Damian Carrington, THE GUARDIAN
Light pollution is a significant but overlooked driver of the rapid decline of insect populations, according to the most comprehensive review of the scientific evidence to date.
Artificial light at night can affect every aspect of insects’ lives, the researchers said, from luring moths to their deaths around bulbs, to spotlighting insect prey for rats and toads, to obscuring the mating signals of fireflies.
“We strongly believe artificial light at night – in combination with habitat loss, chemical pollution, invasive species, and climate change – is driving insect declines,” the scientists concluded after assessing more than 150 studies. “We posit here that artificial light at night is another important – but often overlooked – bringer of the insect apocalypse.”
However, unlike other drivers of decline, light pollution was relatively easy to prevent, the team said, by switching off unnecessary lights and using proper shades. “Doing so could greatly reduce insect losses immediately,” they said.
Brett Seymoure, a behavioural ecologist at Washington University in St Louis and senior author of the review, said: “Artificial light at night is human-caused lighting – ranging from streetlights to gas flares from oil extraction. It can affect insects in pretty much every imaginable part of their lives.”
Read more at https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2019/nov/22/light-pollution-insect-apocalypse
Amina Khan, THE LOS ANGELES TIMES
Earth is losing its darkness. A new study using satellite data finds that artificially lit surfaces around the world are spreading and growing brighter, producing more light pollution at night.
The findings, described in the journal Science Advances, track what researchers called a worrisome trend that has implications for the environment as well as human health.
“This is concerning, of course, because we are convinced that artificial light is an environmental pollutant with ecological and evolutionary implications for many organisms — from bacteria to mammals, including us humans — and may reshape entire social ecological systems,” Franz Holker of the Leibniz-Institute of Freshwater Ecology and Inland Fisheries, one of the study’s authors, said in a briefing.
Thanks to electric lights, outdoor lighting grew at a rate of 3% to 6% annually in the second half of the 20th century. While this has benefited human productivity and safety, it has come with a dark side: The night is no longer dark enough.Half of Europe and a quarter of North America have experienced seriously modified light-dark cycles, the study authors wrote, calling it a “widespread ‘loss of the night.’ ”
This light pollution can have serious consequences for living things, which have evolved in accordance with a natural day-night cycle, where the only major sources of light at night would have been the moon or more intermittent sources such as volcanoes, lightning, wildfires or auroras.
“From an evolutionary perspective, now, artificial light at night is a very new stressor,” Holker said. “The problem is that light has been introduced in places, times and intensities at which it does not naturally occur, and many organisms have had no chance to adapt to this new stressor.”
Read more at: Artificial lights are eating away at dark nights — and that’s not a good thing – LA Times
Mike McPhate, THE NEW YORK TIMES
Dark sky groups recommend “warmer” LED bulbs with an amber glow. They also push the use of dimmers, motion sensors and timers wherever they make sense.
Astronomers have preached the virtues of dark skies for years. Modern cities, they say, use way more artificial light in the evenings than necessary, much of it emanating into the sky where it does no good. So-called light pollution erases our view of stars and, to a degree, the wonder they bring at our place in the cosmos. It’s estimated that a third of the world’s population can’t see the Milky Way.
So how bad is the light pollution in California?
“It’s pretty bad,” said Sriram Murali, a Bay Area photographer who is making a film about astronomy and light pollution. “It’s not as bad as the East Coast, but definitely not as good as it is in the Midwest and Southwest.”
That’s been changing in the last five or so years, he added. A number of cities across California — from Davis to San Diego — have taken measures designed enhance the night sky.
By the end of this year, San Francisco is expected to finish converting roughly 18,500 of its sodium high-pressured streetlights to dark sky-compliant LED bulbs.
Read more at: California Today: The Push to Reclaim Starry Skies – The New York Times
Jodi Peterson, HIGH COUNTRY NEWS
Research paper: The new world atlas of artificial night sky brightness
International Dark Sky Association
The next best chance for Westerners to see shooting stars is coming soon, between April 16 and 25, when the Lyrids meteor shower, one of the oldest known, will streak across the sky after midnight. In May the Eta Aquariids arrive, followed by the Delta Aquariids in July, and then the most spectacular of the year — the Perseids, fast, bright meteors, up to 200 an hour during Aug. 12 to 13, and the Geminids, kid-friendly because they show up soon after dark, from Dec. 7 to 17.
But none of these, of course, will be visible without sufficiently dark skies.
For most of us, that will mean traveling far outside city limits to a place away from streetlights and other artificial illumination. But in some less-populated places, like High Country News’s western Colorado hometown of Paonia, the Milky Way’s glow can be seen on any clear night. That’s because Paonia is a tiny town in the high desert, with just 1,500 residents surrounded by public lands, orchards and farms.Map of North America’s artificial sky brightness.
Natural darkness is important for a lot more than just stargazing, though. It’s also vital to scientific astronomy studies, migrating birds and night-flying insects. And exposure to blue-rich light at night, from computer screens and outdoor LED lights, disrupts people’s sleep cycles and may even contribute to cancer. At its January meeting, the American Astronomical Society passed a resolution “affirming that access to a dark night sky is a universal human right, making quality outdoor lighting a worldwide imperative.”
Some bigger Western cities have put a lot of effort into curbing and redesigning their light usage so that they can have dark skies, too. Flagstaff, Arizona, passed the nation’s first dark-sky ordinance in 1958, to preserve starry conditions necessary for research at the Lowell Observatory.
That nearly six-decade-old effort seems to have paid off. Today, nighttime images captured by the National Park Service show that Flagstaff emits far less artificial light than other cities of its size. The 65,000-resident city uses sodium street lights. In contrast to LED lights, which save energy but produce bright blue and white light that washes out stars and planets, sodium lights emit a warm red-yellow light that doesn’t contribute much to overall sky glow. Flagstaff also banned commercial searchlights and shielded outdoor lights around schools and shopping centers. In 2001, it became the world’s first international dark-sky city, as designated by the nonprofit International Dark-Sky Association.
Read more at: Western cities try to cut light pollution — High Country News
Paul Bogard, BLOOMBERG VIEW
Feb 24, 2013. The City of Light dimmed? It’s true. Thanks to a new law, not only Paris but all of France will see its lighting level reduced, beginning this July. Window lighting in commercial buildings and the lights on building facades will be turned off after 1 a.m., and interior lighting in office buildings will be off an hour after the last employee departs.
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.
The cost of all this light, monetary and otherwise, is high. The connections to sleep disorders, cancer, diabetes and other disease are serious enough that the American Medical Association has declared its support for light-pollution control efforts. Every ecosystem on Earth is both nocturnal as well as diurnal, and light destroys habitat just as easily as any bulldozer can. And when eight out of 10 children born in the U.S. today will never see the Milky Way, we have even lost the stars.
The usual justification for these costs is that we need all this light for safety and security. This simply isn’t true.
No one doubts that artificial light can reduce the risks of being out at night, and no one is saying that we ought to exist in the dark. But increasingly, police, doctors, astronomers, economists, business leaders, communities and now the French government agree that we should reduce the light we use, and that too much brightness at night actually reduces our safety and security. Bright lights may make us feel safer. Alone, however, they don’t actually make us safer.
The research bears this out. In 2008, PG&E Corp., the San Francisco-based energy company, reviewed the research and found “either that there is no link between lighting and crime, or that any link is too subtle or complex to have been evident in the data.”
Read more via Turn Down the City Lights and Make Streets Safer – Bloomberg View.