The new law promises to reduce carbon emissions and save energy — the annual equivalent of 750,000 households’ worth. Most significant is its potential to turn the tide against light pollution by changing attitudes about our unnecessary overuse of light at night.
In almost every U.S. city, suburb and town, the streets, parking lots, gas stations, and commercial and public buildings are lit through the night. Over recent decades, the growth of this pollution has been relentless, yet slow enough that most of us haven’t noticed. Parking lots and gas stations, for example, are now often 10 times brighter than they were just 20 years ago, and light pollution continues to grow at 6 percent every year.
Josh Harkinson agrees with another of Bogard’s arguments – that light pollution doesn’t make us safer at night:
The data actually speaks more clearly about how light pollution makes us less safe.
A recent American Medical Association report (pdf) concludes that the disrupting effects of nighttime lighting on our bodies’ circadian rhythms may contribute to “obesity, diabetes, depression and mood disorders, and reproductive problems.” Moreover, artificial light causes our bodies to suppress the release of melatonin, elevating our risk of contracting cancer, and especially breast cancer.
Eight in ten kids born in the US today will never see the Milky Way, according to Bogard. Of course, we have it easy at night compared to songbirds, sea turtles, and countless other creatures whose mating and eating habits have been thrown off by our glare.
(Photo by Hussain Khorsheed)