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Emotionally powerful language for light pollution

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#1 magic612

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Posted 16 October 2013 - 09:59 AM

I was reading an article about the government shutdown (and I'm not inviting a discussion of that, I use it only as a means of making my point), and I read the following sentences:

Language needs to create emotional reactions in order to have impact. Psychologists tell us that emotion works with cognition, to help us with attention, retention and motivation. If the message doesn't resonate emotionally, people won't notice it, much less remember it or be moved to action.


That kind of struck me in terms of the way we discuss light pollution. What words are we using that have an emotional impact, so that people pay attention, retain what we say, and are motivated to change their own lighting/behaviors - or even more importantly, get involved? What phrases do we use so people will notice, remember, and be moved to action?

I would argue we are failing on this point. Although some in the lighting industry, and even larger businesses and some municipalities, are seeing the benefits of better lighting techniques and implementing them, the growth of light pollution has continued, largely because those who do NOT know about poor lighting techniques keep putting up bad lights which contribute to the problem. 99% of lighting fixtures I see available in home improvement stores do not shield light properly.

As LED lighting costs come down, we are going to lose the ability to talk about lighting in terms of cost, as the electricity required to run them is even less than incandescent / other types of lighting. Fortunately, they are directional, but only if we MAKE THAT POINT, and get it to STAY in people's minds, are we going to make a difference. Otherwise, there will be brighter and more LED lights out there, lighting up the night even more than what we have now.

What phrases can we come up with that will create short, memorable, emotionally-powerful messages to get our argument into the public sphere? Any ideas we can use to drive this message home more effectively?

Should we focus on sleep? Safety? Security? Crime? All of the above, but in a coordinated way? How can we craft our message so it is emotionally-charged, and therefore, memorable?

#2 Kfrank

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Posted 16 October 2013 - 10:36 AM

Well, for starters, I'd guess that the majority of humanity do not regard light as a pollutant. So we've got a big job right there.

#3 mak17

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Posted 16 October 2013 - 01:37 PM

I always think about the thousands of substandard roads and bridges in this country and the billions wasted on light pollution over the past 30 years or so. The thought of not being safe while driving on unresponsibly lit but crumbling roads and bridges, dark but def stirs emotions. Everyone can agree its better to switch off some lights and use that money to rebuild our infrastructure.

#4 wargrafix

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Posted 16 October 2013 - 02:24 PM

I wholeheartedly agree with you all. The problem with light-spilling streetlights is that it tires out your eyes while driving, making driving conditions even more unsafe. Proper illumination is not the same as overly bright lights.


Connecting this concept with the average person is a challenge because for all the advancement of civilization, will still believe that there are monsters in the dark other than criminals.

#5 bangbangexplode

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Posted 16 October 2013 - 05:57 PM

I think some sort of "friendly neighbor" slogan would get to some people. Lighting not only affects the property owner but his or her neighbors. Properly shielded lighting can mean happier neighbors (no light trespass = better sleep, etc.)

Unfortunately light trespass is so widespread that it isn't even seen as a problem. In city neighborhoods and densely packed suburbs you have cobra-heads at *every* telephone pole. The people living in these houses don't even know what it's like to experience darkness. They think light pouring into their windows at night is normal because it's just always been that way, instead of asking the question "why is a light meant to illuminate the street shining into my house?" I sometimes complain about the streetlight that shines onto my house and people will just say to put up black-out curtains :confused: People just don't care. This is a great thread that brings up an excellent point. How do we get normal people to care about something like this? It affects all of us but most don't even notice or think twice about it.

#6 derangedhermit

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Posted 16 October 2013 - 07:56 PM

Recent studies show that strong emotions do not work with cognition - in fact the opposite: people cannot think clearly on topics where they hold opinions strongly enough to trigger their emotions.

Turning a civic issue into an emotionally loaded topic seems something many people these days are only too willing to do. The result is a polarized shouting match where there is no room for sensible solutions based on common interests. Thinking is limited to sound-bite knee-jerk retorts.

But if you want to join the slogan-shouting masses scratching each other's eyes out, that's your choice. If you get good at it, call local TV news, they love that stuff, especially if you can incite violence.

#7 magic612

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Posted 16 October 2013 - 09:43 PM

The thought of not being safe while driving on unresponsibly lit but crumbling roads and bridges, dark but def stirs emotions. Everyone can agree its better to switch off some lights and use that money to rebuild our infrastructure.


This is an interesting thought; juxtaposing images of bridges that have collapsed while showing overlit areas that are glaringly bright is an interesting idea to keep in mind. Maybe something to that.... good thought.


I think some sort of "friendly neighbor" slogan would get to some people. Lighting not only affects the property owner but his or her neighbors. Properly shielded lighting can mean happier neighbors (no light trespass = better sleep, etc.)

Unfortunately light trespass is so widespread that it isn't even seen as a problem....[it's seen as] normal because it's just always been that way, instead of asking the question "why is a light meant to illuminate the street shining into my house?" I sometimes complain about the streetlight that shines onto my house and people will just say to put up black-out curtains :confused: People just don't care. This is a great thread that brings up an excellent point. How do we get normal people to care about something like this?


Well, that's why I'm asking the question. I wonder what language we can use that will get people's attention in a way that is constructive, but pull at an emotional thread so that they WILL remember it.



Recent studies show that strong emotions do not work with cognition - in fact the opposite: people cannot think clearly on topics where they hold opinions strongly enough to trigger their emotions.


That's a different topic. I agree that when people are emotionally overloaded they don't have good cognition skills. That's entirely different than creating a marketing idea and words that cause an emotional reaction in someone to move them to action.

Almost no one buys a new car because they NEED one. They buy it because they WANT it. That's emotion over logic. In fact, that's basic sales (read "How to win friends and influence people" or "How to master the art of selling" if you don't believe me), and that's really all I'm saying. I'm not at all suggesting we work to get people so mad they can't think straight. I'm saying, for example, to get someone to think, "Hey, that IS wrong that there's a streetlight shining in my kid's window... and there's something I can do about it too? Good... maybe I will, because I can find information to help me." That's why I made this other thread, for example.

What I'm referring to here is getting someone to an emotional reaction that invites a positive response (in a sales/marketing kind of way), not sloganeering on a TV shoutfest. Those are entirely different things. Let's please keep this on the former point, not the latter one - nor conflate the two as being the same. Thanks.

#8 derangedhermit

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Posted 16 October 2013 - 11:37 PM

The other thread shows you have been patient and polite in your interactions with all the locals involved. "Good on ya", as Australians may still say.

Enforcing your own (excellent IMHO) chosen behavior patterns on others, once you get them roused, and in the face of less-than-respectful responses, may prove difficult.

Best wishes in your efforts.

#9 magic612

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Posted 17 October 2013 - 07:54 AM

Enforcing your own (excellent IMHO) chosen behavior patterns on others, once you get them roused, and in the face of less-than-respectful responses, may prove difficult.


As I discovered with my rather intransigent neighbor, it was more a matter of ME being roused and finding myself becoming increasingly frustrated by the continual stonewalling I received from him. But that's also why I ask the question: What language can we use? What did I overlook in that particular situation? What could I have said differently? Perhaps nothing; and indeed, that particular problem may very likely require intervention at the local political level to produce results (and then that may rouse him after all, and not positively).

But my point remains: We can use language to sway people's opinions, and often in ways that run counter to instinctive fallback reactions. What we need to do is (and I hate using this phrase because it's so overused, but it's appropriate) is to create a new paradigm with respect to lighting. And in so doing, what language can we use that makes people have an emotional reaction, and stop and think, "Yeah, that IS the right thing to do?"

They may not take action right away. But if we have changed their mind, it is shifting the paradigm.

For example:

What if we had a campaign of, I don't know, a short YouTube video. Perhaps it showed someone dealing with light shining into their window, even after they have put up light-block curtains. In other words, they've already done their part, but this light keeps them awake. If we point out that studies are showing this light is related to breast and prostate cancer, those who have been affected by those types of illnesses will have an emotional reaction. They will realize, "Hey, there's a connection between these two things!" And we can then provide a quick education about how simple this can be to fix: A shield over a light, a fixture that aims down, a light with a timer, or motion sensor.

That's what I mean: We need to hit upon a point that MEANS something to others. Light pollution means something to amateur astronomers, but what is the response from others? "Drive out to the country if you want to see the stars!" What's the subtext there? "That's YOUR problem, not mine, and I need the light for security / safety / etc."

We need to shift that. We need to point out that cities in the U.K. that have turned off all their streetlights saw crime DROP. People have almost ubiquitous cell phones now. That gives everyone a flashlight/torch. If not, how much is a flashlight now? $1? $2? It's a nominal cost compared to lighting everything all day long. The issue of sleep is another one, which relates to the melatonin issue. That one ties in with the breast and prostate cancer issue. The AMA has a resolution out there thanks to Dr. Mario Motta that talks about lighting at night with respect to older persons and glare. Lots of things to touch on, but what's the best way?

So I'm asking for what ideas we can use to create the emotional connection with turning lights off, to get people to NOT be "scared of the dark," to get them to think, "Yes, dark at night IS better" and for a valid, emotionally-appealing reason. A car salesman can argue logic all day long, and make zero sales. We can argue logic all day (or night!) long on light pollution, and get nowhere too. We need to hit the emotionally-appealing notes coupled WITH the logic to shift the lighting paradigm that exists.

We do that? We'll see movement on this issue in people's minds. I'm just looking for what those notes are or might be, and there will be different things that appeal to different people. The more we can identify, the more we can touch on.

#10 George N

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Posted 18 October 2013 - 07:36 PM

…for what it’s worth:

The experience with TV adds trying to get folks to increase re-cycling of bottles, cans, etc found the following: Adds trying to convince people that re-cycling was good for the environment resulted in no noticeable change in re-cycle rates. Adds showing local people actually re-cycling *did* improve the rate. Apparently people are motivated by seeing others “do good”.

#11 magic612

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Posted 18 October 2013 - 11:51 PM

…for what it’s worth:

The experience with TV adds trying to get folks to increase re-cycling of bottles, cans, etc found the following: Adds trying to convince people that re-cycling was good for the environment resulted in no noticeable change in re-cycle rates. Adds showing local people actually re-cycling *did* improve the rate. Apparently people are motivated by seeing others “do good”.


I'd say that's worth quite a bit... good insight, George! Thanks!

#12 TCW

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Posted 23 November 2013 - 08:44 PM

Using emotional language appeals (obviously) :foreheadslap: to emotions and not the intellect. Many people like me resent this manipulation and would prefer arguments that focus on economics (energy savings) and other factual information. Manipulation turns people off.

#13 Tony Flanders

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Posted 24 November 2013 - 05:56 AM

Using emotional language appeals (obviously) :foreheadslap: to emotions and not the intellect. Many people like me resent this manipulation and would prefer arguments that focus on economics (energy savings) and other factual information. Manipulation turns people off.


In other words, you need to be manipulated at a more sophisticated level. There's a quote about lies and statistics that comes to mind ...

All of us make decisions based on emotions -- as well we should. Intellect is useful for matching up actions with goals, but it can't generate goals all on its lonesome. You can't get an "ought" from an "is."

#14 TCW

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Posted 25 November 2013 - 02:16 PM

Manipulation is wrong. You can educate people and maybe invite them to view through your scope and perhaps an opportunity will open up to explain the negative effects of light pollution. Getting snarky does not lend credibility.

#15 gdd

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Posted 26 November 2013 - 10:34 PM

Using emotional language appeals (obviously) to emotions and not the intellect. Many people like me resent this manipulation and would prefer arguments that focus on economics (energy savings) and other factual information. Manipulation turns people off.



Our intellect tells us what we NEED.
Our emotions tell us what we WANT.

Gale

#16 Tony Flanders

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Posted 27 November 2013 - 06:00 AM

Manipulation is wrong. You can educate people ...


In my cynical old age, I don't see a clear line between manipulation and education. I always aim to help people think for themselves -- but it's something that most people are profoundly reluctant to do. Educating -- literally, leading people out (of their self-imposed shells) -- doesn't just happen; it's something that has to be strategized, sort of like fighting a war. Manipulation, in other words.

And while aiming primarily at helping people think for themselves, there's no way around the fact that I also want them to see things from my point of view. You can admit that fact or not, but you'll always do it.

I think the main thing is to be honest with yourself, and then you will also be honest with others. In this case, it means admitting that there are both up and down sides to outdoor lighting. And that lack of evidence that lighting deters crime is not at all the same thing as evidence that lighting does not deter crime. And that while light pollution may have very minor ecological downsides (not so minor for sea turtles -- but they're the rare exception), it's primarily a quality-of-life issue.

#17 FirstSight

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Posted 27 November 2013 - 09:52 AM

After you've finally persuaded your neighbor they're safer without lights, don't sneak up behind them one night and shout "BOO!"

#18 aatt

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Posted 27 November 2013 - 12:44 PM

Lighting may be linked to increased cancer risk and if that is verified and the connection between the two disseminated broadly, then maybe we will make more progress.

#19 darknesss

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Posted 28 November 2013 - 12:02 AM

Use emotional language like "Baby rabbits/kittens/puppies can't fall asleep at night because of your lights that use energy produced by RADIOACTIVE nukular reactors and those evil CO2-spewing coal plants".

#20 careysub

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Posted 07 December 2013 - 05:48 PM

My contribution:

Define light pollution in people's mind in terms of light shining directly into their eyes at night.

No one likes that. It is annoying and a safety hazard as well since it reduces visibility.

Push for "safe , efficient lighting - shine light where its needed".

#21 Tony Flanders

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Posted 08 December 2013 - 06:36 AM

My contribution:

Define light pollution in people's mind in terms of light shining directly into their eyes at night.

No one likes that. It is annoying and a safety hazard as well since it reduces visibility.

Push for "safe , efficient lighting - shine light where its needed".


I agree 100%. Many, many people know and hate light trespass. That's the appropriate handle.

#22 rustyprice

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Posted 18 December 2013 - 11:42 PM

I'm somewhat embarrassed to admit that the idea of light pollution hadn't crossed my mind much until very recently. Reading this forum and seeing the pollution map have really had an affect on me. I grew up in the country and just happened to spend summers in one of the few blue spots east of the Mississippi, I've always assumed 'light pullution is a city thing' if that thinking makes sense. I recently watched a TED talk where they did a study of techniques to decrease energy consumption, what was found was that the only effective method was sending out monthly reminders that said "your neighbor is doing better than you", people really respond to competition and the fear of being inferior in funny ways. Final thought, people have to see value in not light polluting, this I assume is mostly done through outreach and education. There are lots of folks out there right now trying to be as green as they can be, but light pollution is rarely brought up, my guess is most of these people would probably do their part if they simply knew what to do and why.

-Rusty

#23 seryddwr

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Posted 19 December 2013 - 10:50 AM

We definitely don't want to use fear mongering type of language. Although it's kind of amusing to me to imagine an ad campaign like: "Your lighting makes you feel safe... but there's a murderer lurking in the shadows caused by your bright spotlights... your cancer risk is rising... you can't sleep properly and will die a horrible death..." (All done in a very deep, ominous voice) Certainly if people see that too much lighting can have a negative impact, not just on the night sky, but on their wallets, their health, and their safety, we can hope to see improvement. The only problem can come from the electric and lighting companies themselves, who have very deep pockets and can hire the very best ad agencies, etc, to easily outdo any possible public service ads.

#24 TCW

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Posted 01 January 2014 - 12:44 AM

Lighting may be linked to increased cancer risk and if that is verified and the connection between the two disseminated broadly, then maybe we will make more progress.

These days people with agendas claim EVERYTHING gives you cancer! :lol:

That type of over the top claim gets a lot of eye rolls and will marginalize you really fast. These days everyone with a political agenda has used hyperbole to the point that people just tune it out. Life goes on and no one is going to equate their porch light with cancer.

Personally I think that real world experience will convince more people than anything else. Invite your neighbors and friends to a star party which will open up opportunities to explain light pollution. :grin:

#25 TCW

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Posted 01 January 2014 - 12:54 AM

These days you can't turn on a TV or radio without being bombarded with transparently manipulative "public service" announcements and commercials making over the top claims. Anymore I just turn them off or mute them. I agree that outdoor lighting is really a quality of life issue. The vast majority of people are worried about making ends meet, not street lights. Claims of cancer and higher or lower crime rates are probably impossible to quantify if you believe them at all.






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