EGENIS seminar: "Making up publics: configuring expertise, knowledge and ignorance in environmental research", Prof Judith Green (University of Exeter)

Egenis seminar series

An Egenis, the Centre for the Study of Life Sciences seminar
Date17 May 2021
Time15:30 to 17:00
PlaceOnline event.

This paper takes an example from a field where scientific knowledge is emergent and uncertain - the health impacts of artificial light at night – to explore how knowledge and ignorance are mobilised to create publics. Artificial light at night has become a matter of political, environmental and public health concern, as urban administrations across the world seek to reduce carbon emissions and costs by using emergent LED and smart technologies to manage street lighting. In doing so, these administrations interact with civil society and academic groups concerned by the impacts of light pollution on the ecosystem and human experiences of the night sky. However, urban light at night is not just a technological accomplishment and light pollution risk: providing it is intricately tied to the histories of city governance, and the making of modern spaces of security and safety.

In contesting reductions to light at night, scientific knowledge is mobilised to adjudicate on the evidence for risks and benefits.  Yet, evidence on the impact of light at night on human health is scant.   This paper draws on data from a project which evaluated the impact of street lighting reductions on two determinants of health (road injury and crime) and mapped public views of artificial light at night. In generating knowledge to reduce uncertainty, environmental research also inevitably generates ignorance and more uncertainty.  This double generation produces publics, in delineating knowledge from opinion, evidence from activism, and the general from the local. 

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