Thursday, 12 April 2012

L for light pollution

The stark fact is that we are living in a world that expects to be lit up 24/7. Inefficient lighting wastes £1billion a year in the UK alone [CfDS]  and it also blights the view of the night sky and may also cause body clock havoc for birds, insects and small wild animals.

This thermal image map of the UK shows how widespread light pollution is with the dark blue areas having the least light pollution. Some think we should have legislation like the kind that bans dumping rubbish, for dumping light. Attention is being given to the angle of the beam of light so that it beams below and not above too. There have certainly been “lights out” initiatives in the US – over 17 cities have participated but what about the UK? 
Thermal image of UK
My partner was so keen to see a really dark sky not remembered since childhood and when we travelled to New Zealand last year we sat in open countryside until after midnight watching the sky and drinking in the novelty that was laid out there for us.

Campaigners have warned that the UK’s night skies are still “saturated” with light pollution, after a survey suggested half of the population are unable to see many stars. Councils across Britain have attempted to improve the situation by testing schemes to switch off or dim street lights. Of course cutting down on public lighting saves money too so we are starting to see initiatives to reduce  street light hours in some areas. 

light saver notice
This is a sign on a street lamp 20 feet from my house in a local park. 

More information from the CfDS which has a handbook, ”Blinded by the Light”,  available from its website


  1. Although there are some street lights in the centre of our village, they don't extend to the outskirts where we live. Also, they go off at 10.00pm. We spend a lot of time stargazing. We can clearly see the Milky Way and often see shooting stars and also watch the space station zooming across the sky.

    On warm summer nights, we often lie on our backs in our field just watching the stars. The dogs, of course, think it is some sort of game and have to be shut in the house!

    A few years ago, a busy dual carriageway on the outskirts of Cardiff had its lights switched off in a bid to save energy. In a 3 month period, road accidents on that stretch doubled so the lights were switched back on again.

  2. There are still parts of England where the night sky is dark - though they certainly are becoming fewer. I'm sure that some people have no idea how majestic the sky can be. I really deplore the floodlighting of buildings at night, although I can see some justification in floodlighting remote churches.

  3. I know that I was amazed when we could see the Milky Way at a camp last summer. Our skies aren't horrible as cities, I'm sure, but no where as clear as out in the country.

  4. I realise we're extremely fortunate in being able to find places with no distracting light. The night sky is so deep and vast we can sit for hours watching the stars and satellites. It is truly wonderful. My hope is that as cheap plentiful power becomes more realistically priced (aka expensive) that we will have fewer buildings lit to excess and people living in cities will be able to once again enjoy the wonder of the night sky.
    Sue: An A-Z of Climate Matters

  5. Light pollution is such a concern that, where I live, we actually have dark parks where no illumination of any kind - other than the moon and the stars - is allowed. Sad that it comes to that.