EDITORIAL: Delivering the message about light pollution

Light pollution is self-imposed vision loss. There is no reason for it, other than ignorance and misunderstanding, and it’s fair to say that most people rarely give it a second thought.

But think about this: When was the last time you remember seeing the Milky Way? Not on television or in a magazine or online, but in, pardon the expression, real life?

For too many people the answer to that question may be: never.

That’s because light from human-made sources drowns out the light from above and the cloud of stars that form the Milky Way, of which we are a part. To view the Milky Way is to view our home galaxy from within, but too many people never get a chance to see it that way because too many people never get the chance to see it.

Many also assume that nothing can be done, that light pollution is part of progress, or, that it’s necessary to light up the world as much as possible for safety reasons.

None of that is true, and it’s good to have people like Leo Smith around to emphasize that.

Smith was the featured speaker recently at the Cheshire Public Library, an event cosponsored by the Coalition for a Sustainable Cheshire and the Friends of the Cheshire Library. Northeast regional director for the International Dark Sky Association, Smith talked about the many ways artificial light impacts living things, including humans.

Though light pollution can generally be looked at as any lighting that goes where it’s not needed, there are different aspects, including light trespass, overlighting and sky glow. 

“The drivers for light pollution control are that there are adverse consequences on human health, on plants and on wildlife,” he said. As Joy VanderLek reported, Smith also talked about research that is ongoing about how artificial light influences circadian rhythm. 

There are straightforward solutions, including shielded lighting that directs light from, for example, a street lamp downward where the lighting is more targeted and effective.

Information is available at darksky.org, but it’s also invaluable for those like Smith to speak to the public about this important topic. When it comes to light pollution, everyone could use a little illumination.

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