The International Year of Light and Light-based Technologies 2015 [IYL 2015] celebrated its closing ceremony on 4-6 February 2016 in the city of Mérida, Mexico. During three days, over 300 participants reviewed the activities and major outcomes of the IYL 2015 as well as discussed potential legacies of the Year.
A message from the Secretary General of United Nations Ban Ki Moon opened the Closing Ceremony stressing that “IYL 2015 has shown how the science of light, photonics and related technologies can promote sustainable development in many fields, including climate change and energy, agriculture, health and education.” In addition, Flavia Schlegel – UNESCO’s Assistant Director-General for Natural Sciences – in her message to the conference adressed the importance of practical, cost-effective light-based solutions that are becoming increasingly central to the realization of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. During the opening of the event were also further addresses from other high level speakers, including the Governor of the Yucatán State – Rolando Zapata Bello.
The academic programme was opened by Ana María Cetto, Chair of the IYL 2015 Committee in Mexico, who welcomed all the attendees and highlighted the importance of the actions done during 2015 that will have a big impact on the future. John Dudley, Chair of the IYL 015 Steering Committee, gave an overview of the activities developed during the Year. Most notably he highlighted the international coverage of the year with the organization of over 5,000 activities, including scientific conferences, art projects and exhibitions, active learning workshops, festivals and many more, in 148 countries. The international impact was also shown by the over 150 partners involved on the organization of the IYL 2015 and more than 15,000 media mentions in 120 countries.
The programme of the conference included lectures and panel discussion by eminent specialists, comprising two recipients of the Nobel Prize in Physics: Shuji Nakamura and John Mather. The different sessions during the closing ceremony addressed the many ways in which light touches us, and of its centrality in our lives. Topics included health and life science, architecture and urban environments, new light sources for research, optics and phototonics, cultural heritage, light pollution awareness and science education.
Among the potential legacies discussed for IYL 2015 were the initiative to request the designation by the United Nations of an International Day on Light and Light-based Technologies, the commitment to keep the successful UNESCO’s Active Learning in Optics and Photonics [ALOP] programme running in the future and the strengthening of the collaborations between the organizations involved in the organization of the IYL 2015.
The involvement of the City of Mérida was also of great importance during the Closing Ceremony. Cultural and educational activities for the general public were organized during the week, such as a film festival, art installations and an outreach programme in high schools and universities with an overall attendance of 14,000 people.
The ceremony was officially closed with a visit to the archeological site Chichén Itzá, where participants learnt about the ancient Mayan culture and its knowledge of the Universe with two talks from prominent archeoastronomers as well as a light and sound show over the Temple of Kukulcan.
“The IYL 2015 lights that were lit on Paris at the beginning of 2015 are going to be switched off in Chichén Itzá but this does not imply an ending. As the Mayas with their calendar, it is just the ending of one cycle and the beginning of another,” stated Ana María Cetto on her closing speech.
Even though the IYL 2015 is officially closed, its spirit is very much alive. With many activities still happening around the world, for instance France is organizing activities until the end of June 2016 to match the school calendar, it is essential to take advantage of the momentum generated and keep walking through the path illuminated by the International Year of Light to ensure a better tomorrow for all.