A story in the Chicago Daily Herald observed recently that the eve of the winter solstice was at hand. December 21, was the longest night of the year. The cause of the winter solstice was explained in depth in the article. Once upon a time, ancient peoples celebrated this event as an indication that the sun would return. As for present day people, it’s a different story. This past Monday, Dec 21st, people unaware of the winter solstice may have wondered why the night was so long. Perhaps they slept soundly, or looked out the window at the winter moon. However, as the Chicago Daily Herald contends, it is more likely that they were shopping under brilliant lights and texting into their glowing mobile devices unaware of the significance of the moment.
The news story in the Daily Herald calls attention to the fact that the winter solstice itself is in danger of being blotted out by the intense radiance of the holiday season. Chicago Daily Herald columnist Valerie Blaine perceptively noted in the article that light pollution is hardly something to feel festive about. Also mentioned is an in depth history of the original reasons for lighting up the night. Initially for productivity and safety reasons, outdoor lighting has become so excessively overdone that the initial purpose of lighting has transformed into something quite the opposite. It seems superfluous that every shrub and tree in every neighborhood is illuminated so brightly that the stars cannot compete. The International Dark-Sky Association contends that the delicate cycle of life is being disrupted by light pollution, resulting in the poor health of all.
The article points out that the dull orange glow in the night sky isn’t natural phenomena. It is the pervasive glow of light pollution. The most interesting aspect of Valerie Blaine’s article is acknowledgment that it may be time for the population to become light pollution Grinches on behalf of preserving our night sky. Also addressed is the fixation on energy efficient lights as a solution. However, this celebration may be premature when it comes to light pollution. According to the International Dark-Sky Association, the blue light emitting LEDs actually contribute to the disruption of the nocturnal environment and threaten night visibility. The overall message is that although LEDs are energy efficient, the same precautions of moderation and shading of lights is recommended.
Fortunately, the world doesn’t have to accept light pollution while they wait for technology to catch up. The article recommends pulling the plug as a basic way to end light pollution. The benefit besides conservation is a lower energy bill. According to the International Dark-Sky Association, the rare wonders of the night sky should be preserved. The world cannot allow light pollution to cause the longest night of the year to fade into legend. If nothing is done, future generations will never have the luxury to take a break from their hectic lives and search the peaceful dark sky in search of the winter star. It would be a shame to never bundle up and take a winter solstice nature walk in celebration of nature’s changes. As Blaine writes in her column, there is no need to quit festivity altogether. For many, a single, modestly illuminated Christmas tree glowing from a window is just right.