Merriott column: We’re losing our night to the light
“And God said ‘Let there be light …’” — Genesis 1:3
Somehow, I don’t think where we are today is quite what God had in mind? Apparently, GPS satellites have determined that the nighttime light from earth is growing at 2% a year, yet another factor needlessly wreaking havoc on the natural environment we were so blessed with.
It doesn’t have to be that way you know. I mean, do we really think the new Federal Express location needed all that nighttime lighting trespassing into all their neighbor’s night skies to protect their packages. It looks more like a maximum-security prison.
Earlier this month, Gov. Jared Polis issued a proclamation that announced June as Colorado’s first Dark Sky Month. Colorado is aiming to highlight the importance of maintaining the nighttime environment and the minimizing the negative effects of light pollution and trespass. There are billions of stars in the sky, yet it is becoming harder and harder to see anything but Venus in the morning sky and that is actually a planet.
Did you know that half the people in the world have never seen a starry night sky? Colorado Mountain College has to go to Rifle to do their astronomy classes? I would challenge you to gaze at the Milky Way. It may even plant the seed that there is a higher being, and just maybe we should be doing better with what we have been blessed with?
Aesthetics aside, the International Dark Sky Association, a recognized authority on light pollution, maintains the position that there are environmental and economic benefits, as well. IDSA estimates that 35% of outdoor lighting is totally wasted, amounting to billions of $$ of wasted energy each year! That’s a heck of a lot of coal and natural gas, especially in these days and times.
The National Park Service has gone on record to say that natural light cycles are necessary for the survival of all plant and animal species. They go on to say that natural light cycles help regulate circadian rhythms, and natural darkness can be advantageous to us humans by lowering blood pressure and stress levels. Please give me a triple shot of that.
In 1998 when Carly and I moved to Carbondale, it didn’t take long to realize that something was amiss in the way all the Victorian homes were being built in Old Town RVR. As soon as the cheap, clear-lensed outside lighting fixtures were hooked up, a 100w bulb was screwed in, activated and stayed on 24 hours a day until the unit sold. Talk about glare bombs. I actually went over and asked one of the builders why he left the lights on all night long and the response was to protect his tools? WTH?
This is in itself a fallacy, in that bright lights draw your eye to them and then tend to “blind” you as your pupil contracts unable to see into the shadows. A motion sensor light is by far the most effective and energy efficient way to provide safety and security.
This construction practice was actually the genesis of the first Carbondale Lighting Ordinance in 2003. The ordinance made a 40w bulb the maximum wattage and prohibited clear-lensed fixtures. In fact, all residential lighting in Carbondale now has to be “fully shielded down directed.”
I would bet Garfield County would have liked to have had such an ordinance on the books before Federal Super Max Express, as the proverbial switch board got lit up to the county commissioners on that one. Dude!
In this day and time with LED (Light Emitting Diodes) and night sky friendly fixtures, there is just no need for light pollution going into the night skies. Also, some of the old technologies (low/high pressure sodium) are actually dangerous in the old street lights, as they make it impossible for a first responder to distinguish between blood and oil. Safety? Let that sink in.
So, what can we do to be aware of BUG (Backlight, Uplight, Glare) rating of each fixture? Do your best to control light pollution and light trespass that you are responsible for. Buy LED lights, but remember to be especially aware of the whiter temperatures of LEDS. You probably don’t want to go over 3000 Kelvin temperature i.e. in the Carbondale UDC (Unified Development Code) 3,000 Kelvin is recommended and anything over 3,500 is prohibited.
If you must use the garish whiter lighting inside, do your neighbors a favor and use shades to cover your windows. Use smaller light bulbs and don’t point them at your neighbors.
And, hey, I am excited to be heading to the top of Independence Pass next new moon to gaze in awe at the Milky Way. I haven’t seen my old buddy in quite some time now. I need that triple shot of stress relief.
If you are not part of the solution you are part of the problem
Frosty Merriott is a CPA in Carbondale and former Carbondale Town Council member. He is a registered independent and considers himself a fiscal conservative but an original tree hugger from Louisiana. His column appears monthly in the Glenwood Springs Post Independent. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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