Light Pollution

What is Light Pollution?

Light pollution is the result of unnecessary, poorly designed, improperly installed, or overly bright outdoor lighting. Unfortunately, many outdoor lighting fixtures and installations in common use today fall into one or more of those categories. Some of the components of light pollution are listed below.

The Components of Light Pollution

1) Urban Sky Glow

This is what you see when you look at a city from a distance, a dome of light covering a large area of the sky and blocking your view of the stars. Proof that you don’t have to live in the city to be negatively effected by it wasteful outdoor lighting practices.

2) Light Trespass

The light from a neighbor, business, roadway, billboard etc. shining onto your property without your consent. This is similar to someone playing their stereo loudly late at night keeping you awake, but instead of noise it’s light keeping you awake and invading your privacy. Be aware that all night outdoor lighting has been shown time and time again to actually help the criminals by improving their ability to see your property, a great example is graffiti, seldom is it done in dark alleys. You should also be aware that light at night, even at very dim levels have been medically proven to contribute to the incidence of cancer worldwide.

3) Visual Clutter

Simply put, too much light. This can make it difficult to find your way around at night, Confusing to both tourists as well as the elderly with impaired vision, not a nice welcome mat and totally unnecessary. Many sign ordinances attempt to address this problem trying to make it easier to navigate around the city.

4) Glare

This is when light shines directly into your eyes, like an oncoming car with high beams. Glare often makes it difficult to see the traffic lights, roadway & lane boundaries and even pedestrians. There is nothing good to said about glare, it is most often the result of poorly aimed lighting. Remember if you can see the light bulb, it is probably causing disabling glare. There is a recommended 85 degree cutoff angle that prevents most glare and thereby improving visibility.

5) Energy Waste

Light shining outside the intended target area and upward into the sky is totally wasted. This waste was originally estimated at costing over One Billion Dollars per year in the United States alone back in the 1990’s, with recent figures reaching as high as “Two Billion Dollars”…per year, most agree this is a conservative estimate! Lights that are overly bright are also totally wasting energy. Too bright a light washes out colors and also causes the eye to close up in an effort to protect itself. Now your eye is less effective to you in darker areas and must adjust to the extremes, the older you get the longer this process takes, thus hindering your ability to see. Think about driving into a tunnel on a bright sunny day.

So what can we do?

Surprisingly there are solutions to all these problems in which everybody is a winner. Comprehensive Outdoor Lighting Ordinances are becoming common place around the globe and help protect the citizens, utilities, and governing bodies with enforceable standards. Modern outdoor lighting fixtures have been on the market for a number of years and new models are continually being introduced that effectively address these issues.

Many of these new fixtures are made to look nostalgic, while still offering quality lighting. This is important if you or your town like the historic look, yet demand a safe environment for pedestrians and motorist. No longer are we at the mercy of those poorly designed ‘elcheapo outdoor lighting fixtures’ you once saw all over the countryside, and in many areas you may still see this fixtures out in somebody’s back yard. Amazingly, these fixtures are still sold in the big box home improvement stores, or offered by utility companies as a security light. Unfortunately, they actually offer very little safety and virtually no security for the home owner. These on all night fixtures simple make the criminals job easier by lighting his way through the darkness to your goodies.

These on all night fixtures do have one benefit though, they require a steady stream of electricity to light up the night while most people are asleep and unable to benefit from the light, this is known as the off peak hours, and the electrical consumption simply assures a more steady income for the utility company. If your city, county, or state is still using or allowing the use of these awful glare producing, light trespassing, wasteful fixtures, you should jump into action and insist that your tax dollars stop being wasted and your nighttime visual acuity improved.

Insurance companies and their attorneys are taking notes as well, why should they have to pay out big bucks on claims when the glary lights installed by the city are what caused the wreck. Why should they pay your insurance claims if your neighbors light shinning onto your property is what helped the vandals see so they could leave their artwork all over your wall while you slept? Fact is most graffiti and vandalism crimes take place right under or in close proximity to an on all night light.

Keep this in mind, outdoor lighting fixtures that produce glare have been proven to cause motorist/pedestrian deaths by impairing their ability to see! And, in NC as in many states we often see on the news reports indicating that despite the bright lights, security cameras, barbed wire and even electric fencing, a business or property owner was robbed, vandalized, or even worse!

Now seriously, if all that type of “security” don’t prevent crime why would you be willing to waste your money and even jeopardize your safety and security by installing and depending on some wasteful all night yard light?

Do the right thing, replace that on-all-night wasteful outdoor light with a quality motion/heat sensing security light which have been proven to actually improve your safety and security. If we all did this we would could lower our electrical usage and possibly our monthly bills. You will also be helping out the environment and vastly improving your own safety and security, not to mention your neighbors. And while we are on the subject, join your local community watch program, if there is none then start one! When somebody’s motion light goes off at 3 AM don’t you want your neighbors eyes peering out the windows while dialing 911? AGAIN…This type of security has actually been proven to work!

Learn more about Light Pollution by visiting the web site linked below. Then start contacting local schools, astronomy clubs, environmental centers, city, county, state and federal officials asking that a comprehensive outdoor lighting ordinance be developed that can address these problems. We CAN have effective outdoor lighting without destroying our view of the stars, but not unless YOU help make it happen!

www.darksky.org (IDA)