"Artificial lighting is an essential part of modern culture and possibly the most obvious demonstration of technological progress. The problem arises when `progress' crosses the line to become wasted energy, wasted resources, and a negative alteration of the environment."
Every so often I decide to purchase a book simply because I am intrigued by the title. Such was the case several weeks ago when I picked up a brand new book by Paul Bogard called "The End of Night: Searching for Natural Darkness in an Age of Artificial Light". Light pollution was an issue I had never even heard of much less considered. I discovered that over the past half-century the world has become a substantially brighter place. Due to the intrusion of high intensity artificial lighting our nights are being transformed while some of the darkest places on earth are being impacted in ways that we could not possibly have anticipated. Some call it progress but a growing cadre of scientists and concerned citizens believe that the phenomenon known as "light pollution" decimates our view of the heavens above, wastes money and precious natural resources and threatens the health and well-being of people all over the world. In 1988 the International Dark-Sky Association (IDA) was formed to raise awareness about the value of dark, star-filled night skies and to encourage their protection and restoration through education about the problems and solutions, including outdoor lighting practices that create less light pollution. After reading the Bogard book I was determined to learn more. So I went online and discovered a nifty little paperback called "Fighting Light Pollution: Smart Lighting Solutions for Individuals and Communities". Published in 2012 by the International Dark-Sky Association, this is a book that will quickly get you up-to-speed on all of the key aspects of the light pollution issue. You will discover that unlike so many other environmental issues we continue to struggle with, most light pollution can be eradicated relatively quickly and easily and at a very reasonable cost.
If the problems surrounding light pollution are ever going to be addressed people must become educated about the deleterious effects of excessive night-time lighting. The experts say that light pollution is growing at the rate of about 6% per year. In "Fighting Light Pollution" you will discover who the main culprits are that are inexorably eradicating our precious night-time sky. The authors urge you to take a look around your community, your neighborhood and perhaps even your own backyard. When you begin to contemplate the problem you will see examples of lighting overkill just about everywhere. Not surprisingly, our excessive and haphazard use of lighting at night also has negative consequences for all manner of wildlife. The book discusses the impact on birds, bats, and sea turtles to name but a few. Once again, I was totally unaware of the devastating impact that our cavalier use of lighting has had on the natural world. Do you happen to do shift-work? You should also be aware that we are only beginning to understand the impact of artificial life on human health. It is becoming increasingly clear that working nights can have a negative impact on your health. Studies have shown that artificial light may inhibit the body's production of hormones such as melatonin and cortisol which can result in all sorts of maladies.
What is so neat about "Fighting Light Pollution: Smart Lighting Solutions for Individuals and Communities" is that it not only enumerates the problems for the uninitiated, but also devotes the last half of the book to practical and cost-effective solutions to these problems. Happily, the technology is rapidly evolving. The lighting industry has embraced the concerns of the IDA and today more than 100 manufacturers have created more than 300 approved fixtures to mitigate the problems caused by light pollution. Education is the key and I firmly believe that if most Americans were to become aware of these issues changes would occur very quickly. As the contributors to this book (Paul Bogard is among them) observed "People who install dark sky-friendly lighting fixtures outside a home or business are making a conscious choice to respect neighbors, save energy, and balance backyard ecosystems." This is definitely the direction we want to be headed in. "Fighting Light Pollution" also includes a number of instructive color photographs that succinctly illustrate some of the problems being discussed. I believe this would be a great choice for concerned public officials, business owners, homeowners and citizen-activists. There is a lot of food for thought in this little book. Very highly recommended!
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