Unpacking the Light Police. Light Pollution News.
John Barentine of Dark Sky Consulting, LLC.
Kaitlyn Evans, Conservationist.
I was busted by the light police. They had a point, Dana Milbank of the Washington Post.
Dana Milbank purchased a home in, soon to be not, rural Virginia. At night he kept the formerly vacant property lit to the degree that spurned one commentator to call it “spaceship lighting.”
Milbank recaps being visited by the “light police,” a group of concerned citizens who help educate neighbors and instill a sense of pride in the brilliance of their starry night skies.
At first, he was taken aback, but later, not only did he appreciate their efforts, but he also converted his blinding always on, white light flood lights to warm 2700 Kelvin motion sensing lights.
Per Ruskin Hartley, executive director of the International Dark Sky Association, “for 4.5 billion years there was no artificial light at night. It’s really only in the last five human generations that we transformed that. It’s one of the most profound transformations of our environment.”
Many of you may recall an earlier story, way back in our Hormone of Darkness episode, showcasing concerns by local residents prior to a 760 house (now 761) plus town center development moving into the Culpepper County, VA area. Per the Rappahannock News, this development features “a resort style swimming pool, clubhouse, tot lot, and multiple sports fields and sports courts, all connected by a network of biking and walking trails.”
The forgotten medieval habit of ‘two sleeps’ by Zaria Gorvett of the BBC.
Gorvett opened my eyes to something I never knew about, the medieval custom of two sleeps. For those of you unaware, two sleeps are exactly what it sounds like.
Folks would partake in a communal nap, complete with rigid sleeping arrangement conventions, between 9 – 11pm, then awaken for a few hours to do everything from hang out to brew beer! In fact, the idea of multiple sleeps crossed cultures and was found in places as far from Europe as indigenous South America.
How can one’s circadian rhythm make sense of all of this?!
Well, for starters, until the invention of the alarm clock, which humorously was invented by a clocks salesman so he could wake up and sell more clocks, people had no firm way to wake up at a consistent time. The industrial revolution enforced a new circadian standard.
And there’s some science behind this! In the 1992 study, In Short Photoperiods, human sleep is biphasic, researcher Thomas Wehr found that after four weeks of 10 hour days, his subjects began to engage in this two sleep cycle, involving a one to three hour period for which they became awake and engaged in between.
Want to Learn About Light Pollution? There’s a mini-course for that!, Jennifer Sensiba of Clean Technica.
Quoting Sensiba, “As I got older, I traveled a lot more and saw the problem more for what it is. Not only did I see that in many places there is no refuge from it, but I also saw that it was slowly growing worse. Places that had been dark 30 years ago had more and more light creeping upon the horizon.”
If you’re interested in learning more, or more importantly, know someone who might benefit from learning more, Sensiba links up to an International Dark Sky Mini-Course on light pollution, call it Light Pollution 101!
But unfortunately, by the time you listen to this, and hell, by the time we talk about this, it has passed.
Ann Arbor named best place for sunrises, sunsets in Michigan. Sarah Parlette for Click on Detroit.
Evidently gambling websites have decided to honor April’s International Dark Sky week in a strange new content marketing campaign, which was to rank the best places in each state to see sunrises and sunsets. My favorite one, “Ann Arbor named best place for sunrises, sunsets in Michigan,” comes from Click on Detroit, whereby a quote “study” examined Michigan’s most populated cities.”
According to Click on Detroit, “to celebrate International Astrology Day on Saturday, staff at Great Lake Stakes, a Michigan online gambling news site, looked at light pollution in the five most populated cities around the Mitten state to determine which offers the best views every morning and evening.”
Star bathing is the new outdoor travel trend we should all be trying for Summer 2023, according to Amy Beecham at Stylist.
Evidently, as an attempt to destress and promote mindfulness, romanticism about sleeping under the stars has birthed a 70% increase in searches for the term ‘star bathing’ on Hipcamp. And to be sure, “Hipcamp recommends checking a stargazing calendar which outlines major astrological events – like supermoons, pink moons, and star showers.”
Dr. Martin Moore-Ede, a circadian clock expert, recently published an article in LEDs Magazine chastising the lighting industry for not recognizing and reigning in the negative externalities of its products. Per the piece, such effects are, obesity, diabetes, depression, cancer, and more.
He cites three categories of industry responses, making the correlation that long term Denial or outright Ignorance of the Facts, may result in “asbestos-scale liabilities or draconian regulations.”
Per the piece, a recent survey by the Circadian Light Research Center of 2,697 peer reviewed scientific articles confirmed that human circadian clocks are highly sensitive to blue wavelengths, and that exposure to such wavelengths leads to major health disorders.
Moore-Ede calls for the industry to harvest the “commercial opportunity” to greatly limit future liability by creating and managing its own standards for circadian modulated lighting.
Unpacking the Wallpack, by Dan Weissman in LD+A Magazine.
Weissman, who recently purchased a telescope for his family in Cambridge, MA, discovered that the scope could only afford him views of some solar system objects and a few brightly burning stars.
The ire of Weissman’s pen takes the shape of a rectangular fixtures, be it box like or simply a panel these days, that typically hang off the side of an exterior wall or above an exterior door. “Devoid of aesthetic value” this light is often put up under the “pretense of security and safety” by “recommended practices and adopted municipal codes.”
Weissman recognizes labels that often accompany, what he calls, “Glare bombs,” including “contractor-select,” “energy efficient,” or “light pollution friendly.”
Further, per an earlier LD+A article, such lighting driven by its extreme contrasts is exceedingly common in minority communities where light is weaponized as a tool of power. It becomes a “device of alienation, creating a zone of control and separation.”
Weissman recognizes that the true reason such fixtures are selected often comes down to cost. He recognizes that it may take equally as much cost to persuade building and homeowners away from such lighting into the realm of more responsible, lower lumen, shielded lighting.
Weissman calls for producers of these glare bombs to be labeled as polluters, putting them in line with fossil fuel manufacturers and PFAS makers.
Songbirds, dusk and clear skies: Scientists explore migratory flights, by Erin Blakemore.
Bird migration season is ending here in the Mid-Atlantic. I was lucky enough to catch several Baltimore Orioles and Indigo Buntings last week. Researchers looked at 400 songbirds from 9 major species, “including the yellow-rump warbler, American redstart and Bicknell’s thrush.”
The question they hoped to answer was how are these birds so darn precise in identifying the best time to take off for their nightly migration? Scientists found that 90% of the migrating birds in the study took off within 69 minutes of dusk. A “much narrower takeoff window,” that even shocked the research team!
Per the study, taking off at night is all about maximum flight time. In addition to being able to precisely schedule their take offs, a feat that every airline I’ve flown with over the past few years has proven inept at, birds also are apparently good meteorologists! They often depart when the atmospheric pressure rises over a day’s span. Other factors also trigger migration, including sex, age, and celestial cues.
Preliminary results indicate that bird death counts are down 70% at one Market Street tower, since it began its participation in Lights Out. As we spoke about on a previous show, birds utilize the stars to navigate, but city lights can disorient the birds. Combine the lights with reflective or transparent glass, and that spells fatal trouble for our migrating warblers!
Per Keith Russell, a program manager for urban conservation with Audubon Mid-Atlantic, “We’ve lost almost a third of our birds – and [collisions] contributing to that. If we’re going to want to preserve the bird populations here in North America, we have to look at these types of problems. And this is a preventable one.”
The Knoxville, TN Zoo is offering up what they call “Twilight Tours” per WVLT 8. Each event will feature a guide to showcase nocturnal critters.
I did something similar in Singapore years ago. The zoo had very dim lights in the exhibits – and they kept those lights dim as you walked so that you didn’t lose your night vision. It was a very different and, might I say, peaceful experience than the typically chaotic daytime zoo.
Flashlights posing major threat to nesting sea turtles. Fox35 Orlando
Apparently, a single flashlight can deter female sea turtles from coming onto a beach and nesting. Florida, as I did not know, is home to 90% of the sea turtle nests across the world, so losing sea turtles can affect the global ecosystem.
One visitor to Cocoa Beach stated, “Just leave them alone. Stand back and look. You don’t need a flashlight.”
Another, “It’s not super surprising because more buildings go up, more technology. As it increases, nature and stuff like that decreases,” said Zoe Jovaag, whose grandfather used to take her on walks to see sea turtles.
The International Dark Sky Association opens up its annual photo contest complete with prizes across eight categories and an additional People’s Choice category. Voting begins on July 3rd, entries must be received by June 30th.
City Tests Traffic Light That Only Turns Green for Drivers Who Obey the Speed Limit. Erin Marquis for Jalopnik.
And hey, you better not speed in Brossard, Quebec….otherwise you may be waiting around for a while. Brossard is testing out a new traffic light that will stay red until it senses oncoming traffic. However, it will only change to green if the car is going the speed limit. Per the Jalopnik article, “FRED [the French acronym for “educational traffic calming light] forces fast drivers to stop and gives them a chance to reconsider their life choices.” Such lights are already used in Europe, but this will be the first for the Great White North.
Why the Greatest Threat to Star-Gazing Isn’t Light Pollution, and this comes to us from Dorin Elin Urrutia at Inverse.
Elin Urrutia writes, in her compelling piece, that the greatest threat to star-gazing is actually the weather. Citing notable examples of the Mount Stromlo Observatory in Australia (which burnt down due to bushfires) and the Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico (which sustained structural damage following the winds of Hurricane Maria).
While the threat of human-caused climate change has presented new challenges, Elin Urrutia references proactive burns that saved Los Angeles’ Mount Wilson Observatory from flames in 2020.
On a similar note, ABC News (the Australian Broadcasting Company, not to be confused with the American Broadcasting Company), brings us “A World Without Darkness Could Be a Reality within a Few Years.”
Per Carol Redford of Astrotourism Western Australia, “There are some people in the world now who don’t actually experience darkness anymore. They’re in a city like Beijing, Toyoko, or London. In all those big cities, it’s never dark, it’s always light. During the day of course with the sun, but then during the night with all of the artificial light. They’re not experiencing darkness, and definitely not seeing those beautiful stars…”
In the 66 years since the implementation of the UN Convention on the Peaceful Use of Outerspace, around 11,000 satellites orbit the Earth. But it’s about to get wayyy busier. Driven by innovations that have led to dramatic reductions in costs, over the next ten years, Per attorney Steven Freeland, it’s anticipated that somewhere between 100,000 to 500,000 objects will be sent up. Let me pause on that for a second.
On the travel front, we stay in the land down under, “Aussie region determined to keep its darkness is a stargazer’s dream” by Chantelle Francis of News.com.AU.
The town of Swam Reach, population 270, resides in a 3200sq km region of Southern Australia that received its International Dark Sky Reserve status over three years ago. On a scale of darkness between 0 – 22, the River Murray Dark Sky Reserve at Swam Reach, measures in at a whopping 21.9!
Tourism has become a growing business. The reserve hosts numerous telescope pads and offers tours of the night sky. There’s hope that an observatory and/or planetarium may also arrive in due course.
Best smart lights for outdoors in 2023, Brittney Vincent of CBS Essentials.
Oh there’s a lot not to love here, but it does fall in line with last month’s ‘Lumens are Coming’ article.
For those of you who feel the need to light your trees, because for some reason they need light at night I guess…I’ll try and pretend it’s not solely for ostentatious and narcissistic reasons. By the way, does anyone remember when those were negative characteristics?
The article features spotlights that can be programmed to over 16 MILLION colors including…lucky for us, ALL shades of white….which you can also do for a 500 lumen flood light set.
And hey, Ring now has solar path lighting. Don’t worry though, the fixtures themselves put out up to 80 lumens of sideways light.
You know, it’s astounding when you look at some of these pictures. The amount of redundant lighting. It honestly makes no sense to me. You have a porch light, which lights up the path. Path lighting, which lights up the path. And, in the one picture, god awful frontward facing flood lights, which also light up the path. How bright do you need these paths!? I digress. But the lumens are indeed coming.
LDS Church will get to light up its Heber Valley Temple after all, but the faith didn’t get everything it wanted, Blake Apgar of the Salt Lake Tribune.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints fought hard to rid itself of any nighttime lighting responsibility by pressuring Wasatch County, Utah officials to approve new lighting rules that would enable the church to light a proposed new temple the same way it does for every other temple.
The Church received permission to uplight the temple, enabling an exception to be made in Wasatch’s rather stringent nighttime lighting rulebook. However, the temple will be restricted by the level of lumens it can use, and it must have exterior lighting turned off an hour after sunset or an hour after normal business hours.
Smart Street Lights Market is Expected to Hit USD 14,751.1 million at a 23.4% CAGR by 2030, Market Research Future Press Release
The pandemic is officially over, smart street lighting is about to boom. Combine the rush to LED fixtures with the Internet of Things, and expect to see street lights moonlighting as traffic and parking monitors, air quality meters, and more. Not to mention, “it is anticipated that camera-connected smart street lighting will increase road safety by lowering the likelihood of accidents and criminality.”
Texas now has 7 dark sky communities for spectacular star gazing, Sana Ameer, MRT.
Let’s cheer on the city of Bee Cave, everyone! Bee Cave joins a growing list of dark sky places already in the Lone Star State, including 2 Dark Sky Sanctuaries, 5 Dark Sky Parks, and 1 Dark Sky Reserve. Nighttime is alive and well in some parts of Texas!
Our Afraid of the Dark article is a bit scary! Hilton Head’s dark roads and pedestrians are deadly combo. What the town is doing about it, Blake Douglas at The Island Packet.
Per the article, 9 pedestrian and cyclist fatalities occurred since 2018, with five occurring after dark. Prior to that period, there were 28 recorded deaths from 2000 – 2016, with 20 of them taking place after dark.
In 2018, an 11 year old resident was struck and killed while walking her dog across an intersection one night. Lighting advocates began taking shape in what otherwise is a very conservation focused island. Hilton Head, SC has a limited number of street lights, priding itself on “avoiding light pollution and blending nature with construction.”
Lighting advocates appear to be, at the very least, asking for flashing crosswalk lights on the island to indicate when an individual is crossing.
It should be noted that the article shows a chart of 9 after-dark-deaths since 2014, only two of them occurred at crosswalks. In fact, during the same time frame, 6 additional deaths occurred at crosswalks during the daytime.
As a whole, the National Safety Council reports that 74.5% of pedestrian deaths occurred at night, whereby 39.1% took place in lit areas and 35.38% took place in unlit areas.
Bryan Bloch, an auto safety expert, surmises that car companies bear some of the blame – producing cheap or ineffectual headlight fixtures, and drivers themselves, who don’t realize that they need to regularly clean their headlight lenses.
Despite opposition from residents, it appears that Hilton Head will be receiving lights at two new intersections and possibly more depending on engineering studies currently in progress.
Is lighting the key variable here? Is more light going to solve pedestrian deaths?
Our featured research article of the month comes to us from Animal Conservation, “Manipulating spectra of artificial light affects movement patterns of bats along ecological corridors.”
Bats are already known to have a wide range of responses to artificial light at night (also known as ALAN). Fast flying species tend to be more opportunistic in the presence of ALAN while slower ones tend to be more light averse. We know that “long wavelengths and reduced intensity” can minimize their environmental effects on bats. It’s not unheard of for bats to travel upwards of “tens of km per night.” Furthermore, bats are very dependent on the landscape and the structures within those landscapes.
Despite the nuances between species, the consensus is that ALAN, especially high intensity ALAN, negatively affects bats. This study attempted to answer what exactly bats do when they encounter ALAN – how do they react depending on different types of ALAN.
The study used three different light fixtures – one green, one red, and one white. The control was devoid of light fixtures. The researchers attempted to ascertain the behavior of bats as they encountered lights adjacent to woody areas. The researchers looked at three different bat groupings based on their foraging-echo location behavior, that being one of open field foraging, forest edge foraging, and narrow space – or more aptly forest foragers.
Researchers found that open and edge foraging bats increased their activity close to white and green lights, and to a lesser extent red lights. However, narrow space bats were more likely to veer away from all colors of lighting. Edge foragers were also less likely to cross a white light.
The positive effects of white and green light on open and edge foraging bats appear to be attributed to the accumulation of insects around light sources containing more blue light.
Before we close up today, do you live in Hawaii? I know I wish I did!
If so, do you recall seeing green lasers streak across the night sky? Well, the Army Corps of Engineers was using lidar at night to complete a coastal mapping survey.
Why did they survey at night? Specifically, why did they do this between midnight to 5am? Simply b/c the airspace is so busy, that time was the only chance they had to complete the survey. The remaining survey was completed during daytime hours.