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Blue Water

Light Pollution

A Picture Says 1,000 Words

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Night Lights: Outdoor Lighting is Changing Rural Areas


by Dr. Robert Dick, originally published in the FOCA 2021 Lake Stewards Newsletter
(reproduced in part with permission)


The attractions of cottage country include green and blue vistas during the day, and the soundscapes and starry skies of late evening. But the latter attraction is quickly changing, and the culprit is a “green” lighting technology. I refer to the proliferation of white-light LED fixtures. They are marketed as low energy and cheap; however, these attributes promote outdoor lighting where previously there was none. LED fixtures consume so little energy compared to the older incandescent lights that many cottagers leave them on all night and even when their cottage is vacant.

It is ironic that a product developed to save energy and preserve the environment is having the opposite effect: LEDs are causing a 2.2% per year increase in outdoor lighting! Within your lifetime, the sky will be twice as bright, and we will be using twice the energy for lighting.


Why does this matter? How can something as simple as a door light affect the night?


First, outdoor lighting fundamentally changes the aesthetics of the night. It reduces the visibility for both people and animals. It makes foraging animals vulnerable to predators. 


The proliferation of light is caused by outdoor lights on buildings, along laneways and shoreline lighting. Whether used for landscaping or waterfront “enhancement”, outdoor lighting changes the night environment and disrupts the ecology of wildlife. It also undermines the enjoyment for those who may prefer the natural night they can’t get in the city.


How You Can Help


Light pollution can be easily reduced with some simple solutions:

  1. Shield your light fixtures so light shines where you need it, not over your neighbour’s property. Everyone will see better without the glare.

  2. Use amber “bug lights” – not white light. Amber will reduce the impact of glare and will also attract fewer mosquitoes.

  3. Use lower-wattage lamps. To judge how much light you need, go for a walk at night and approach your lights after becoming dark-adapted. This will be what the animals see. If your lights are bright, dim them down or use a lower-wattage bulb.

  4. Turn off your outdoor lights when you don’t want to have visitors, when you go to bed, and certainly when you are away. We’ve been told to use light to make our homes safer, but without an active security system, outdoor lighting won’t protect your property, it just puts it on display for thieves and vandals.


 About the author: Robert Dick is a principal in the Canadian light company CSbG EcoLights. He wrote the original chapter on light pollution in FOCA’s 2009 publication, “Take the Plunge.”

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