The Curse of Light Pollution
- Way too many empty parking lots are lit all night long for no reason;
keep a couple of lights on inner parking lots near buildings, perhaps, but
turn most of those lights off "after hours"! Business lighting (particularly
that of single-store sites, as compared to malls, and of gas stations) is
very frequently much too bright, and frequently points out dangerously into
adjoining streets and wrongly into neighboring properties.
- Homeowners and business owners/managers should be good neighbors,
turning out lights at night
whenever possible, as a courtesy to residents (trying to sleep, or perhaps
even view the stars from their front porch or backyard!) and as a safety
courtesy to those motorists, pedestrians, or bicyclists who might happen by.
Homeowners should never install unshielded driveway or porch lights that
cast bright, glary light into the street or onto neighboring properties;
if such fixtures exist, replace them or place shields on them so that their
light goes downward, not outward off of your property.
Spotlights should be directed downwards, not outwards (and shielded), and
signs should be lit from above (not from below or within).
- Do not be afraid to tactfully ask your neighbor or nearby business to
shield (or re-direct) their lights, if those lights are shining onto adjacent
streets or properties; it is their moral (and often legal) responsibility to
do so. Many
(perhaps even most) communities have bylaws or ordinances that prohibit
nuisance lighting (just as there are such edicts to prohibit nuisance noise,
leaf-burning, etc.); if your community does not have such a bylaw or
ordinance, we can help you with useful information to use in enacting such
an ordinance or bylaw (see samples below).
- Legislation is being enacted at an increasing rate across the USA,
both at the local and state levels, to mandate that publicly-spent money
be used more wisely in the case of outdoor lighting (for full-cutoff,
lower-wattage fixtures), so that more money is available for much more
urgent things (police, fire, education) and for tax cuts!
- A recent article in PUBLIC POWER
(March-April 1997, p. 20) relates, "Fred Dickey, a lighting specialist
for General Electric, said there is a direct correlation between roadway
glare and traffic accidents"; Dickey adds, "A bright light could blind
drivers and create an accident situation a little farther down the road."
In fact, many (most?) streets with roadway lighting do not need any lighting
at all; well-painted lines on streets and good
highway (directional) signage are usually all that is needed to ensure roadway
safety (except perhaps at dangerous intersections, where proper lighting
can be a help). [We also need to lobby auto makers and government officials
to get the new, overly-bright and dangerous halogen headlights on cars to
be re-designed so that they point down and away from on-coming motorists.]
But always show the courtesy to
others that you expect from them when approaching neighbors, businesses, or government
officials to replace bad outdoor lighting with good lighting.
- You can compile a list of the best and worst lighting in your local
community, and distribute it via your local newspaper so that people can
be drawn to think about good versus bad lighting. An example of such a
list for Lexington, Massachusetts, is available
- While society has seemingly trained non-astronomers to be afraid of the
dark, there is in fact little or no proof that adding street lights will
decrease crime in most areas (with the possible exception of some troubled
--- and numerous studies suggesting the opposite (that outdoor
lighting increases crime) are available. Most crime occurs in the daytime,
anyway. Urban and suburban people have lost touch with their environment,
and do not realize that the nighttime without artificial lighting under
clear skies is
actually quite bright! But one must go to a dark place and allow one's
eyes to become dark-adapted (usually 20-30 minutes at least) to see that
this is true.