Trail to Earth Day #13: Reduce Light Pollution and Bring Back the Night
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April 16, 2020 — Increasing evidence shows the excessive use of artificial light at night is harming wildlife at an alarming rate.
What’s at stake? The survival of animals critical to their ecosystems, and pollinators that are vital to producing the food we eat, so ultimately human health as well.
Light pollution is the cause of many disruptions in the rhythms of nature around the world. Migrating birds attracted to bright city lights become disoriented, exhausted and suffer fatal collisions with windows and buildings.
Moths and other beneficial insects are killed by artificial lights and die instead of pollinating the plants that rely on them.
Hatchling baby sea turtles are drawn toward city streets and nocturnal predators, rather than the ocean. And fireflies are having trouble reproducing because light pollution from billboards, streetlights and houses is outshining their mating signals.
The Dark Sky Association has good information, as does the National Audubon Society, which has established a national effort to help reduce this problem with its Lights Out program. National Audubon offers these recommendations:
- Turn off outside decorative lighting
- Extinguish pot and flood-lights
- Substitute strobe lighting wherever possible
- Reduce atrium lighting wherever possible
- Turn off interior lighting when not in use or pull window coverings
- Down-shield exterior lighting to eliminate horizontal glare and all light directed upward
- Install automatic motion sensors and controls wherever possible
- When converting to new lighting, assess quality and quantity of light needed, avoiding over-lighting with newer, brighter technology
- Encourage your neighbors to reduce artificial lighting
- Organize a Lights Out program in your community. Here’s a sample letter to get started
By changing your lighting use outdoors and indoors you can help wildlife thrive, save energy—and earn the thanks of the amateur astronomers in your neighborhood! — Liza Hickey
Editor’s note: Here are two videos, the first for the romantic, the second for the less faint-of-heart. Enjoy.