Blaming the Light, Claiming the Night

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Blaming the Light, Claiming the Night. Actors, Issues and Effects of Lighting Conflicts in France since the 1980’s.

Samuel ChalléatDany Lapostolle and Thomas Poméon. Paper accepted for the Royal Geographic Society Annual Conference. London – August 2014

A paper of the RENOIR Research Group for the Lighting Conflicts Session, directed by Dietrich Henckel and Josiane Meier

Abstract

Regarding environmental issues, conflictuality is a privileged way to reach the political arena. “Naming, Blaming, Claiming” [7]: three steps that make the controversy emerge, constitute the public issue, then bring it to the political agenda [2]. These three stages are clearly identifiable in the history of night protection associative movements [3,5,6]. These movements emerged in the 1970’s in the United States of America, quickly disseminated enjoying a broader context of environmental thinking [2,6].

Conflicts related to artificial lighting are structurally akin to conflicts of contradictory uses of a single resource: the night [6]. For some – the technicists –, the night is the “good-support” for a specific economic activity and its technologies: urban lighting [3]. For others – the environmentalists –, the “dark night” constitutes an ecosystemic service, which notably allows access to a specific resource: the starry sky [5,6]. The study of the regimes of justification [1] of the actors of conflicts shows that strong territorial disjunctions and cognitive dissonances make the dialogue difficult between the different “worlds” involved [1–3].

The night is a pure collective good, a total public good, irreducible, non-rival, non-excludable, non-appropriable and unbargainable. It therefore falls to the public authority and its “legitimate violence” to support its protection [6]. In France, the State initiative named “Grenelle de l’Environnement” has enabled consideration of controversies related to artificial lighting by the positive law [2]. Various laws and planning tools encourage territories to re-consider their public lighting, or to promote the darkness of the night as a new territorial and/or touristic resource [9,10].

We place our paper at the intersection between economics, geography and sociology of public territorial action. It aims to analyze 30 years of conflictualities, in France, around artificial lighting, overlapping three entries. (i) The various causes from the coming into dispute and the different types of conflicts. (ii) The actors, their “worlds” and regimes of justification [1]. (iii) The effects of these conflicts on and in the territories (geographical, organizational or institutional proximities [8], consideration of the night and reconfigurations of public policy, etc.).

Keywords

Urban lighting – Light pollution – Lighting conflicts – Controversy – Actors – Institutional frameworks – Spaces

References

[1]  Boltanski L. and Thévenot L., 1991. De la justification. Les économies de la grandeur, Paris, Gallimard.
[2]  Challéat S. and Lapostolle D., 2013 (submitted paper). “Preserving the Nocturnal Environment: the Issues of a Sociotechnical Controversy”, submitted for Natures, Sciences, Sociétés.
[3]  Challéat S. and Larceneux A., 2012 (submitted paper). “The Role of Cognition in the Construction of Environmental Problems”, submitted for Développement Durable et Territoires.
[4]  Challéat S., 2012. “Discussing the Territories of Light”, Actes du congrès international du Groupement d’Intérêt Scientifique “Participation du public, décision, démocratie participative”, 18-21 octobre 2011, EHESS, Paris.
[5]  Challéat S., 2011. “Nighttime: A New Topic for Geography”, Bulletin de l’Association de Géographes Français, vol. 88, n°2, p. 183-196.
[6]  Challéat S., 2010. “Sauver la Nuit” – Empreinte lumineuse, urbanisme et gouvernance des territoires, thèse de doctorat de Géographie soutenue le 13 octobre 2010, Université de Bourgogne, Dijon, 540 p.
[7]  Felstiner W.L.F., Abel R.L. and Sarat A., 1980-1981. “The Emergence and Transformation of Disputes: Naming, Blaming, Claiming…”, Law and Society Review, vol. 15, nà 3/4, Special Issue on Dispute Processing and Civil Litigation, p. 631-654.
[8]  Gilly J.-P., Leroux I. and Wallet F. 2004. “Gouvernance et proximité”. In Pecqueur B. and Zimmermann J.-B. (2004), Economie de proximités. Hermès Science Publications, 264 p.
[9]  RENOIR Research Group [Bénos R., Challéat S., Lapostolle D., Milian J., Poméon T. and Rayssac S.], 2014 (accepted). “Consider the Starry Night. The Construction of a Place-Based Resource: the International Dark Sky Reserve of the Pic du Midi de Bigorre”, colloque AsTRES, Le tourisme hors des sentiers battus : coulisses, interstices et nouveaux territoires touristiques, 21-23 mai 2014, Paris.
[10]  RENOIR Research Group [Bénos R., Challéat S., Lapostolle D., Milian J. and Poméon T.], 2014 (accepted). “Quand les territoires regardent la nuit”, séminaire du groupe de recherche en Anthropologie de la Nuit (Les Nocturnes), LESC, 14 mars 2014, Nanterre.


Samuel Challéat

Samuel Challéat est chercheur en Géographie de l'environnement à l'UMR CNRS 5193 LISST de l'Université de Toulouse 2. Il est l’auteur, en 2010, de la première thèse de Doctorat portant sur la problématique émergente de la pollution lumineuse. Ce travail, intitulé « "Sauver la nuit". Empreinte lumineuse, urbanisme et gouvernance des territoires », explore les mutations de la fabrique et de la gouvernance de l’éclairage urbain face aux nouvelles préoccupations environnementales et économiques dans les territoires à l’échelle nationale, et ouvre des pistes de recherche sur les notions d’empreinte lumineuse, de trame noire ou encore de paysages nocturnes. Depuis 2013, Samuel Challéat coordonne le Collectif de recherche RENOIR (Ressources environnementales nocturnes & territoires), démarche collective qui opère la jonction entre l’approche de la nuit par les sciences de la société et les approches de la pollution lumineuse par les sciences du vivant. Ses travaux actuels portent la focale – suivant le cadre d’analyse des socio-écosystèmes – sur l’environnement nocturne, qu’il s’attache à construire en objet de recherche interdisciplinaire.

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