Radio Commentary

November 26 1997

Stop Lighting Up My Life


here’s a new kind of pollution. You probably haven’t heard about it, it doesn’t affect your health, and it will have no long-term impact on the state of the planet. But more and more people say they are bothered by it. It’s called light pollution. Caused by excess light from homes, streetlights, and commercial sources, light pollution obstructs a clear view of the heavens. In cities and suburbs, it’s becoming increasingly harder to see the 2,500 stars which should be visible to the naked eye. And now activists are trying to do something about that. Light pollution is primarily a complaint of suburbanites. Residents of America’s inner cities certainly have larger things to worry about, and rural folks can see all they want. So it’s been left to people with telescopes and way too much time on their hands to oversee the war on light pollution. They’re asking for people to voluntarily turn off lights, but they’re also pushing for local regulations prohibiting spotlights and requirements that "nonessential" lighting be turned off during non-business hours. They’ve been successful in communities from Connecticut to San Diego, and Nevada must certainly be on their hit list. For obvious reasons, the Silver State may be the worst state in the union for light pollution. Since it’s also the most urban state—83 percent of us live within metropolitan Reno and Las Vegas—the self-appointed light pollution police may come knocking on your door soon. Their hearts may be in the right place—may be, I said—but I’m a little uncomfortable about this "nonessential" lighting business. Who exactly decides what is and isn’t essential lighting? Something tells me Nevada’s casino executives share my concerns. From NPRI, you think about that! u


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