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Let the stars shine through

One of things I loved doing as a child was to look up, from the balcony or the rooftop and say goodnight to the millions of stars twinkling above. Being able to look at the stars every night, relaxes the eyes, imparts peace of mind, and gives a sense of who we are in time and space.

How difficult it is for children (and grown-ups!) of this generation to look up at a sky full of stars and share this sense of awe, unless a deliberate attempt is made to go to a place far away from city lights. Cities like Singapore, where I live, have a very high degree of light pollution. I keep wondering, is all this lighting really necessary?  In an era where we need to be conserving every bit of energy, we are literally burning away billions of gallons of oil in night lighting. Reducing the quantum of lighting will help decrease carbon emissions as well as costs for businesses.


Here are the things I observe:
- Buildings, especially commercial buildings have so many lights on in different floors, past midnight and till dawn breaks. If this is a security requirement, these can be dimmed to the lowest wattage absolutely necessary.

- Overly bright advertisements in neon lights, large sceen HDTVs on the exterior of shopping malls need to be mellowed down on the glare they produce.

- Have you been to a shop only to find your eyes crinkle as you enter, because of the sheer intensity of light? I strongly feel that lighting can be done in a more energy efficient and aesthetic manner, so as to reduce energy consumption, and the city glare.

- The decorations in various city streets are lit up extremely brightly during festivals. These are pretty no doubt, but is it really necessary to waste so much energy. Even the trees are not spared, we forget how the heat and light affects the insects and birds nesting there.

- Many cities the world over encourage an active night life. I’m not against night life per se, and I find this actually makes cities a vibrant and fun place to live in. Cities have to find the right balance of closing times for shops, clubs and restaurants, and the health of its inhabitants. Encouraging people to get the right amount of sleep is healthier for the body, mind and the planet. It will be healthy for business too, as people will be more productive during the daytime.

What can we do to reduce light pollution:

- Write to the media, businesses and the authorities and tell them how you feel. It’s not always that they respond favourably, but they may begin to see your point, especially if it helps reduce costs.

- In your own home, review your outdoor lighting and use the lowest wattage possible. Keep it switched off when you feel it’s not necessary.

- Use focus lights during the night, and softer lights with a lower wattage for the rest of the room

- Go to bed early…easier said than done, especially in a fast-pace life such as ours. But do yourself, your health and the planet a favour and trying to tuck in early at least 2- 3 days in a week to begin with.
- Here are some links where you can learn more about the topic.

http://www.darksky.org/mc/page.do

The November 2008 edition of the National Geographic has an article on Light Pollution http://ngm.nationalgeographic.com/2008/11/light-pollution/klinkenborg-text

 

Let us restore some of the beautiful darkness that night deserves. Let us allow the stars to shine through.

 

 

A special thanks to my friends, Sudha and Sridhar for sharing their concerns on light pollution.

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Posted by on Feb 6 2009. Filed under Climate Change, Energy/Renewables, Pollution. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

3 Comments for “Let the stars shine through”

  1. I recall my childhood in Calcutta where load shedding was the norm in the late 70s and early 80s, where parts of the city would plunge in darkness for extended periods of time. We learnt how to “switch off” the lights and fans when we would leave a room. This habit seems to be fast disappering in this day and age, when in fact we should be more concious of how quickly we are burning the candle from both ends………..

  2. I agree with you…for some it’s almost a reflex action to switch off the lights or any electrical equipment when they leave the room. It’s not so automatic a habit for many. I also feel cities are getting inordinately bright and loud as a way to attract shoppers’ attention. And much of the unnecessarily bright lighting in buildings can be mellowed down to save energy and restore some darkness in the skies.

  3. Energy efficiency and conservation- indeed, the need of the hour..

    For computer savvies, here’s a little tip.. reduce the display brightness to the minimum and feel the difference.. your eyes would thank you!

    The display can use more power than any other computer hardware, so, by dimming it, you will certainly do your bit in saving power! Remember, little drops of water make a mighty ocean.. each of us can make a difference.

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