Light Pollution: The Problem and the Benefits of reducing light pollution
How can the problem of light pollution be resolved? What are the solutions? Are there any? The most interesting fact about the solution to this problem is turning of the lights. Simple. Unlike other environmental issues, this can be resolved with the pressing of a switch.
The main culprits of light pollution are poorly designed light fixtures. Light fixtures that cause light to spill upwards or not illuminate the ground effectively are the culprits. Such lighting could range from the 'cobra' shaped' streetlamps to advertisement billboards and aircraft approach lights at airport runways.
The use of such lighting fixtures is widespread and it is difficult to refit all lamps due to cost. Once poor lighting fixtures have been built, the 'correction' process could take much longer.
Examples of light fixtures that cause light to spill upward.
Benefits of a light pollution free world
- Reduction in greenhouse emissions, increase in energy efficiency
High levels of greenhouse emissions that are generated when fossil fuels are burnt can be lowered if lighting fixtures are refitted such that they do not consume excess energy. By ensuring that an area is not over-lit, significant cost savings could result over a period of time. Since light pollution is reduced, a portion of greenhouse emissions, too, would be reduced.
For countries that have ratified the Kyoto Protocol of 1997 to reduce carbon dioxide emissions, this would allow them to reach their carbon dioxide emission reduction targets more quickly. As for other countries that have not exceeded the carbon dioxide emission limits, they could engage in emissions trading and profit more by further reducing their carbon dioxide emissions by reducing light pollution.
As of late, fuel costs have been rising in countries world wide. Thus, a reduction in light pollution would also mean that countries would be able to save possibly about 5-10% of current energy costs (dependent on factors such as levels of energy wasted through light pollution).
The increase in energy efficiency would mean that more money could be saved potentially. With energy costs reduced, city councils can then use this money for other projects to build city infrastructure.
- Lower adverse impact on people and environment
The population of countries affected by light pollution would be able to live in better surroundings without light pollution. By reducing glare, a side-effect of light pollution, they would be able to rest better and be less susceptible to medical conditions arising from prolonged exposure to light, especially those that arise from the disruption of sleeping patterns.
Also, the ageing population would benefit from the reduction of light pollution. As more older drivers take to the streets in the next decade, they would be less prone to accidents when glare along streets is reduced and better lighting conditions improved to cater to the sensitivity of the ageing eye. Moreover, improvement in road driving conditions would benefit all drivers too, not just the elderly.
Animals too, especially endangered species, would be better safeguarded against accidents. Thus, the reduction of light pollution would mean that they have a better chance of survival in an urban environment.
- The night sky as a catalyst for budding scientists
The night sky could be used as a catalyst for young children to pursue their interest in science and astronomy. Light pollution, having severely marred observations of the once-pristine night sky, has also taken a toll on young children, who do not have the chance to enjoy the heavens and ponder its beauty.
With 2005 being the Year of Physics and marking the 100 th year since 1905 when Einstein published five ground-breaking papers, future ‘Einsteins’ out there could, too, be inspired by the night sky to investigate the mysteries of the universe when they grow up.