One of the biggest differences I noticed when we moved to the DC area – no stars. When we lived in Minnesota, on the joys in the evenings was to go on the deck and look up. That stunning dark blue velvet sky, with thousands of stars; or the glories of the Northern Lights pulsing in the sky, reflecting on the snow; the fireworks of the meteor showers we watched very early one bonechilling morning.
Here, even out in the suburbs – nary a star. We really noticed it when we were out in West Virginia for a concert, that night we actually saw the stars again. Strange how you don’t realize you are missing something, until you see it again.
Today I heard a report about a study at the University of Colorado. Not only does light pollution affect our sleep cycles, and that of the natural world around us (birds flying into windows, etc.) but now there is proof that it is also affecting the air around us.
“Every night, chemicals from vehicle exhaust and other human created sources are broken down and prevented from becoming smog, ozone, or other irritants by a form of nitrogen oxide called the nitrate radical. Sunlight destroys the naturally occurring nitrate radical, so this process occurs only in hours of darkness.” Read More
In DARKNESS. Since it never really gets dark over many of our cities, this process can’t occur; and it gets worse. If this process is interrupted, ozone is formed – the ozone that is contributing to global warming!
Another direct consequence of all this light pollution – is the air pollution from all of the power plants that supply all that power; all those coal fired plants that are sending all those noxious chemicals into the atmosphere.
We all want safe cities, we all want to be able to walk in safety down our streets. But a change in design could keep much of the “uplighting” pollution from affecting that nitrate radical. Timers could turn off the lights that aren’t needed after a certain hour. Do we really need all those neon store signs at 2 am unless it is an all night grocery or pharmacy? I agree, we need to have enough lights for safety. But the light outside my bedroom window that is on all night, full blast, lighting the small playground to daylight levels – for what?? A small light to discourage anyone from “camping out”, or to keep someone safe from falling off the slide in a drunken stupor would suffice… but this light is enough to read by in my bedroom, necessitating the blinds and thick curtains.
There must be a compromise, between safety and conservation. I am sure that a more effective lighting system could be put into place, and pay for itself with less energy costs.
Join us at Moms Clean Air Force. Together our voices are loud, and getting louder with each new voice, with each new mom or dad, grandma or grandpa, aunt and uncle who raises their voice and demands clean air for the children in their lives!