Light pollution is affecting communities all over the world. Today I read an article called The Death of Night – Astronomers and Environmentalists Fight to Save Dark Skies by Marco Evers today in Spiegel Online International about the ever increasing plight of light pollution. The one hopeful note is that articles reporting on the effects of light pollution are being written daily in publications all over the world. This is a major problem in industrialized nations which, unfortunately, continues to worsen.
The sheer numbers of lights are being switched on even before dark bathing city buildings and streets in create an atmosphere of “blazingly bright light.” No matter the economic crisis or the high cost of electricity, states the article, more lights are being added to the mix all the time creating a Germany that is getting brighter daily.
Again, we’re reminded of the harmful effects of light pollution on ecosystems, birds, insects and other animals, including humans.
And, again, we’re reminded that children don’t know what a starry sky looks like and can’t name more than 3 celestial bodies, the sun, the moon and possibly Venus. As the day becomes the night, the night becomes the day in an all too familiar orange glow.
But, thankfully, not everyone is taking this in stride anymore. “Stargazers, environmentalists, light engineers, cultural anthropologists and doctors specializing in the treatment of sleep disorders all want to put an end to the dictatorship of eternal light.”
In past blog posts, I’ve highlighted where communities have passed or are trying to pass laws and ordinances to combat light pollution. In Europe, Slovenia is the leader requiring towns and cities to reduce light emissions, including a requirement for downward light.
German scientists are beginning to research the harmful effects of light pollution and what to do about it. More than two dozen scientists lead by two highly regarded fisheries and ecology institutes will be studying the effects of light pollution on plants, animals and people. An example cited is the effect of the day never ending on bodies of water such as lakes where the light promotes algae growth, changing the food supply. These scientists will not only be studying the effects of light pollution, but will also be making recommendations for solutions to the problem.
Evers makes a dramatic statement that here we are celebrating the 400th anniversary of Galileo’s telescope, when, in fact if Galileo were alive today any telescope he might have invented would have been useless.
Here in the US, the International Dark Sky Association (IDA) has awarded two regions the title “International Dark Sky Park,” in Utah and Pennsylvania. As Evers goes into describing how a region gets this award, he laments that such a place exists nowhere in Germany, not even in the Alps or the Bavarian Forest. And, so, If the environment doesn’t spur the people to combat light pollution, possibly something called “astro-tourism” would. Britain and France have applied for dark sky park status. The darkest country in Europe is Scotland, though.
This well-researched and written article is a must read for anyone interested in knowing more about light pollution’s harmful effects and some of the ways people around the world, and particularly in Europe, are beginning to address it. How much light do people need? And, beyond the question of environmental harm, is more light making our lives more hazardous instead of safer?
We can each do our part by replacing current outdoor lighting with dark sky compliant lighting fixtures as our budgets allow and to only turn on outdoor lighting when needed. It may not be long before we are all mandated by our local municipalities to do this, if you have not been already.