The National Lighting Bureau Wants the Phrase “Artificial Lighting” to GO AWAY

Parental Advisory: Explicit Semantics!

I got an email yesterday from John Bachner at the National Lighting Bureau with a press release about something the NLB is fighting – the use of the phrase “Artificial Lighting.”  The NLB is not happy with the way that ‘artificial’ and ‘lighting’ get used together.  From the press release:

“This is not the first time we’ve attempted to eliminate ‘artificial lighting,’” said Bureau Executive Director John Bachner. “But no matter what we do, we see it every day.” He’s not talking about the illumination systems that make contemporary living possible – think how little would get done well or at all without lighting – but rather the term “artificial lighting.”

“‘Artificial lighting’ is a misnomer; it makes no sense,” Bachner said. “Artificial things aren’t real. Artificial leather is not leather. It may look like leather, it may feel like leather, it might even smell like leather, but it’s not leather. And the same could be said about artificial glass, artificial wood, and even artificial foods, like artificial crab and artificial cheese. They may be real something, but they’re fake whatever it is they’re trying to appear or taste or smell to be. That’s not the case with lighting.”

Bachner should know whereof he speaks. A National Lighting Bureau staff executive since 1976, he is a Harvard English major who has been published extensively on a variety of subjects, including proper use of the English language.

“The light we get from electric illumination systems is real light,” Bachner said. “There’s nothing artificial about it.” He suggested that the term “artificial” was applied to distinguish electric and other types of man-made lighting from “natural lighting.” “‘Natural lighting’ is also referred to as ‘daylighting,’” Bachner said, “but not all natural lighting is ‘daylighting,’ or – more appropriately – sunlight. The light we get from the moon is natural, as is the light we get from the stars and even swamp gas and lightning. Man-made lighting is predominantly electric, of course, but gas lighting is still used in places, as are torches made from tree limbs and kerosene-soaked rags, at least in the movies.”

Like many things in our lives, semantics means everything when it comes to the opinion of the masses.  What do you all think of this?

Read the entire NLB press release here:

National Lighting Bureau Calls for the End of “Artificial Lighting”

2 replies
  1. Tom
    Tom says:

    Something that caught my eye:

    “In fact, when properly designed, man-made lighting generates a better return on investment than any other energized system. All of us in the lighting community need to make more people aware of these important facts.”

    The folks at the NLB, just complained about using the term “artificial lighting” yet now you are going on about man-made lighting. Isn’t that the same thing!? And then they slip in the little comment about the return on investment, where did that come from, aren’t we talking about the improper use of English? Also what is an “energized system”? So basically you just compared the return on investment to something so vague it means nothing and said it was the best.

    I could go on but I won’t. This is so biased and absurd it makes me mad. My impression is that the NLB simply a lobbyist group and as such they should be taken with a grain of salt. Just as we take the corn farmers associations or whatever they call themselves with a grain of salt. Sure both light and corn are important but they are fundamentally biased when they are the ones who are publishing it. Light shouldn’t be described with English it is described with Math and Science.
    Ill be writing a report about how awesome and important I am, telling how you should invest in my career or whatever, but Ill publish it under the guise that my name should be pronounced such and such way…

    Marketing rubbish.

    • John Bachner
      John Bachner says:

      Sorry you feel that way, Tom. Some facts…

      The light produced by man-made illumination systems is real light, and it’s real important light, too, since — generally speakaing — it’s the only light availble when sunshine isn’t; e.g., in buildings or anywhere at night. I’ve spent 35 years in the lighting community. I’m tired of hearing people say that I’m working on somethting artificial. It’s not.

      As for ROI, please refer to our web page. Good lighting can help workers improve performance of visual tasks by 5% and more. A worker who receives $40,000 per year in salary and benefits can provide $400 more per year of value to an employer when better lighting inproves productivity by just 1%. Often the new lighting that provides such a good return on investment can reduce lighting energy consumption by 50% and more. We have a variety of case histories that back up that point.

      The Bureau is a not-for-profit lighting information resource. We do not lobby and never have. We are supported by manufacturers, trade associations, professional societies, and federal government agencies, among others.

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