Light Pollution

CBC The Current: It’s early morning all night long, LED street lights

On May 9th, 2017, CBC’s The Current radio show took on the topic of LED street lights and light pollution.

You can read the full story here entitled “It’s early morning all night long: Halifax residents revolt over LED street lights” and listen to this segment of the show below via the CBC radio player.

This is a very good look at the LED problem spreading across the lands. The host of The Current, Anna Maria, interviewed Halifax resident Hillary Harris who is speaking out against the LED street lights. Also interviewed was lighting planner Jim Benya. According to Robert Dick, Chair of the RASC LPA, Mr. Benya use to be on the Technical Committee of the International Darksky Association (IDA) and one of the architects of the IDA Model Light Ordinance (MLO).

Halifax resident Hillary Harris says her whole family is awake due to the new LED street lights the city installed right across from her front porch. (Courtesy of Hillary Harris)
Halifax resident Hillary Harris says her whole family is awake due to the new LED street lights the city installed right across from her front porch. (Courtesy of Hillary Harris)

Myself, as an amateur astronomer, astrophotographer and someone who sees first hand the damage light pollution is doing to our night environment as well as how LED is making it worse, I applaud the CBC for taking on this topic.

The lighting industry eager to sell more lights has mislead the masses with white light LED. Solving a couple problems like energy (supposed) savings or GHG reductions, while introducing a slew of new problems, is not environmentally friendly at all.

Engineers rarely think about the environment. Over-lighting and full spectrum light (high Kelvin, 4000K, 5000K+) at night impacts nature; stresses all living organisms: trees, birds, bugs etc. including people.

Safety needs to be factored in: over-lighting and/or full spectrum light at night creates glare which creates safety issues for motorists and pedestrians. More light does not make you more safe. In fact it makes you and your valuables an easier target.

Full drop shielding needs to be factored in whereby the diodes are fully recessed and not visible for approaching angles in the 60-80deg range. Most LED fixtures fail miserably for this. This creates glare and vision difficulties seeing into darker areas outside of the roadway that may have unexpected obstacles and dangers pop out suddenly.

Hillary Harris says she wakes up in tears some nights losing sleep over the brightness that emits from the street lights outside her bedroom window. (Courtesy of Hillary Harris)

Zero uplight past the 90deg does not automatically mean LED lamp is dark sky friendly. High Kelvin white light (4000K, 5000K) contains a large component of blue light that is more efficient at scattering in our atmosphere than longer wavelengths like red. By way of ground reflection and low angle radiation the white light will then increase night time brightness and skyglow, not reduce it.

Well-being of community needs to be factored in: The type of light spectrum used along with over-lighting can disrupt the quiet of the night and with that the well-being of the community and nature. This applies even to urban core environments since light pollution can be far reaching, with impact upwards of 100KM distant from the source, reaching into rural/natural areas even.

As with most technologies, there are good and bad types of LED lighting, and good and bad ways of using them. Lighting is always viewed as a technical issue even though it is primarily an environmental issue – because you are changing the natural environment for one reason or another and nature is qualitative, not quantitative.

Further reading:

5 popular myths about LED streetlights http://darksky.org/5-popular-myths-about-led-streetlights/

CBC Radio, 80% of North Americans can’t see the Milky Way http://www.cbc.ca/…/the-current…/encore-why-80-percent-
of-north-americans-can-t-see-the-milky-way-1.3711408

Shawn Nielsen

My story began nearly 40 years ago looking up at the Moon with a small collapsible telescope my Father had. Encouraged by my parents, who bought me my very own telescope, a 4.5" reflector, I began to explore the night sky from my family home backyard. Today I do astrophotography from my home in Kitchener, Ontario and also with remote telescopes located in New Mexico and Australia. Some of my images have won awards and have been featured online and in magazines.

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