The Beauty of Darkness

Posted on April 25, 2012 by Courtney

Please welcome today’s guest poster, Jessica Arinella,  creator/writer/producer of the What You Can Do series

Image credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/blyzz/4146474229/?q=night%20sky

On my quest to discover one-minute ways to change the world with the What You Can Do series, I have been fortunate to meet many inspiring people. On a trip to Bryce Canyon National Park in Utah, I learned the importance of protecting the night sky from Dark Ranger Kevin Poe, also known as a “sworn enemy of light pollution”. We all know that sustainable living is critical to fight climate change, but many people don’t realize that the brightening of the night sky is more than an aesthetic issue. Losing the darkness of night affects wildlife, human health and contributes to global warming.

The International Dark Sky Association defines light pollution as “any adverse effect of manmade light”. Below are some surprising facts about light pollution and one-minute ways to help preserve the beauty of the night.  

1)   The Dark Side of Light Pollution

According to The International Dark Sky Association, wasted outdoor lighting or lighting that shines directly upwards wastes 3.6 million tons of coal a year or 12.9 million barrels of oil. Along with creating a huge carbon footprint, costs of excess light total approximately 2.2 billion dollars a year.

You can help by prevent light pollution in a few simple ways:

  • Turn off all outdoor lighting that is not in use
  • Shield all outdoor lighting and make sure that your lights are pointing down and not upwards
  • Use timers or sensors to keep seldom-used areas dark

Visit the International Dark Sky Association website for a residential guide to dark sky friendly lighting.

2) Light Pollution and Safety

Though many people believe a well-lit area is safer than a dark area, surprisingly this proves to be untrue. Because of the way our eyes adjust to light, a bright area can actually be less safe as the contrast between light and dark can create pockets of concealment. So if your outdoor lighting is too bright, someone could be standing right outside of your window and you would not able to see it!

Again, you can help prevent pollution by putting your lights on motion timers and dimmers and making sure that your outdoor lighting points down not up.

3) Light Pollution and Wildlife

Wildlife can be harmed by too much artificial light at night. Many essential behaviors such as mating, migrating, navigating and finding food depend on the ability to experience natural darkness. Birds are especially sensitive to this issue — many will circle well-lit buildings on foggy nights until they either collide or are exhausted. It is estimated that 100 million birds in North America die this way each year.

You can help by speaking to your boss or property manager about turning off the lights in your building after everyone has left. Once again, lights activated by motion sensors would be a solution if your boss has concerns about safety.

You can also petition your town or city to create billboards with lights pointing downwards rather than upwards.

4) Light Pollution and Your Health

Circadian rhythms, or the 24-hour cycle of physical, mental and behavioral changes triggered by light and darkness, are important to a person’s health.  Any more than a candle flame of light shining directly on you while you sleep can prevent your body from properly producing melatonin — an essential hormone.

Take action by making sure that you sleep in maximum darkness, ensuring even light from your alarm clock is not shining too brightly.

5) How You Can Help

Help to spread the word about light pollution. The International Dark Sky Association has many downloadable fact sheets that you can post on your social media page to share with friends and family.

For more information, check out What You Can Do episodes about light pollution.

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Tip of the Day

If It Doesn’t Smell, Don’t Wash It

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According to Real Simple, if every American made an effort to launder less — cutting out just one load of laundry a week per household — we’d save enough water to fill seven million swimming pools each year.

So if it looks clean, and it smells clean, call it clean and wear it again. Consider hanging worn clothes out on your clothesline to freshen them up between wearings.


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