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Episode 4: Like a Truck Stop. Light Pollution News.
Brendan Happe of the Philly Moon Men.
Daylon Burt of the Astro Escape show.
Residents’ petition forces city to revise “monster” street lighting upgrades, Kristen Hernandez of the New Pelican.
The town of Pompano Beach, Florida presented a new street lighting plan designed to provide sufficient coverage to Cynthia Corbett-Elder, and her fellow neighbors of the 2300-2500 block of Northeast 15 Terrace. The proposal shown to residents included overhead fixtures placed at a height of 17.5’, and extended out over the street by a decorative arm, utilizing a lighting fixture called a “Memphis Holophane.” The Memphis Holophane pictured in the article is a tear drop fixture that aims downward with what appears to be limited to no glass outcrop lighting portion of the fixture.
Per the article – “Streetlights are a source of light pollution, which can have serious environmental consequences for humans, wildlife, and our climate, and prohibits the view of the beautiful night sky,” Corbett-Elder said, “Instead of those pretty 17.5’ decorative poles featured in the brochures, the city gave the small residential streets in Fairway Heights giant 30-foot monster light poles.”
And no kidding, from the pictures in the article, these lighting poles appear to make the neighborhood look like a truck stop! The fixtures some of the residents instead ended up receiving were 30’ in height, with a fully unshielded 4000K LED acorn. The light itself looks very very bright.
City Clerk Kervin Alfred countered that the cost to implement the initial program appeared to be a factor. Per Alfred, “The design including the smaller, 17.5’ poles would have required many more poles.”
After a period of going back and forth, Pompano Beach agreed to remove only one of the eight poles and offered to install shielding as need be for Corbett-Elder.
Were Corbett-Elder and the residents of Fairway Heights hoodwinked?! For those of you not aware, Pompano Beach sits about 35 miles south of our late great President Trump’s southern Oval Office.
LED streetlights are energy efficient, but are they environmentally friendly? It’s complicated by Yvonne Bertucci zum Tobel of WLRN 91.3 FM.
This is an important article. Maybe you’ll agree with me. Up the street from Pampano Beach by a half hour sits Boca Raton. Like Pampano Beach, Boca Rotan is currently switching over their high pressure sodium lights to LEDS.
The State of Florida caps LED temperatures to 3,000K per the American Medical Association recommendation. However, this rule exempts municipalities that do not need to follow the state’s guidance, which may routinely install lights from 3-4,000K temperatures.
Boca Rotan, like many beachside Florida towns, utilizes sea turtle friendly lighting temperatures along coastal sections of the community. This means that the community will require additional low temperature LED fixtures that cost double the price of the 4,000K temperature lights.
The new bright and bluer lights in Boca Rotan exceed both the AMA temperature recommendation of 3,000K and by consequence, the much lower International Dark Sky recommendation of 2200K.
In the rush to convert away from the High Pressure Sodium lights, neighboring community members, such as ones in Lantana Town, convinced their leaders to switch away from initial plans to put in 4,000K LEDs to a more reasonable 3,000K LED following an extensive educational push.
This blurb doesn’t do the article justice, I implore you to take a look and read through Bertucci zum Tobel’s piece. Like all articles featured on the show, you can find this out on our website at LightPollutionNews.com.
Guest columnist James Lowenthal: Lighting the rail trail is misguided and harmful. James Lowenthal in the Daily Hampshire Gazette.
Rail trail lighting is a thing! And boy, do they light these suckers up! I can speak from experience in Lower Merion Township, PA, they installed a blinding set of lights on the Cynwyd Heritage Rail Trail. So I can see what Lowenthal is worried about.
Apparently, his town of Easthampton wants to encourage active lifestyles and economic growth…and I bet you can’t think of what’s is going to make it proverbial rain in Western Mass?
Well, in case you are stuck, the answer appears to be extra bright, “overly blue” lighting. Lowenthal makes the case in a very detailed way to question the safety argument.
Per Lowenthal, lower levels (10-100 times lower than the proposed lights), would provide plenty to avoid tripping or slipping hazards. He also questions whether the lights can prevent crime.
Southampton councillor says street light switch off ‘won’t sacrifice safety’, Jamie Shapiro & Emily Ford of the BBC.
We had a similar article last month, the town of Southampton in the UK has adjusted an aggressive plan to turn off residential street lighting in every part of the city starting at 1 AM. That plan required carveouts, however, due to a city “Violence Against Women and Girls” prevention strategy. The strategy obtained £190K to, among other things, “enhance LED lighting.” The lights will not be switched off in any commercial or key transit roads. The push to reduce lighting appears to be driven primarily by cost but also credits a “less light pollution, more energy aware and greener city.”
WA House votes 94-1 to limit light pollution from wind energy farms, Annette Cary of the Tri-City Hearld.
In Washington, a relatively cheap lighting solution is becoming policy. The Horse Heaven Clean Energy Center will now be required to install radar detecting systems that turn on blinking red lights only when a low flying plane approaches a windmill.
“In Eastern Washington we don’t always have a say where energy is sited, but we do want to take good care of our landscape and our hillsides,” Republican Representative April Connors.
The Horse Heaven Hills area plans to install upwards of 244 wind turbines.
Pregnant women advised to dim lights before bed to reduce diabetes risk, Nicola Davis of the Guardian.
A warning for all the new, soon to be moms out there! No more doomscrolling! Exposure to light at night increases the risk of pregnant women developing gestational diabetes! According to the article, gestational diabetes affects four to five in 100 women during pregnancy. If left uncontrolled it could result in health problems for the baby.
New research from the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology Maternal Fetal Medicine, try saying that 10 times fast, indicates that women who ingest greater levels of light just three hours before sleep increase their chances of developing diabetes during pregnancy.
The driver for this derives from light’s ability to suppress melatonin, thereby disrupting the metabolic process, including the regulation of blood sugar levels. While the type of light was not studied, the brightness level of the light was, thereby indicating a greater propensity to develop gestational diabetes with increasing levels of brightness.
The authors note that this study is consistent with prior studies in nonpregnant adults, who were observed to have impaired energy metabolism and insulin sensitivity. Future studies look to identify whether or not there’s any impact on the child’s health outcomes.
I spent a weekend in the darkest part of England and it changed me, Author Daniel Stables of the Telegraph.
Arthur Daniel Stables ventured up to the most remote part of England, the Kiedler Forest. During his time there, he spent a few days bathed in night. Stables recounts something of which I’m sure everyone here can relate.
Per Stables, “I felt annoyed by the image I had conjured, a fragment of urban life intruding into my solitude like a shard of glass in a cake. I was overthinking – but such is life for the novice night walker. Every rustle of leaves becomes a malevolent companion in the dark, every glint on a distant puddle a pair of flashing eyes.”
Stables recounts reconnecting with his night vision, mushroom hunting during the daytime, and what sounds like an overall curiosity driven reset.
Lights Out Across the Country, Connie Sanchez of Audubon.
In case you’re not aware, although, I’m sure most everyone listening is aware, each year the Audubon Society helps guide birds safely across North America by promoting their “Lights Out” campaign. Many cities around the nation share similar tales. Here in Philly, in one night alone, we witnessed 1500 birds killed in October of 2020 when birds became disoriented by building lights under heavy cloud conditions.
The Lights Out campaign works in three parts. First, bird advocacy groups engage with community leaders. Here in Philly, we have an alliance of business and bird advocacy groups that work together to the best of their abilities, be it in joining forces on “Lights Out protocols, bird-safe glass,” and more.
Second, Audubon chapters conduct regular surveys to count any birds killed from collisions. Third, birding/business coalitions help work with city government and commerce leaders to educate them on when and how to dim their lights.
The success of the program, which helps educate property owners on how to turn off, shield, or dim unnecessary lighting during bird migration season has seen a 70% reduction in collisions in one site in Philadelphia. In fact, and though it shocks even me when I consider how bright this city’s skies have become in only a few years, Philly is cited as the prime example of how to make the Lights Out campaign work.
Lights out here locally will take place on April 1 – May 31, other cities’ timeframes may vary due to migration timing.
I want to add, be on the lookout for International Dark Sky week between 15 – 22. Here in Philly, I will be taking over the fine folks of the Friends of the Wissahickon’s Instagram feed that week! Very much looking forward to that.
Animal astronomers: A bird’s eye view of the night sky, James Foster of one of my favorite magazines, Astronomy Magazine.
One of my favorite birds to see during migration season is this bright, vibrant blue, Indigo Bunting. It’s a small songbird that flies all the way up from Central America using the sun for navigation by day and stars by night. In fact, in a 1967 study, the Migratory Orientation in the Indigo Bunting, it was found that when you block out the northern sky from their view, they become disoriented. Follow up studies confirmed migrating bird’s ability to both learn and follow star patterns as navigation points.
Utilizing a navigation point such as the North Star provides a more “robust” approach to navigation, than the sun, which may scuttle “jetlagged” birds. This article from Astronomy goes on to further illustrate how the coincidental placement of certain objects in the nighttime sky (take for instance the denser areas of the milky way) lead dung beetles to utilize the milky way as a guide point. In much the same way that light disorients and confuses birds (a finding people have known since the very beginning of the 20th century), insects like dung beetles end up becoming very disoriented, often becoming lost or rolling around in circles.
Now, let’s take a look at plants. Plants understand their environment through the use of photoreceptors. At least 13 of them are used to identify the length of day – helpful for the plant’s circadian rhythm, allowing a plant to know when to bloom or drop leaves. About 5 of those receptors are near-infrared. That means that plants developed a special functionality to absorb light from the moon and surrounding starlight.
Per Brett Seymoure, “an ecologist and assistant professor of biological sciences at the University of Texas at El Paso,” Plants will get stressed out under artificial light. They can photosynthesize more, and because they are, there’s more stress.”
Seymoure compared artificial light on a plant to that of a bodybuilder, always working out. “When a plant photosynthesizes, they’re taking in energy, and if they’re doing that all the time, it can be overwhelming and create a reactive type of oxygen that kills the plant.”
The article goes on to suggest the combination of artificial light paired with climate change, for which here in Philly we saw exactly 1+ months of winter before spring arrived in the first week of February this year, trees extend well past their natural rhythm, which can “ultimately weaken them.”
The article cites that budbursts occur 7.5 days earlier in light polluted areas than in darker locations.
Lights off, danger on: What to know about the latest dangerous driving trend, Click on Detroit.
Now here’s something that’s scary! Hah, and I just did this the other day! It was about 10:30 at night, and I went down to the airport to pick up my wife. I was a bit tired, and I pulled into the waiting lot until her plane landed. It was raining pretty heavily beforehand. When I went to restart the car, I couldn’t figure out why my dashboard dimmer wasn’t working. I thought, maybe it has something to do with a rather car sized puddle I drove through. Sometimes car sensors tweak out with a lot of water.
It wasn’t until we got on the road, leaving the airport for I-95 that Kaitlyn looked over at me and said, “babe, you don’t have your headlights on!”
Per Wyandotte Deputy Police Chief, Archie Hamilton, the number of “no light drivers” over the last couple of years has noticeably increased. “There aren’t many drivers out there that this hasn’t happened to.”
Astronomers stumble in diplomatic push to protect the night sky, Daniel Clery of Science.
Diplomatic bureaucracy is blamed for some serious setbacks for Astronomers in the UN this past month. Since 2019, visual and radio astronomy has been heavily impacted by the commercialization of low earth orbit communication mega-constellations. On the visual end, light streaks from satellites that often only get as low as a few magnitudes at best, disrupt and create significant noise in data.
The International Astronomical Union’s work in Vienna appears to be bogged down by some nuances in how individual Nations want to implement any guidelines.
Hey, this is cool! Next time you’re in DC, be sure to stop by the Smithsonian Natural History Museum. The “Lights Out: Recovering Our Night Sky” exhibit runs through April 2025. The exhibit touches on the History of Lighting and Light Pollution, the Dark Side of Light, Who needs the Dark?, and a series of interactive dark sky focused activities. I should note, Pittsburgh’s own, Diane Turnshek, has been interviewed in connection with this exhibit.
To Protect Wildlife from Artificial Light, Look to the Moon, Theo Nicitopoulos of Hakai Magazine.
Now here is something that’s really neat, as well. “A proposed design for a Danish church looks to automatically adjust the building’s exterior lighting to the abundance of moonlight.” This comes to us from the island of Anholt, sitting between the Danish mainland and Sweden.
Per the article “, As Anholt Town’s 45 streetlights receded into the distance, moonlit shadows reached out to embrace the dunes. Rathsach looked up, admiring the Milky Way stretching across the sky. Thousands of stars shone down. Your senses heighten and you hear the water and feel the fresh air.”
Let that sink in for a second. In the town of Anholt, there’s a church, which will now be lit according to the phase of the moon, whereby warm path lighting and downshining façade lighting will light up the church when the moon goes new. It’s a very interesting and natural way to think about lighting, harvesting the natural moon’s glow to light a building’s exterior. The church is a common meeting place for the community.
Turn up the lights: What to do in dark sky destinations during the day, Elizabeth Yoku from RoadTrippers.
I don’t know if you guys are anything like me, but when I go to a dark sky site, it’s one part night and it’s one part love of nature. Yoku details daytime activities at five great dark sky sites! You can do anything from multi-pitch sport climbing at Smith Rock to visiting the ghost town of Lowell, Arizona!
Ramadan: UAE Moon-sighting committee to search the skies on Tuesday, the National News.
And how about this for the start of Ramadan! Could you be part of the UAE’s moon sighting committee?
Leave it to religion to always remind us of our connection to the night sky. Ramadan, the Islamic month of fasting and spirituality, officially begins once the one thousand year old tradition of the moon sighting committee convenes after sunset to confirm the appearance of the crescent moon. The crescent moon is the religious symbol most associated with Islam, often hangs outside of homes, shines through lanterns, and sits on the packaging of sweets to friends and family.
‘We Want Them Fixed’: Group Calls Attention to Streetlight Outages in Northwest DC, Walter Morris of NBC Washington.
It’s that time of the episode when we get to investigate humanity’s ongoing, often irrational phobia of the night. It’s Afraid of the Dark, and this month, boy do we have a doozy!
File this one in the “we’re scared, and we just want some control,” section of the light pollution cabinet. A DC nonprofit, the Downtown Cluster of Congregations, is calling on DC officials to fix streetlights near NW DC’s busiest nightlife areas.
“We want these fixed, we want them fixed now, we can’t wait,” Terry Lynch, the executive director, said. A week prior to finding a streetlight out just a few feet from the crime, two adults were shot, one fatally on V Street NW.
In response to an uptick in crime, Mayor Muriel Bowser is increasing the police presence in the Adams-Morgan section of the city. However, this isn’t good enough for Lynch, who appears to firmly believe that lighting is a silver bullet for crime, “a task force is great, but we need the pedal to the metal, we need urgency, we need to see results.” If that isn’t panic induced dementia, I’m not sure what is.
Gov. DeSantis Expected to Sign Florida’s Tort Reform Bill Into Law — But How Could It Impact You? Gabi Rodriguez and Marissa Bagg, NBC 6 South Florida
In related news, just yesterday, and we’re recording this on March 26th, it appears that Florida Governor Ron DeSantis signed into law HB 837. HB 837, for those of you not aware, is a tort reform bill designed, per NBC Miami, to “protect businesses, property owners, and corporations from paying excessive damages in lawsuits.” The bill, which has many vocal advocates and critics, appears to codify our friend Terry Lynch’s unsubstantiated mindset into law.
In the new Florida legislation, an apartment building owner CANNOT be sued provided he or she implemented the following measures:
- A working security camera system.
- A parking lot with an average of 1.8 foot candles per square foot at 18 inches or above the surface, all night.
- Lighting in all walkways and porches, must be illuminated all night.
There are additional stipulations, however, two of the first three paragraphs explicitly confirm a legalistic connection between lighting and safety.
The crew over at the Restoring Darkness podcast had a great episode last week on this overall topic. The host, Michael Colligan, believes that lighting is a strawman. While people such as Lynch, always are quick to correlate lighting with absolute protection from crime, it’s never incumbent for lighting installers to prove that their lights negatively impact crime.
An idea they raised is that the methodology of crime studies appears to influence the results. For instance, we can break down the overall crime studies into two general categories: quantitative and qualitative. The quantitative studies collect data from police reports and compare data pre and post lighting installations. While the qualitative studies have researchers interview folks before and after in areas planned for a lighting installation. The latter study tends to perceive feelings over numbers.
In their most recent episode, Roland Dechesne of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada, posited that the qualitative crime studies almost universally conclude that lighting has a positive impact on safety while the quantitative shows the complete opposite, that lighting can actually serve to expand crime into the wee hours. At the end of the day, the question that really should be asked is, who does this light serve? Just because you think it aids the good guys, doesn’t mean it can’t aid the bad guys. If no one is around, and an area is lit up, who is that serving?
Research article of the month: Effects of light and noise pollution on avian communities of European cities are correlated with the species’ diet, Nature.
This study suggests that birds who rely on food sources other than seeds are most negatively impacted by light pollution.
The study took place across 14 European cities identifying 127 bird species, including the five most common species, the House Sparrow, Blackbird, Common Swift, Great Tit, and Eurasian Collared-Dove. Light pollution, it appears greatly impacts birds of insectivore and omnivore feeding preferences.
The study found that even though ALAN (artificial light at night) can be a boon for some bird species, the overall impact from light leads to a reduction in the insect species and abundance, thereby leading to an overall decline in insects. To put it in layman’s terms, essentially the birds devour the insects faster than they’re able to reproduce, thereby stressing the population numbers.
If you’re wondering what birds around the US may favor insects over seeds, look no further than your woodpeckers, flycatchers, and swallows. Whereby, your Juncos, Goldfinches, Warblers, and Morning Doves all tend to go for seeds.