Friday, April 11, 2008

Lighting the Night


It was a late Monday night and the buying club delivery had just arrived. I stood by the white van chatting with the owner's friend about The Omnivore's Dilemma and how wonderful it to find humanely and sustainably produced animal products such as the grassfed beef, pastured pork and eggs, raw milk delivered to our club. Suddenly, my companion looked up at the clear sky - the stars shimmering against the black night - and inhaled. "Wow, you don't have much light pollution around here," he admired. I had never heard that term before but agreed nonetheless taking in the distant stars and planets. After signing for our order, I waved goodbye and went inside, leaving my porch light on.

Home safety experts sometimes advise leaving outdoor lights on at night to deter unsavory sorts from skulking about. I have diligently left my light on for years for that very purpose. In a nod to living lighter, I long ago replaced the incandescent bulb that burnt out monthly with a long lasting CFL bulb. I've since learned, though, that there is no evidence that artificial lighting deters criminal activity. Moreover, such lighting can create deeper shadows in which criminals might hide. If safety concerns remain, motion detectors and other strategies are more efficient and effective.

I never gave another thought to my acquaintance's comment about light pollution until I came across an article about it last week. Apparently, lights left on at night, like porch lights and office lights, greatly impact the population of migratory birds which use the stars to navigate. These birds often become disoriented by the plethora of lights in cities and densely populated suburbs, like mine. Indeed, as many as 900 million birds crash into buildings annually because they are confused by the bright lights. Moreover, night lights negatively affect turtle hatchlings, salamanders, and juvenile seabirds to name a few.

The more I learn about leaving my light on, the more reasons I encounter to turn it off. From now on, I'll give my porch light, my electricity bill, and the birds a rest and leave the job of lighting the night to the stars and moon.

15 comments:

Joyce said...

Light polution is also linked to insomnia in humans!

lauren said...

Thanks for the post! I have the same issue" a CFL light on all night due to some problems with attempted robberies in our neighborhood. I want our landlord to replace the lighting with motion sensors, and now I have your links to pass along.

MamaBird said...

light pollution is also linked to breast cancer...
http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2005/12/051220182239.htm

innercitygarden said...

Some research I saw (and now can't find) suggested that assaults are more common in lit areas than completely dark places. Presumably because nasty types don't like tripping over things, and want to be able to find and assess someone to assault more easily.

Raw Food Diva said...

Light Pollution is one of my causes.
I was not so welcome in my last residence, a gated community that had guidlines to protect us from light pollution. Our code was very clear that only full shielded downward shining lights were allowed on all outside lights. But some folks just had to put up floodlights or light up their trees or have motion sensors that went off everytime a car drove by!
Light pollution is horrible and I really really hate it!!!!!
: - }

Midlife Traveller said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
ruralaspirations said...

(sorry about that, I used my old username by mistake)... I love seeing all the stars at night when we go camping. I am so looking forward to moving away from the city so I can see those stars every night!

lamamanaturale said...

Great post. I too am guilty of the "night light" security blanket. After this...I'm changing my eco-sinning ways! We have a lot of birds around here too...
I'm new here and just want to let you know I enjoy your site very much!

CindyW said...

Motion sensor is the way to go. That being said, I also wonder a lot about our seemingly irrational fear. In my neighborhood for example, once in a year, someone's car maybe broken in and knickknacks get stolen. That's about it. I often feel weird that we are all so concerned with crime even when the probability of crime is so low. What does that say about us?

Tameson O'Brien said...

my husband and I have no outdoor lighting 'cause we couldn't agree where to put it so it's still in the box. However, our new neighbors accross the street have had their front porch light on every night since January and it's bugging me on several planes - it seeps in between my curtains and I know how much energy it's wasting. I wish I could come up with a tactful way of convincing them of the benefits of motion sensors.

Jenna said...

Well said!

Now, if I could just get my neighbors to read this and turn off the flood light aimed into my hubby and I's bedroom.

I'm glad to read about how lights make bigger pockets of darkness. My husband (and slowly I'M getting dragged into the business) and a friend run defense classes and it is one of the big things we try to drill in. Let you eyes adjust and you can walk in relative safety outside at night. (Just keep a powerful flashlight - TURNED OFF - in your pocket or at hand and use it to blind an attacker.)

One of the main reasons we're looking at moving in the next year or so is to get away from the constant glow.

Going Crunchy said...

Oh my gosh, I'm so giggling. I just had this convo with a buddy this week. I was going to post about it!!!!

I'm amazed when I drive down my suburban street and see lots of outdoor lighting going on.

I find it funny that they are all turned off when people go to bed. If the standpoint of it being a crime fighter is cited, hasn't the whole neighborhood told a criminal that they went to bed?

I think if somebody wants to break in, they are going to do it.

I only use the outdoor lights if I'm expecting somebody to walk up the path or I'm going outside.

Chile said...

We have the little Malibu lights in our yard on a timer. They are only on for the few hours we need at night and then in the morning. Half of them don't even work anymore so we don't add too much light to the night. There is a motion sensor light on the garage but we turned it off. Every single breeze and stray cat would trigger it. I got tired of it and I'm sure my neighbors appreciated not having it light up their yard, too!

Gina said...

Some cities, such as Tucson, AZ, use the shielded lights (along with selectively lit streets only) to make their night time skies darker and reduce light pollution. Part of the Tucson example is that there is a telescope used by the university on one of the smaller mountains.

I do know that crime was similar in Tucson as any other medium to large city and the lighted cities do not have reduced crime as a result of the lights. Dogs have been known to be better deterents to criminals.

Instead of everyone moving away from the city to escape the lights, perhaps we should be tackling the problem and solving it. I have lived both urbanly and now have a home in the country, but the lights from the nearest few small to large cities is a major glow on the horizon at all hours of the night. How lovely it would be to get these cities to reduce the light pollution.

Wild Orchids for Trotsky said...

Every amateur astronomer will thank you for turning off the outdoor lighting, too! I can attest to what a difference it makes - I built a small home observatory at my parents' house (in the countryside), and the skies there are absolutely stunning, but the difference between the neighbors' floodlight being on or off is huge. Also shielded streetlights really improve the light pollution as well as the energy costs. Thanks for a nice post!

LinkWithin

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...