With the holiday season in full swing, residents in the Falcon/Peyton area are busy decorating their homes with festive outdoor lighting. Santa all lit up on the rooftop is not joyous to everyone. And year-round lighting like flood lights can be a big annoyance, too. There is such a thing as light pollution as well.
The International Dark-Sky Association’s website states, “Light pollution –- the inappropriate use of artificial light at night –- is an environmental pollutant that harms our planet and robs us of the opportunity to experience the wonder of a natural night sky.”
The IDA, a 501(c)(3) organization founded in 1988, is the authority on light pollution and the leading organization combating light pollution worldwide, according to the website.
John Barentine, a physical scientist and program manager for the IDA, said the concept of light pollution can be fairly subjective. For some people, skyglow or the brightening of the night sky that makes it difficult to see the stars, may be an acceptable consequence to being able to see at night, he said. For others, a single neighbor’s lights glowing from their property into the neighbor’s windows at night, called light trespass, is a major problem, Barentine said.
The IDA receives many requests opposing holiday lighting because it contributes to light pollution, but Barentine said the organization must take a pragmatic approach to solving the problem. “We are not trying to turn the world’s lights off,” he said. “We know that is not a practical solution to the problem.”
Regulating holiday lights typically falls under the jurisdiction of various municipalities across the county, like homeowner’s associations, Barentine said. They often set rules on how long holiday lights can remain lit past dark and how long they can stay up after Christmas.
Because holiday lights are low-intensity, Barentine said in the grand scheme of light pollution, they are a minor contributor. However, other forms of artificial lights like flood lights can be damaging to the environment, he said.
“There are consequences for the artificial light we use,” he said. “From a purely environmental perspective, there is no safe amount of artificial light. Life evolved in a world that did not have that extra light, and our biology just does not know what to do with it.”
According to an article published online in the “Journal of Nature and Science of Sleep” Sept. 27, 2012, “Melatonin is secreted at night, and its synthesis is suppressed in a dose-dependent manner by light; greater suppression is produced with brighter light.”
According to an article published on http://talkabout sleep.com Aug. 23, 2013, melatonin performs a variety of tasks critical for continued health and longevity. An imbalance of melatonin can result in depression, a shorter life span and possibly cancer. “Melatonin in our system at the wrong time of day stresses our cells because it is telling them to pull back and shut down when we need to be active and energetic.”
A resident of eastern EPC, who wished to remain anonymous, contacted “The New Falcon Herald” with his concerns about recently installed permanent outdoor lights on his neighbor’s house. He said the lights are so bothersome that his mental health has diminished, leading to anxiety and depression.
The resident did not want to be identified because of potential further negative encounters with his neighbor.
The resident said he decided to talk to his neighbor first, but to no avail. The neighbor just installed additional lights, and all of them are lit 24 hours a day, he said. The resident said he once had hopes to construct an observatory on his property so he could enjoy the stars, but the bright lights coming from the neighboring property have eliminated that option.
Since EPC does not have an ordinance that addresses excessive outdoor lighting, the resident said there is nothing else he can do to resolve the situation.
Barentine said the IDA does not have the authority to sue anyone over a lighting conflict. “We have chapters across the world working with local authorities to help change the way people think about artificial lighting, hoping that a change in behavior will be the result,” he said.
The IDA offers suggestions for lighting and provides information they informally call the “Four Ps:” Proper place, proper time, proper amount and proper spectrum of lighting, he said.
A searchable database with information on products that have the IDA’s Fixture Seal of Approval is available as well, Barentine said. According to the IDA website, the Fixture Seal of Approval program certifies outdoor lighting fixtures that minimize glare while reducing light trespass and skyglow, when installed properly.
“It is our belief that by doing the right things with respect to lighting, meaning making the changes to benefit the environment and the night sky, it better achieves the goals for your lighting than what you had before,” Barentine said. “Targeting the light carefully means you will need less of it to get the job done, you will improve the night sky and environment, and you will be saving yourself money.”