As we go about our busy lives here in Lake County, many people do not even think to look up anymore. Why should they? There isn't much to see except for the occasional plane or handful of stars. There is a cosmic giant hanging over our head that many people do not even know is there. This celestial monstrosity is the home of over 400 billion alien suns and stretches from horizon to horizon, but is basically invisible to our human eyes. This sleeping stellar giant is our home galaxy, the backbone of night, the Milky Way!
For thousands of years, our ancestors were guided by the stars and lived their lives by the cycle of the Sun. For all that time 100% of people could clearly see the Milky Way, now it is estimated that 80% of people alive today have never seen it at all!
Why can't we SEE this amazing impressive collection of stars and nebulae? What is it about Lake County that prevents our eyes from catching a glimpse of something that has been moving over our heads for the history of forever? The answer to that question is: Light Pollution.
Gleaming from every home, business and parking lot are the lights we use to illuminate our way through the thick darkness of night. The invention of the lightbulb made it possible for us to continue our daily lives uninterrupted, right on past sunset, and into the wee hours of the morning if we choose. The human race is doing a fantastic job of eliminating night time all together!
It is great we can be more productive at all hours, but we need a stark contrast between night and day to be healthy. All life on Earth depends on the natural 24-hour cycle of daylight and darkness to function at its best. Human beings themselves have only been living in the soft glow of artificial lights for a little over 100 years, and it has been creating health problem for every generation since.
The International Dark Sky Association warns " Wildlife and fish experience this same disorientation of time when there is too much artificial light at night. The length of nighttime determines behaviors governing mating, migration, sleep, and foraging for food. Light pollution negatively disrupts these age-old patterns."
Not only does light pollution hurt our health it also hits us right in the pocketbook. "An estimated 30% of street lighting is wasted light; defined as light that shines up into the sky where it does no good. Based on this number, it is estimated that in the United States alone 22,000 gigawatt-hours a year are wasted. At a conservative average of $.10 per kilowatt-hour, the cost of that wasted energy is $2.2 billion a year – enough to annually fund a new mission to Mars. In other terms, 3.6 tons of coal or 12.9 million barrels of oil are wasted every year to produce this lost light."
So how can we help combat light pollution? The answer: "Dark Sky Approved Lighting". It is not a quick fix but just like the other ways we have been helping the planet with green energy and recycling; these simple changes can make a huge difference.
Think of it as putting a lamp shade over all of your outdoor lighting. Instead of shining all that light up to the sky where you do not need it, you are directing it to the ground to illuminate what you are looking at. Why light the sky when you need it on the ground? In turn, you can use a lower watt bulb and save energy at the same time.
There are a few ways to curb light pollution in your home or business:
- Turn off lights not being used
- Shield and lower the wattage of lights
- Use timers, dimmers, and sensors to shut off lights when not needed
- Replace existing fixtures with IDA-approved 'Fixture Seal of Approval' fixtures at your local stores (Lowe's and Home Depot have recently started carrying a wide variety of affordable, IDA-approved, dark sky friendly lighting)"
There are already places in Florida that have made the change and are enjoying incredible starry skies and health benefits of lowered light pollution. Harmony, FL is one community that has made the daring switch to dark sky lighting, and the many improvements are astounding. Read more about Harmony here.
We can enjoy the night sky and incredible wonders the cosmos has to offer if we all do our small parts in fighting light pollution. In Charge Electric is looking forward to helping you make the changes to your home or business to the make the sky a darker place. Contact us today to begin your journey with better lighting and a darker night sky.
To read more about light pollution and ways to help, visit our friends at Stellar Eyes.
Photo Credit: Derek Demeter
Image credit: International Dark Sky Association