Lighting: Its Economic, Cultural, and Social Impact on Cities

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Thomas Alva Edison, credited for inventing the first commercially produced incandescent lightbulb, had this to say about his long journey of experimentation: “I haven’t failed, I just found 10,000 designs that won’t work.” He was referring to the numerous times that his design for the light bulb cracked, burst, and refused to convert electricity to a source of illumination.

After having found the right combination of materials and the correct alignment of support structures, Edison finally discovered how to light up every home in America in 1879. Soon after his experiment went into fruition, he must have done numerous other tests on how to maintain and extend the life of his lightbulb.

Today, across the globe, Edison’s little bulb that was first turned on in 1879 extends its influence with the creation of a million other designs of bulbs, fluorescent tubes and lamps, and other lighting fixtures that radiate every corner of the planet in the year 2020. Light, as dramatically described in the Biblical creation story, truly influences all of Creation.

For instance, across Florida, the importance of lighting to the Sunshine State’s economy, public safety, and ambiance cannot be overstated. The task of maintaining commercial lighting¬†in places of trade and commerce, financial district buildings, schools, churches, homes, malls, and other places of leisure or entertainment is nothing short of a matter of life and death for the state. It is not an exaggeration to state that in darkness, peace and progress cannot exist.

After dark, the neon lights in buildings along Ocean Drive in South Beach, Miami become a dazzling spectacle of colors. The iconic nightlife in Florida was even immortalized in some episodes of the 80s detective and crime TV series, Miami Vice. To those old enough to remember the actor Don Johnson who starred in that now-legendary television show, no episode would be complete without the electronic keyboard excitement of the official Miami Vice theme.

On YouTube, a 56-second clip of the theme ends with the lights of skyscrapers towering over the Biscayne Bay. In the 2006 movie adaptation, the ebony night scenes were given warmth, color, and drama by the same Miami neon lights.

In other places, other types of lights adorn the city streets and suburbs. In the Tampa Bay area, for instance, tall buildings and commercial establishments declare the economic tempo of the city and the dynamism of its almost 500,000 residents and its population of professionals, employees, and workers.

Being near the seas bordering Cuba and the rest of the Caribbean, extending to Central and South America, the state is also home to numerous hotels, casinos, theme parks, shipping ports, and cargo hubs that are so essential to maritime trade, tourism, including other economic and social activities.

Lighting as Economic Spark

It is easy to understand how lighting design in a state or city’s commercial district helps spark economic activity. The multi-color lights announce the promise of fun and entertainment in nightspots, restaurants, and other nocturnal hangouts. During the daytime, these lights help run the economic engine of Florida’s banks, offices, shopping centers, and other areas for business and commerce.

Lighting as a Public Safety Tool

Given Florida’s geographical position, it is host to an annual line-up of typhoons, especially from the months of June to November. These typhoons can escalate into stronger hurricanes that bring rain, thunder, and torrential wind that blows across the entire area. In severe storms, floods may rise and electric power outages occur.

During such times, the availability of emergency lights, illuminated warning signs, and high-capacity searchlights make the difference in cases of forced evacuations rescue operations and disaster relief activities by federal, state, and local first responders. This scenario is best illustrated by power outages during Hurricane Dorian in 2019.

In typical weather, lighting remains vital as an anti-crime prevention tool. Many studies have shown how street lighting reduces crime in neighborhoods and commercial areas. This makes street lighting projects an indispensable part of public law, order, and safety initiatives not just in Florida but literally in all cities and suburbs the world over.

Street lightsLighting that Makes Life Bright

Of course, lighting systems are vital in schools, hospitals, retirement homes, and residential areas that dot across Florida’s landscape and coastlines. Imagine having all those people living without electricity and lighting fixtures. It is simply unimaginable for people in that state, or for communities elsewhere in the world to live without light.

Indeed, it is hard to imagine a world without Edison’s light bulb and the 21st-century designs for illumination systems.¬† Maintaining these sources of light in our homes, offices, public areas, and places of work is vital to our day-to-day routines, business, national economy, and our very way of life.


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