The leisure cabin is a deeply entrenched structure in Norwegian nature and culture. Close to half a million cabins dot the countryside in a nation of less than five million inhabitants. The cabin lifestyle is also rooted in history and tradition, in an idea of escaping from the stress of urban life to relax and “recharge one’s batteries” in nature. While this sounds anti-modern, cabin owners have eagerly adopted modern comfort technologies in order to make cabin living more convenient.
This paper will explore the historical changes in the experience of night at the cabin, particularly focusing on the tensions between “artificial” electric light and “natural” darkness. Pitch-black nights, natural sounds, and starry night skies are important elements in the national mythology of authentic cabin living, yet these natural experiences has all but disappeared for a majority of cabin owners today. In many cabin developments, the light and noise pollution from electrical devices have more in common with suburbia than with the mythical isolated cabin in the remote wilderness.
The question of electrical light thus leads us to consider Norwegians’ attitude toward nature and how it has changed since the early 1950s. This development reminds us how cabins and urban homes, and nature and culture are tightly connected.
European Society for Environmental History, Turku, Finland, 28 June to 2 July 2011