In the journal Nature, University of Melbourne researcher Michele Acuto argues that what happens in our cities after dark has a tremendous impact on energy, sustainability, waste, and inequality "yet scholarship and policy often neglect these dark hours." According to Acuto, we need a coordinated and cross-disciplinary "science of the night" to gather data and build understanding if we hope to tackle societal-scale issues and build truly smart cities. From Nature:
For instance, few analyses look to see whether policies exacerbate inequalities, which tend to be worse at night. The hospitality and entertainment sectors get most of the focus, even though more midnight workers are employed in logistics and health care. Work at University College London (UCL) demonstrated that night-time spaces for LGBT+ people (people from sexual and gender minorities) are important for community life, and are also at a higher risk of closing than other establishments. UCL also highlighted inequality in transport options: London's celebrated 24-hour Night Tube serves bustling downtown and restaurant districts, and so does more to accommodate late-night revellers than low-income late-shift workers…
Information about the night-time is also crucial for a sustainable planet. At the Connected Cities Lab, we are working with the Melbourne School of Design and the London-based design firm Arup to evaluate how cities are performing at night-time vis-à-vis the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. This is no academic exercise. Evidence that late-night and shift workers have higher risks of conditions such as heart disease, mental-health disorders and cancer reinforce other analyses calling for a higher night-time wage. Understanding that energy use often peaks at night calls for a smarter lighting infrastructure across our cities. Appreciating effects on wildlife can encourage 'temporal zoning' that benefits plants and animals in our cities.
"We need a science of the night" (Nature)