Red Winged Black Bird on a fence post in a field.

On Light Pollution


Category: politics

Have you heard of light pollution? This is the belief that mankind puts too much artificial light into the atmosphere, especially during night time hours, and that this can cause unforeseen problems. I like the idea.

Many see light pollution as just more hippy whining about stuff. They say things like, "What harm can light do?" and "We need all that light so we don't stub our toes or get raped by bears." First of all, the whole point of "unforeseen" things is that they are not known at this time. The reason for considering this is that there have been other times in our history when we did things on a large scale that ended up having negative side effects. Maybe it's worth giving it a thought.

As for the safety thing, we produce far more light at night than is needed to increase our safety and security. The lights at a car lot that can be seen from ten miles away improve no one's safety. That's the real issue; do we really need so much artificial light?

I illustrate my own opposition to so much light simply. Imagine that I move in next to you and blast my music at all hours of day and night. The noise crosses my property line over into your property and keeps you from sleeping or otherwise enjoying your home. After going over and growling at me to turn it down, you call the police. In addition to fairly standard "disturbing the peace" violations, your community may have noise ordinances.

Most of us can see where this is a good thing. You really don't want my polka music reverberating through your house any more than I want to hear your nose harp. It's not just at home though. Many communities with noise ordinances apply it to loud car stereos and other sources of noise. Why is it so hard to see that the same applies to light?

Change the scenario. Now I've moved in next to you and I shine my aircraft search lights into your windows all night. Again, you call the police who, at the very least, charge me with disturbing the peace and tell me to turn off the lights. If I shine a spot light into the windshields of oncoming cars, they would charge me with reckless endangerment (no matter how many wrecks I cause.) Shouldn't the same apply to signage that shines a bright light directly from its source to the street where it blinds drivers?

It is my hope that everyone who gets into a collision while driving tries to blame nearby bright lights. Sue the owners of the lights for causing the dangerous conditions. Maybe, with enough outcry, we can get people to tone down the extraneous lights.

My own night vision rocks. That means with the light provided by nature, I see well enough to meander around. It takes an extra bright full moon if I need to read anything, but I don't read outside at night much. A single artificial light screws that up, removes all depth perception, and makes the shadows more dangerous. Using lights outside makes the shadows darker and provides better hiding for bad things. If you are trying to increase safety with light, you are deluding yourself.

In addition to this, there is still all the hippy crap to consider. All that light needs energy which usually means more power generation. Since we don't have magic, limitless, clean energy yet, wasteful use of electricity is generally not good. Then there's all that stuff about messing with nocturnal animals and attracting insects and so forth. Yep, extraneous bright lights are not really a good thing.

So, here's what I want you to do. First, stop using unnecessary lights. If you do have to light up the outside for something, use no more light than really needed. If you have to light your business and its lots, point the lights inward so that you aren't blinding passing motorists. If you are in your car and blinded by some light, make sure your family knows to sue the light's owner. Finally, stop using excessively bright headlights on your car; you're only blinding other drivers.

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