Pollution isn’t always obvious!

Spring is popping and how pleasant it would be to take a walk on a clear warm night looking up at all the stars.  However, no matter how clear a Northbrook night, we can see only the scattered brightest stars.  All of the Chicago metropolitan area lives under the nighttime glow of artificial light.  Light pollution is a hazard for humans, wildlife, and the economy.  It is a major problem with some very easy solutions.

Wildlife is affected by nighttime light pollution in many ways.  According to National Geographic, migrating birds guided by moonlight get confused, lose their way, and often die because of the obscured sky.  Birds also routinely fly into lit windows; the Field Museum found that when one high rise turned off their lights at night, bird deaths decreased by 80%.  Many insects are drawn to artificial lights at night and are killed either by contact or by exhaustion flying around the lights; birds and other animals dependent on those insects lose their food source.  Fireflies, which used to be abundant, use their glow as a mating dance. When light pollution affects the ability of fireflies to see the glow patterns, they do not mate; thus, decreasing their numbers. Who would have suspected that night time lighting would have such a drastic effect on wildlife?

We all know that too much light flowing in through our windows makes it hard to sleep, but, according to National Geographic, it actually inhibits the body’s ability to produce melatonin.  Lights that are too bright actually are driving hazards by creating glare rather than appropriate street lighting, thus, causing traffic accidents.  Even on one’s home property, lights that are too bright create glare and can inhibit the safety they were put there to protect.  The FBI states that lighting for safety is only beneficial if someone is on constant watch; bright lights enable an intruder to case out the property.  If there were no lights, an intruder would be forced to use a flashlight which would cause obvious suspicion by on-lookers.

The economic impact is obvious.  Unnecessary bright lights and lights left on all night long are simply a waste of money and electricity.  Businesses wasting night lighting pass the cost to consumers and create a chain of wasted money.  According to Adam Kreuzer of the International Dark Sky Association, 35% of all outdoor light is wasted, at a cost of 3 billion dollars per year.

Solutions are easy.  For residential homes, use motion sensor timed lights for nighttime safety and protection, making sure those lights light only the necessary area and do not shine into your neighbor’s home.  Residential, business, and village lighting should be properly shielded to direct the light downward and not up into the sky.  All night lighting should be soft yellow as opposed to bright white lighting, using the dimmest light needed to do the job.

What can Northbrook do?  Northbrook can do a “night light” study, driving around the village assessing both residential and business use of light.  The Village can educate people that a house or business brightly lit all night long is not prudent.  What about Village buildings?  Do they follow they above suggestions?

We challenge both the Village and each resident to assess their use of night lighting.  Because of Northbrook’s proximity to Chicago, it will never have truly dark skies.  However, that doesn’t mean we can’t do a better job on protecting our night sky.  Maybe we will even be able to see a few more falling stars to wish upon.

Join GGN in May for a virtual program on Dark Skies at Northbrook Public Library 

Protecting Dark SkiesExplore the beauty of dark skies, the effects of light pollution on humans, wildlife, and plants, and dark-sky friendly lighting practices.Tuesday, May 18, 7:00-8:00pm

Registration opens April 1. 
Link to register: https://visit.northbrook.info/event/4728545