In recent years the increasing amount of lighting, including street, security and advertising lighting, has meant that a dark sky has become a rarity, particularly in urban areas. This is of concern to astronomers and the general public because the sight of the stars is one of Nature’s wonders. No one wishes to deny our children the opportunity of viewing this wonder.
The need for lighting is not disputed. Lights are needed for our safety and security. Outdoor lighting is also needed to floodlight nighttime sporting events, and for security around our homes and in public areas such as car parks. But often this lighting is excessive. Lights which are too bright leave areas of dark shadow and temporarily ruin our ability to see in the dark (our ‘dark adaption’). A picture of Britain taken from space shows that we are wasting massive amounts of energy by beaming a lot of this light straight out into space.
Although light pollution is not new, it has increased significantly in the last 40 years. Light pollution occurs when too much artificial illumination enters the night sky and reflects off of airborne water droplets and dust particles causing a condition known as skyglow. Much of this light originates from improperly aimed and unshielded light fixtures.
In addition to robbing us of the wonders of the night’s sky, light pollution affects everyone’s quality of life in other ways too, and many of us do not even realise it. Significantly, light pollution robs us of our right to privacy and fair legal use of our land when glaring unshielded lights shine artificial illumination onto our property at night. It is an unwelcome violation of our space. Light pollution can also disturb our sleep.
At an individual level the cure for this needless waste of electricity and extra light spillage is relatively simple to achieve. Some easy solutions include:
- Use the right amount of light.
- Shield the light so that is goes down, not up or sideways.
- Use light timer controls whenever possible.
- Avoid using round globe lights unless they are properly shielded.
- Educate other people about the adverse effects of inappropriate lighting.
Unfortunately, the reduction of light pollution from widespread street lighting may prove more difficult to achieve.