In astronaut circles it is sometimes said that Belgium is used as a point of reference in order to orient. It is a fact that Belgium is indeed twinkling between its neighbors. The whole of Europe seems to be a chain of lights, but my country is a front-runner in terms of brightly shining street lighting. You could say that the illumination might be pretty to see from space, like a shimmering carpet that shines without interruption. The above photo, however, can be used to visually indicate the light pollution tout court. The nightly street lighting is not only a huge waste of energy, but it is also detrimental to our health and that of our fellow earthlings.
A poignant example of this was seen in the last episode of Planet Earth 2, called Cities. There you could see how light pollution on the breeding beaches attracts young sea turtles from the sea. Definitely worth a look at.
Due to copyright I cannot show you the fragment, but the following video clearly demonstrates how young turtles are deceived by the bright city light.
The Darkest Night of the Year
Fortunately, Belgium is aware of this and there are various initiatives to do something about it. One of them is the ‘Darkest Night of the Year’. This initiative wants to draw attention to the influence of air pollution. Because there is simply too much and wrong lighting. Constant lighting on buildings or in spaces where no one is coming, lighting towards the sky, etc., resulting in unnecessary energy waste and excessive night-time lighting. For some people this leads to lack of sleep and other health problems, but also the biorhythm of plants and animals is disturbed, as you could see in the above fragment.
For the Night of Darkness, the participating cities and municipalities put out at least a part of their lighting on the streets, squares and monuments. Additional activities took place at various locations in Flanders. Top activities were stargazing and nocturnal nature walks. Also on the agenda: dance, poetry, putting nocturnal animals back into nature and spotting moths. All under the slogan to make the night part of our lives again. After all, we have gradually become addicted to lighting.
LED with sensor
As mentioned before, too much nocturnal light has negative consequences for humans and animals. That is why the organizers call on local authorities to illuminate as little as possible. For this, the combination of LED lighting with sensors offers the best solution. LED lighting is very easy to dim, switch off and switch on. In this way, the light only turns on when there is actually human activity. None or very little lighting when nothing happens in the street, soft lighting for pedestrians and cyclists, more light for cars.
False sense of security
An aspect that is often cited by the government as well as by the population as an argument in favor of light pollution is safety. And of course, combating light pollution must not jeopardize this. However, many studies have shown that it is usually only a false sense of security.
Many also think that (excessive) lighting, for example in the garden or on an industrial area, will deter burglars. This assumption is incorrect, as demonstrated by several projects and studies.
Brightly lit neighborhoods are more often hit by burglary and vandalism than other neighborhoods. This may seem like a situation that run counter to what one would expect. After all, it is believed that light deters thieves rather than attracts.
There is a logical explanation. When the building is lit up all night, it is no longer clear that someone is walking towards the property. On the other hand, when you have a building with motion detectors, the attention of local residents is immediately drawn. Of course, this detector should not be too sensitive, a light that turns on with every gust of wind or passing cat will soon be ignored.
You could see our use of lighting as an addiction. One characteristic of addiction is the constant use, even though you know that the use entails or worsens physical or psychological problems. The above text is just one simple example of misused lighting we see nowadays. However, the number of recognized effects of injudicious use of light on humans is still increasing. I am thinking of hormonal dysregulation, myopia in children and the enormous waste of money. It is therefore urgently time to detox.
Interested in the light pollution in your area? View it via this light pollution map.