Restoring Night Skies

Did you know that night lighting — street lights, porch lights, yard lights and car lights — creates problems at night? It produces glare, hampers sleep, harms plants and destroys some animals’ environments. In Strathcona County, Alberta, the community is doing something about it. By asking citizens to curb their lighting habits, they are restoring the dark skies at night.

In Strathcona County, the preservation of natural darkness is considered a community responsibility. They have adopted a Light Efficient Community Policy and published a handbook about it as well. The community policy addresses all lighting in the county, whether private or public. Excess light is deemed to be polluting and the coincidence of energy savings from curbing night lighting is considered an important but secondary benefit. The policy is really about creating an environment where human beings, animals and plants can live normal lives unhampered by the artificial light that form domes over urban centers. The American Medical Association has opined that night lighting is harmful to sleep, so there is support for their arguments.

Silhouette halos and annoying glare are potentially dangerous at night, causing car collisions and accidents. The artificial lighting is so pervasive it throws the balance between night and day out of balance. Some plants start blooming patterns based on how long or short the days are — a natural process that is obliterated by artificial lights. Nocturnal animals find their way of life turned upside down by night lighting. Migratory birds have been so disturbed by night lighting that millions have died.

The restoration of dark skies at night also have also had an unexpected benefit. The heaven’s constellations are richer and clearer at night without the glare of night lighting. When they take out their binoculars, community members can find their favorite constellation easier. Stars, auroras and some night cloud formations are also easier to experience.

Community members are asked to help by using sensors, timers, and energy-efficient bulbs in their outdoor lighting. By assessing how much light is needed at night, a community member can cut the number of bulbs they are burning. And using reflective shields can direct much of the light downward, to be absorbed by the ground.

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