I mean seriously... WHY?

Apr 12

Written by:
4/12/2012 2:29 PM  RssIcon

If you ask anyone alive today and old enough to remember the 1950's, they will wax nostalgic about how they could still see stars even from big cities, but more importantly how they could see so many stars in areas outside of them.  Certainly cities are always going to be areas where light is required - more people, vehicles, businesses, etc.  That's not to say we can't do a better job of designing and installing lights in cities - or in suburban areas - though.  Take a look at this animated gif made by CloudyNights.com forum member GrafikDihzahyn - it displays in alarming detail how light pollution has not only gotten worse in the United States from 1950 through 2010, but how it is has spread so pervasively in a short 60 years:

 

Notice how there used to be dark areas in the eastern half of the country - now there are effectively none that offer truly dark skies (green zones have what I would call "good" skies, but not anywhere near "great" either).  And even out west, the small pockets that used to be Denver, Phoenix and Salt Lake City are now massive blobs that have overtaken parts of their states

In a world of budget cuts, do we not realize that more light - more WASTED light - costs money?  Now, I know the argument that typically follows: "Well, more light means we are safer."  This is not supported by facts.  A study done in Chicago in the late 1990's showed that increased lighting only served to increase reported crime, and recently the city of Bristol in the United Kingdom turned off ALL of their lights and experienced not an increase in crime, but a DECREASE in crime of 50%  Not 10, not 20, but FIFTY.  Crime cut in half, with no light.  Imagine that.  Besides, FBI statistics show that 60% of crime happens during the day anyway.

So are we a nation that is basically afraid of the dark, and willing to pay to pretend we are safer with billions of lights on at night, when in fact it does not make us any safer at all?

But let's assume that the light is needed to keep us safe.  The International Dark Sky Association estimates that we waste $2.2 BILLION dollars every year on light that is wasted.  In other words, we're spending money on light that doesn't light up the ground to keep us safe - it lights up the AIR above our heads, which doesn't keep anyone safer at all.

Why?  

Why do we find that acceptable?  Under what business model is it a good thing to waste money by literally throwing it up into the air?  Surely KanBan, Kaizen, Six Sigma, etc. would find that such inefficiencies are not only unhelpful, but problems requiring immediate and effective changes, yes?  Yet we have entities like the Competitive Enterprise Institute telling us that during Earth Hour we should turn on MORE lights.  

That will make business more competitive?  By wasting energy?  In what reality?

Let's be smarter.  Wal-Mart has this figured out, and is installing lower wattage lighting that still provides safety for their customers yet aims all the light down.  If Wal-Mart is doing it to save money and increase its competitive posture, couldn't the rest of us learn a thing or two so we can all save money on our own electric bills, business, homeowner and municipal - and still remain safe?

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4 comment(s) so far...


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Re: I mean seriously... WHY?

Why? IMO it's because the need to make money outweighs the need to see the night sky. And as you said, this has been a 60 year gradual increase - not a sudden change. So people don't miss what they don't know is missing.
How to stop the progression? Tight regulation with close enforcement.
Walmart? I'm not impressed. They're trending toward using blue-white light LEDs in parking lots and using more luminaires to get the uniformity ratio they want. True LEDs are more focused but the sky glow created with the blue-white light is worse than HPS or the "evil" LPS.
If Walmart wants to be a leader then they should push the lighting industry to create LEDs in the 2700 degree Kelvin range. Only then will I be impressed.
Also for those who live in Illinois, keep one "eye on the sky" and one on Homer Glen. While the cats away the mice will play ...

By Debra on   4/13/2012 9:41 AM

Re: I mean seriously... WHY?

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The Nightlight

This blog includes what to see in the night and daytime skies, thoughts on telescopes, binoculars, and other astronomy observing accessories and equipment, plus my own occasional notes on objects I've seen and observed. Oh, and the random theater or other "my take on life" post. In other words, there is always something interesting. Check it out.