windows, bus stop ads, etc. We imagine such an interface in the form of a ‘smart sticker’. It has an NFC chip for wireless payment. And a surface that can change its three-dimensional shape to create responsive buttons, triggers, sliders, etc. So, the lighting experience can be interactively remote-controlled by the consumer.
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A future too far away? Maybe not!
“An increased amount of light at night lowers melatonin production, which results in sleep deprivation, fatigue, headaches, stress, anxiety, and other health problems. Recent studies also show a connection between reduced melatonin levels and cancer.” (National Geographic) So, to protect humankind’s health, we have to be aware of light pollution. Created by us and only us. We have to find ways to tackle the problem without sacrificing safety, convenience, and joy. Croatia and France* already implemented rules to have “dark hours” in the early morning in certain areas, where artificial lights are turned off.
* Visit “The new world atlas of artificial night sky brightness” to see the full picture of nowadays light pollution.