Bylaws are coming into effect in many cities and towns across Canada to deal with the out of control problem of light pollution.

It’s not just a cancer of the night sky. Its luminous fog washing out the stars and Milky Way because of poorly designed and implemented outdoor lighting. No the problem is more far reaching than that. Science and medical evidence being presented more and more these days, is showing direct links between light pollution and the negative effects it has on humans, wildlife, nocturnal species and our night time ecology.

Huntsville, Ontario, is yet another town to take on this environmental pollution. Huntsville is the largest town in the Muskoka Region of central Ontario. The problems and damage from the light pollution were becoming evident so the town developed outdoor lighting ordinances to help reduce the negative effects and control further spread of it.

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Light pollution dom emanates into the night sky from the cities of Kitchener and Waterloo in Ontario, Canada
In this photo I took, the light pollution from poorly designed and implenented lighting in Kitchener and Waterloo creates a “light dome” in the night sky that is visible from great distances such as this location near Linwood, Ontario – a 30min drive from Kitchener!

Light pollution is a term used to describe the effects artificial outdoor lighting has on our biology and ecology. It is comprised primarily of the components; light trespass, glare and skyglow. For astronomers and environmentalists it is a pollution wreaking havoc on the night sky and damaging our night time environment’s health. For people, glare and unwanted light from a neighbours outdoor lighting or flood lights, shining into their homes or bedroom windows at night is being linked to sleep disruption and health issues like depression and cancer.

“Huntsville is launching an information campaign to encourage all residents to minimize light pollution in and around the municipality. Council passed a new Outdoor Lighting Bylaw in January that requires all outdoor lighting fixtures to be dark-sky friendly by 2026.”

“Councillor Bob Stone said the bylaw is about protecting the environment.”

Light pollution is a nuisance in many respects. Bylaws effectively work to deter these nuisances and deal with problems that can arise between property owners. It is no different than a noise bylaw. It’s not okay for you or your neighbour to blast music and disrupt the peace. Same holds true for outdoor lighting where it is not okay to shine your bright lights onto other peoples properties or in their windows at night.

Light trespass from neighbouring properties is a nuisance and disruptive to sleep. Causing light trespass is not being a good neighbour.

Outdoor lighting should not be excessively bright and it should be shielded so the light stays on your property and doesn’t disrupt or annoy your neighbours. Directing the light where it is needed by using properly shielded fixtures will prevent glare which will make it easier to see the surrounding environment and make it safer.

Did you know? Full cut-off fixtures function by reflecting the light that would normally be sent up into the night sky back down to the ground. In doing so, they can make the ground brighter, while using lower wattage light bulbs, therefore using far less power. For example, a 40 watt light bulb in a full cutoff fixture can be as effective as a 100 watt light bulb in a normal fixture.

Wasting light by allowing it to spill to the sides and up into the sky is costly in many ways.

Why are bylaws needed? In a nutshell, because unless there are rules and consequences most people tend to not care. They will push the limits. In some limited cases it is shear arrogance and ignorance. That somehow it is okay to pollute the environment. It could also be a lack of understanding and this is why Huntsville’s public information campaign is a good approach. Something other cities and towns should take a lesson from.

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This white light LED outdoor porch light is not shielded. It is creating lots of glare and light trespass because it is not properly shielded and far to bright. It is also shooting light up into the night sky where it is not needed and is a waste of energy.
A white light LED outdoor porch light is not shielded. It is creating lots of glare and light trespass because it is not properly shielded and far to bright. It is also shooting light up into the night sky where it is not needed and is a waste of energy.

 

In my experience over the years as an environmentalist and advocate for reducing light pollution, one of the biggest challenges with light pollution awareness is confronting people’s false notions about night time lighting.

It seems to be instilled from a young age to fear the dark. This translates into adulthood where people think the boogeyman is going to get them or someone is going to steal something from them. They erroneously believe that more lighting and brighter lighting makes them more safe. It actually doesn’t though. This has been shown in a number of research studies that saw an increase in crime in cities where the lighting levels were increased. The right amount of light, directed where it is needed without glare or uplight, is far more effective and healthy for us and our night environment. It’s also being a good neighbour; not everyone appreciates your lights in their windows at night.

This bylaw that Huntsville has enacted will work to deal with the nuisance and health implications of light trespass problems from neighbouring properties and protect the night ecology. It will also protect the area’s dark skies from skyglow for those living there and those visiting to be able to appreciate the starry night sky for years and decades to come.

http://www.muskokaregion.com/community-story/6872918-huntsville-spreading-the-word-about-new-outdoor-lighting-bylaw/

http://www.huntsville.ca/en/DocumentUploads/Bylaws/doc_635895087103734399.pdf

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