Hawaii is supposed to be a paradise of sugary white beaches, palm trees, surfers, and beautiful, crystal-clear waves. The sun is supposed to rise and set in a fiery stratum of red and orange, and the night sky should be as crystal-clear as the waves. Hawaii is still a paradise, and those beaches are pretty nice too, but the night sky, unfortunately, isn’t much to look at; the stars have been replaced by thick, garbled clouds of light pollution.
There is no doubt about it. Light pollution is a growing problem everywhere, but in Oahu, Hawaii, it has reached epic proportions. It is said that nearly 40% of the energy in Honolulu is being used to light up the night sky; this is not only a flagrant waste of money, but a detriment to the natural beauty of Hawaii. Furthermore, it is not just people who are being affected. Light pollution generated by massive urban sprawl is disorienting to birds, often confusing their flight and migration patterns, as well sea turtle hatchlings, which use the sky and the stars as a compass.
However, there are solutions to the problem of light pollution. For example, in England they have been experimenting with turning off city and highway lights at certain times, thus cutting back on artificial light. They have also begun to replace the old lamps with more energy-efficient lighting sources. This is a good start, and Hawaii could certainly implement some of the same techniques as England to reduce light pollution. With an estimated 7 million dollar electricity bill, 40% of which is being used to light up the night sky, something needs to be done soon.
Hawaii could also learn a thing or two from Canada. In 2002, Calgary completely retrofitted its lighting system. They switched from a 200-watt dropped lens fixture to a 100-watt full cut off fixture, and in doing so have reduced carbon emissions by 16,000 tons.
It is time for cities to take light pollution seriously. The technology is available to put the stars back into the night sky, and money back into the pocket.