What is light pollution?
Light pollution is the general term for the wasted man-made light that illuminates the night sky. Most city dwellers on the planet will be familiar with the washed out view of the night sky from their cities. Do clouds look lit up with an orange glow at night? - that's light pollution. This effect wastes energy and spoils the natural beauty of the night sky making only the very brightest of stars visible. Light pollution has been advancing relentlessly in the last few decades, if you still have a dark sky now, chances are you won't in the next 5-10 years.
What is being done about it?
It is in the interests of all concerned to stop light pollution. Better lighting is more efficient, wastes less energy and lets everyone enjoy the night sky from wherever you live. Despite this, change is very slow, national and local governments often don't see this issue as a vote winner. The International Dark Sky Association has done enormous amounts to make the world aware of the problem and through their efforts many states in the US now have regulations in place to prevent the use of poor and inefficient lighting that helps to create the problem.
The BAA's Campaign For Dark Skies has worked hard in the UK and has achieved a landmark victory with the publication of the Commons Select Committee report on 'Light Pollution & Astronomy' (October 2003). The report came out wholly in favour of the astronomical community. A summary of the recommendations can be found here. The Institutution of Lighting Engineers has some good technical information on their Website, unfortunately not all lighting engineers follow it.
What can you do about it?
Above all else don't be complacent! take some action Now. Here are some ideas.
- Write to your MP
Don't know who your MP is? Search
House of Commons
- Write to your MEP Don't know who your MEP is? Search Here
- Write to Local Authorities & local councilors. Find details here
- Educate people you know about the subject, most people have heard about
If you or a neighbour have a security light:
- Make sure it works on a passive infra-red switch, i.e. only comes on when an intruder is present.
- Make sure its light only shines below the horizontal, i.e. no light shines into the sky
Use a 150W lamp instead of a 500W lamp. This reduces glare and makes intruders more
easily seen! It also will save you and the planet some energy!