By Heather White
I have hundreds of river stories with my family. Let me share the “night”.
As a young child I would have to wait until after dinner then my dad would say, “Time to find the night!” Off we would go, down the hill, into our boat, and out on the river. In August, one of our favorite paths was through the Narrows into Eel Bay. Once there he would turn off the engine and we would just float. We would see day move into night as we watched the sun set. One of my favorite games was counting the loons: some nights there were too many to keep count! As they dove down under the water I guessed where they would pop back up! Riding home after dark my father would show me the entrance to the Narrows by the two tall evergreen trees. He told me that lights on the shoreline hurt a captain’s ability to navigate; think what it must do to night creatures.
There were an endless number of stars, the Milky Way, and counting the shooting stars. I really didn’t think anything of it as my parents spoke about “Night Light” pollution and how very lucky we were to be able to be in a place like Eel Bay, free from light pollution..
Light Pollution is real. Learning about it was scary to me, as I realized how damaging it can be. How empowering it is to know we can make a positive change right in our own yards, businesses, and shorelines. It does not have to be complicated.
Night Light Pollution is excessive artificial lighting. It can cause these effects:
- Glare- This can blind a person for a few minutes as their eyes adjust – can be dangerous to a driver on land or on the water.
- Skyglow- This is a dim glow throughout the night sky, taking away the night.
- Clutter- This is randomly placed lighting – too many lights.
- Trespass- This is when lighting from one property intrudes on a neighbor shining on their land or into their windows.
When one considers light pollution, think not only of the night sky and how it disrupts your enjoyment of star gazing. Think of the creatures who depend on the night above you, below you, and all along the river’s edge.
Light pollution disrupts ecosystems for both plants and animals’ physiology. It confuses migratory animals, and is harmful to birds, frogs, toads, hummingbirds, fireflies, and many others. Light pollution even alters predator-prey patterns..
Night Light Pollution impacts people by disrupting our natural circadian rhythm, which depends on day and night to produce the proper amount of melatonin. This imbalance can lead to various sleep problems and an increase in stress.
Night Lights are often an extremely wasteful use of energy. Lighting accounts for ¼ of our electrical use worldwide.
The good news is each one of us can make a positive change. If you need exterior lighting, install on-off switches in convenient locations. Shield your lights so they face down to the ground, not up in the sky or out towards a neighbor. Use bulbs of the appropriate spectral power — on the river, try soft yellow lighting. Turn off the lights when you are not using them, or if they are not used to navigate. This keeps our shoreline habitats in its natural beauty! Learn more at International Dark-Sky Association (IDA). IDA provides information to city planners and individual homeowners alike.
A few easy steps can assure a healthy night for us, your neighbors, the plants, and animals that we share this beautiful river with, and years of enjoying counting the shooting stars!