Newburyport at night from above.
Wicked Local Photo by Nicole Goodhue
“Astronomers were among the first to record the negative impacts of wasted lighting on scientific research, but for society as a whole, the adverse economic and environmental impacts of wasted energy are apparent in everything from the electric bill to the dwindling natural environment.”
“Light pollution hasn’t just made the night’s sky a little brighter; for most of us, it’s dramatically brighter,” said Kelly Beatty, a senior contributing editor for Sky & Telescope magazine and board of directors member for the International Dark-Sky Association.
Dr. Mario Motta, long time Newburyport, Massachusetts resident, is concerned about his community. Whilst he dreamed of becoming an astrophysicist in University, Dr. Mario Motta is now a renowned cardiologist and president of the Massachusetts Medical Society. Even though Astronomy wasn’t his major field of study, Dr. Motta still finds time to pursue it as a hobby. Yet Dr. Motta’s hobby has now turned into a passion. Presently, he gives lectures on how to curb light pollution and why Newburyport should. Here are some of the points Dr. Motta introduces in his lectures:
“Our pupils aren’t designed to accommodate direct bright light at night. [Without shielded lights] we’re blinding everyone.”
“If your neighbor’s spotlight is shining in your bedroom, it’s going to be a lot harder to sleep; lack of sleep can lead to weight gain, stress, depression and onset of diabetes.” – Dr. Motta
Shielded lighting is absolutely essential to proper lighting principles. It directs the light where it’s needed most: downward. A negative consequence of unshielded lighting is what Dr. Motta calls ‘disability glare.’ This ‘disability glare’ can temporarily “cast everything except the light source into virtual invisibility, causing drivers to see only white, basically blinding them.” Drivers over the age of 50 are at most risk.
Sleep disorders, another negative consequence of light pollution, can also lead to other serious illnesses such as depression, cancer and cardiovascular disease.
“Artificial lighting has a huge detrimental impact on the natural rhythms of wildlife as well. Insects are lured to their deaths when artificial lights make them more visible to predators and easier to hunt. Owls and songbirds that migrate in the night collide with buildings, attracted to the man-made glare, and cannot follow the stars and moon the way they are internally programmed to do. Reptiles shy away from artificial lighting, which limits where they can look for food. Sea turtle mothers and their hatchlings become disoriented by the glow of lights from beach communities, setting off toward the lights of the houses rather than toward the moon over the ocean. Other animals including bats, raccoons, coyotes, deer and moose need the dark for mating and simply to sleep.
Plants, including many of the deciduous trees found in the Newburyport area, also need periods of dark for proper hormonal structures. In some cases, the streetlights confuse the trees enough to keep their leaves in the winter, which though it may look pretty, is actually very unhealthy for the plants themselves.”
“Billions of dollars are spent on unnecessary lighting each year in the United States. Approximately $2.2 billion is spent on lighting the night sky via unshielded outdoor lights. The lights also have a huge impact on carbon dioxide waste, as well, producing more than 14.7 million tons in the U.S. each year.”
In Dr. Motta’s community, unshielded streetlamps utilize 100-watt light bulbs. Shielded streetlamps paired with 60-watt light bulbs would actually light a larger portion of the road, due to the concentration of the light directed downward.
An easy fix
“Street lights are the biggest single source of light pollution, but anyone can reduce light pollution by keeping lights on his/her own property [dark-sky friendly].
“Light only when you need it, only where you need it, and only with the amount necessary.” – Kelly Beatty, a senior contributing editor for Sky & Telescope magazine and board of directors member for the International Dark-Sky Association.
“Unlike many of today’s lingering environmental concerns, the solutions to light pollution are simple, cost-effective and instant.”
Kelly Beatty really hit the nail with the hammer. Keep it simple. If security concerns your household, install shielded motion sensing lights utilizing energy efficient lamps. Light pollution is 100% irreversible and the effects are instantly noticeable.
Let there be night!