Bright Side of the Night – 2.5.2

Psychological Dimensions of Light Pollution

Joy to the World? – The Festive Light Code helps!

Light has a very positive image among people across borders and cultures. In most celebrations and festivities around the world, light plays a central role. However, it is important to design the festive illumination of a city, street, waterside, or park with care in order to not harm or disturb animals, plants, and the natural world that surrounds us. The Tyrol Competence Centre on Light Pollution and Dark Skies offers a cost-free guide for planners and procurement managers around the world: the Festive Light Code.

Guidance for Light Planners and Procurement Teams

The Festive Light Code was developed in a pioneering public-private partnership between the Tyrol Competence Centre on Light Pollution and Dark Skies and the company MK Illumination, a leading global player in festive illumination schemes for cities and parks. According to this open-access guidebook, festive light planners are invited to tackle three questions when planning a festive lighting concept for a city, village, park or waterside:

  1. Where are you planning to install the lighting, how densely populated is this area? In unspoiled or ecologically important natural areas, for instance, artifical lighting should be avoided altogether, while festive schemes are possible in scattered settlements or even urban areas, and of course, indoors.
  2. When, at what time of the day and year will the lighting appear? The Festive Light Code applies exclusively to festive lighting in winter or during seasons of low ecological activity. All other seasons shall be avoided.
  3. How will the project be installed, using which kind of technology? LEDs, for example, exhibit a lesser impact on the environment than metal-halide lamps, shielding might be important, and the light colours and brightness make all the difference.

In general, festive light schemes that comply with the Light Code meet some basic local, spatial, technical, time-sensitive, and design requirements. Sustainable festive lighting relies on products with long lifespans, low energy consumption, and a drastic reduction of light pollution.

Fear of the Dark, Crime and Vandalism

As much as we humans tend to associate “day”—or light—with “good”, we associate “darkness” with “evil.” This fear of darkness runs very deep. We like to rely on our sense of sight. When it gets dark, we cannot perceive colours. Our vision decreases, and we may feel vulnerable, disoriented, and afraid. Hence safety is an important consideration for the use of artificial light, especially in public spaces, e.g. for road traffic safety. While there is no empirical correlation between the use of artificial light and the reduction of violence and vandalism, light clearly boosts people’s perception of safety—not matter how intense the provided lighting is. Many of us feel more comfortable in lit public spaces and are more likely to leave our own homes once such spaces are available.

However, artificial light does not always lead to the desired effect:

  1. Imagine a secluded, illuminated path at the outskirts of a town. It is easy to use. But those who travel along it are visually trapped in a beam of light. While they are easily visible to others, those who may be observing them remain invisible in the darkness.
  2. Imagine a building you want to protect from burglary. Contrary to popular marketing messages, outside lighting is not the answer. Rather, it is advised to use a timer combined with economical lighting inside the house. This suggests to potential burglars that someone is in the building.

Does Light Pollution Fog our Culture and Identity?

Nowadays, we understand that light pollution obscures the stars, and that artificial light captures our attention and keep our gaze trapped in its haze. We decipher that this contributes to a certain loss of humans’ connection with nature and the environment. However, might light pollution fog our hearts and minds more profoundly? Anthropologists, psychologists, historians, and others have yet to research in how far the gradual loss of unspoilt night landscapes impacts human culture, spirituality, and identity-both individually as well as collectively.

Festive Light Code. Image by MK-Illumination.
Village at night. Image by PublicDomainPictures  ̶  Pixabay.

Further Resources

Links below will redirect you to external websites. In accordance with the European data protection declarations, we would like to point out that by clicking on these links you may send data to external providers. We cannot prevent that. 


Light, crime and Safety

Light Pollution 101 | National Geographic

Losing the Dark (IDA)

What is light pollution, and how could you help reducing it? (Dark Ranger)

The strange scourge of light pollution

What is light pollution and how does it hurt our planet

Losing the Dark – Verlust unserer Nacht (IDA)

Licht in der Nacht: Die Folgen der Lichtverschmutzung für Mensch und Tier | Doku | DokThema | BR (IDA)

Online Resources

The influence of light pollution on human beings (Helle Not)

Verlust der Nacht / Loss of the Night: Interdisciplinary Research network

Festive Light Code

Festive Light Code

Article: Perceptions of Night-Time Safety: Women and Girls

Article: Light, crime and Safety (IDA)

Decreto CAM per l’illuminazione pubblica – Edif

Inquinamento luminoso: effetti sull’uomo – Inquinamento Italia

MK Illumination Italy

Further Readings

Regularly updated Literature and links with regards to light pollution and dark skies (Helle Not)

Literature & Links on the website “Verlust der Nacht/Loss of the Night”

‹ƒ‘† Piano d’azione nazionale sul œ‹‘‡ƒœ‹‘ƒŽ‡•—ŽGreen Public Procurement (PANGPP)

Teaching Materials

Teaching Material Kit on Light Pollution in 4 Languages (English, Spanish, German, Portuguese) (Stars4all)

Word Games and a Light Pollution Quiz

Teaching material on light pollution in English and Spanish (Streetspectra)

For Kids

Materials for young scientists: Quiz, Arts and craft corner, App and Exhibition for schools. (Loss of the Night network)

Unterrichtsmaterialien für Schulen – “Lichtverschmutzung” (Die Umweltberatung)

Wissens- und Methodenbox „Kunstlicht, Nacht und Sternenhimmel“ (Naturfreunde)