Many issues affect our ecosystem, and some, like global warming, are getting a lot of attention. One that doesn't get talked about as much is light pollution.
I was involved with the planning and evaluation of good outdoor lighting for the past 10 years in Austin, Texas, and I recently returned to the Rogue Valley. As a smaller metro area, the Rogue Valley isn’t as bad as more populated centers when it comes to light pollution, but now is the time to plan for better lighting as part of the inevitable growth we will see in Southern Oregon.
Research confirms there are some serious long-term consequences to the environment, our health, safety and pocketbooks when we ignore the problem of light pollution.
Generally speaking, we want to limit light that goes up and limit glare. We want adequate light where it does the most good, illuminating what we want to see, and minimize light going elsewhere, which is wasted kilowatts and just possibly light trespass.
We have become accustomed to bad lighting design that was installed when electricity was cheap. It’s so rampant in our cities now that we just accept it as part of the background of our environment, not recognizing that something can be done to correct it. The entire feeling of the night city environment changes when you no longer have to squint into the glare of poor lighting or deal with the over-lighting issues of light trespass.
This is mainly an educational effort, but eventually regulations could be put in place to maintain good lighting standards for the benefit of everyone.
How about you? What does your external house lighting look like? An unshielded fixture on the porch or an old barn light in your driveway? If you are on significant acreage in the country it may not matter, but in a residential area that light may be affecting your neighbors. We all want to be good neighbors, and shielding our lights so it stays within our property boundary is a great way to show we are being a good neighbor.
The same holds for private business lighting and municipal lighting. Municipalities should lead the way to demonstrate good lighting practices, and the business community just might gain some public-relations points by showing how green they are and saving some green in the process.
U.S. Cellular Community Park in Medford is an example of well shielded lighting. It works well and saves the city money in the long term.
Good lighting is safer, uses less electricity, has less affect on nocturnal wildlife, is more healthful for us and helps preserve the view of that wonderful, star-filled sky. It does cost a little up front to make changes, but the return on investment is short, and our children and grandchildren will reap the benefits.
For more information about the topic, see www.darkskiesnorthwest.org or www.darksky.org
Stephen Bosbach lives in Ashland.