The Pollution Series: Light Pollution in Dearborn

After talking about the Noise Pollution in the last episode, I started noticing more and more the sound of the streets and highways.  Did you know that there are different sound quotient for each of the different materials that roads are made of? More on that here: http://www.pavementinteractive.org/pavement-noise/

But today I will talk about light pollution in Dearborn.

Light pollution, also known as photopollution, is the presence of anthropogenic (originating in human activity) light in the night environment. It is exacerbated by excessive, misdirected or obtrusive uses of light, but even carefully used light fundamentally alters natural conditions. As a major side-effect of urbanization, it is blamed for compromising health, disrupting ecosystems and spoiling aesthetic environments.

Effects

Light pollution has many negative effects, among which are:

  1. Energy Waste:

Lighting constitutes a quarter of all electric consumption in the World, and Over-illumination is a big energy waster and hence a contributor to Global Warming.

In Australia alone:

… public lighting is the single largest source of local government’s greenhouse gas emissions, typically accounting for 30 to 50% of their emissions. There are 1.94 million public lights — one for every 10 Australians — that annually cost A$210 million, use 1,035 GWh of electricity and are responsible for 1.15 million tonnes of CO2 emissions.

2. Effects on animal and human health and psychology

“Human health implications of light pollution” states that “… light intrusion, even if dim, is likely to have measurable effects on sleep disruption and melatonin suppression. Even if these effects are relatively small from night to night, continuous chronic circadian, sleep and hormonal disruption may have longer-term health risks”  Professor Steven Lockley, Harvard Medical School,  “Blinded by the Light?” Chapter 4

Hypertension effects of over-illumination can lead to aggravation of cardiovascular disease and erectile dysfunction, which impacts are outcomes of long term cumulative exposure and associated systematic increases in blood pressure. The mechanism of this effect seems to be stress by related upregulationof adrenaline production akin to the fight-or-flight response.

3. Disruption of ecosystems

When artificial light affects organisms and ecosystems it is called ecological light pollution. While light at night can be beneficial, neutral, or damaging for individual species, its presence invariably disturbs ecosystems. For example, some species of spiders avoid lit areas, while other species are happy to build their spider web directly on a lamp post. Since lamp posts attract many flying insects, the spiders that don’t mind light gain an advantage over the spiders that avoid it. This is a simple example of the way in which species frequencies and food webs can be disturbed by the introduction of light at night.  The ecosystems disrupted by lighting are more than we can count.

There are other effects of light pollution, such as its effect on astronomy, making it very difficult to observe the skies or conduct research, and pushing astronomers to build their telescopes in very remote areas, and working with the communities around them to reduce light pollution.  Also the effect of diffusing the moonlight, which in itself disrupts many ecological ecosystems.

Light Pollution in Dearborn

In addition to Dearborn being a busy city, surrounded by industry, and close to Downtown Detroit, with all its projector lighted fields, and tall fully lit buildings, it suffers from additional sources of light pollution:

  1. Excessive street lighting:  Although favored by many residents due to increased safety, they are unaware of the effects of light pollution on their physical and mental health.  LED lighting has the worst effect on the environment.
  2. Excessive house lighting.  Installing additional projectors that shine on the house.65f6ba8a7aba089597a47cc0a82caf04l-m0xd-w480_h480_q80
  3. Excessive Gas Station and Business lighting.  For some reason, we Arabs love over-illumination.  I don’t know what it is that made us this way.  Maybe our fear of being lost in the desert or something.  I remember my family always installing outdoorlightingtile-600px.jpg

 

When is the last time you saw the sky filled with stars?

Fortunately, there are organizations made up of people who are continuously trying to protect at least some areas from light pollution, and they have worked on creating light conservatories.

Dark Sky Preserves

Dark Sky Preserves are protected against light pollution and are ideal locations for stargazing. Here in Michigan, six state-designated Dark Sky Preserves are located within the following parks:

 

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