Lights Out, America! We need new strategies to bring back the night.

January 06, 2015  •  1 Comment

From a Focal Point article by Bob Guzauskas & Colin Henshaw published in the Sky & Telescope magazine on page 86:


"We need your help to change America's nighttime experience.  As most S&T readers know, light pollution is excessive or inappropriate light at night.  Speakers often lecture astronomy clubs, and writers sometimes rail against light polluters on the internet.  Their audiences generally applaud politely, but then it's over.  Surprisingly, the most apathetic audience is our own astronomical community.  Amateur and professional astronomers rarely get involved.  They complain about light pollution but don't act.

Is the problem apathy or lack of leadership?  Astronomers tend to avoid rocking the boat -- sometimes to their own detriment.  This must change.  Light pollution affects couch potatoes as much as everybody else.  But the two of us won't sit by and do nothing.

Light pollution is a serious and well-documented problem that goes far beyond astronomy.  Scientific studies show a higher incidence of breast cancer in light-polluted areas.  Like smoking, light pollution doesn't induce cancer in everyone.  But like smoking, light pollution increases the incidence of cancer, which means it can kill human beings (S&T: Sept. 2011, p.86).

So get involved.  Act as if you're trying to save your own life.  For 20 years the International Dark-Sky Association has called for better light fixtures to reduce light pollution.  The IDA's strategy  has had limited success in a few areas, but light pollution continues to worsen across the U.S.  So let's do what France is doing.  The French government has asked its citizens to turn off all unnecessary indoor and outdoor lights between midnight and dawn.  In its first year, this Lights Out initiative has reduced France's energy consumption from nocturnal light pollution by a reported 9%.  To reduce America's light pollution, turn the lights out.  Let's do it now!  Here's how:

First, make alliances.  Enlist others to our cause so the campaign won't be construed as a tyranny by a minority of elitist astronomers and tree huggers.  Tie our message to broader concerns about energy costs, the environment, and climate change.  The public is sympathetic.  People understand waste, pollution, and environmental damage.  Show them the pictures and the numbers.  Light changes nocturnal ecosystems and harms migratory animals.  Be prepared to address public concerns about safety and security.  Inform people that criminals need light at night.

Second, let's get on the airwaves with short, high-impact messages about light pollution's cost in dollars, disease, and environmental damage.  Spread the message on local network television using 15-second commercial spots.  It's inexpensive and it works.  Model commercials on those aired by anti-tobacco forces.  The consequences of light pollution are shocking:  light pollution kills people, harms animals, and degrades ecosystems.  Spread the message far and wide.

We can win the day and bring back the night.  Light pollution is one of the easiest environmental problems to cure: simply turn off unnecessary lights (meaning almost all of them), and properly shield the rest.  This is not about plunging communities into the dark, but creating a better, healthier world for every living thing.  Educate the people and they will act.  If the French can do this, so can we."

For more information, visit our website,



Bob Guzauskas(non-registered)
Thanks for the boost. We're up and running.
No comments posted.