NASA’s night lights imagery published in the Earth Observatory provides a stunning view of our impact on the planet. The following map of Europe at night is an extract of my gridded population projection of the the Earth at night showing more detail of where the distribution of night lights is on the European continent in relation to its population distribution (the surrounding areas such as the northern tip of Africa remain unchanged, hence shows a ‘normal’ land area perspective). Europe is one of the few regions globally (alongside North America) where light pollution at night is very much a phenomenon that is ‘normal’ for the vast majority of people who see very little of the night skies (hence the dominantly bright areas in this image – dark spots are those areas where people live with very little light pollutin). Northumberland Dark Sky Park (which gained Dark Sky Status by the International Dark-Sky Association in December 2013) is now to be known as Europe’s biggest Dark Sky Park and the largest unspoilt area in this regard, squeezed in the sparsely populated bright spaces between Northern England and Southern Scotland in this cartogram:
While Europe remains a predominantly bright patch on the global picture this magnified image of the continent also reveals the existing differences between east and West: While Western Europe very much shines up into space where many people live, the Eastern countries are much more characterised by more obvious differences between the most densely urban und the much larger rural population where less brighter spots become more visible than in most of the rural parts of the west – a sign of prevailing inequalities in wealth, but also a sign of the much more wasteful and less sustainable use of resources in the wealthier part of the continent.