Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel has a bright idea that’s quickly gaining lots of criticism: he wants to turn Chicago into the North American version of the “City of Light.” Emanuel announced Friday that the city will soon begin a global search for a company that can make Chicago twinkle brighter than the night sky.
As pretty as it may be, lighting up an entire city more than it already is at night is a suggestion that comes with a lot of environmental concerns. First and foremost, there’s light pollution. Our country is already lit brightly enough that lights can be seen from orbit, showing just how much electricity is being wasted.
The Illinois Coalition for Responsible Outdoor Lighting estimates that “about half of the billions of kilowatt hours of electricity used on exterior lighting each year go to waste.” With that wasted electricity comes more coal, gas, and oil burned.
Earth’s creatures also live on a night-day schedule, something we’ve seriously managed to mess up with our night light problem. While some creatures have been able to adapt to artificial lighting at night, others have not. Manmade lights are thought to disrupt flight patterns, sleep cycles, and the circadian rhythm of plants.
According to The Chicago Sun-Times, “Emanuel was ridiculed Friday for suggesting that Chicago be turned into “North America’s city of lights” at the same time that Paris, the global “City of Light,” has toned it down.”
“Last year, the French Environment Ministry ordered Paris buildings and storefronts to turn off artificial lights between the hours of 1 a.m. and 7 a.m.”
Emanuel wants to stimulate the economy no doubt by bringing in more tourism to the city—but at what cost? At the same time as we struggle to get our country’s energy and resource consumption under control, it seems ludicrous to suggest such a project.
Here’s to hoping that Emanuel’s plan somehow harnesses renewable energy or at least involves low-energy sources like LEDs.