While a view of the Earth from the depths of space may be fascinating, it can also reveal something else about our planet. NASA regularly releases photos of our world taken at night. Land and sea are coated in a beautiful dark purple blanket and many areas are decorated in what looks like gold dust. But upon closer inspection, it becomes clear that this gold dust is nothing more than swathes of night-time illumination in densely populated areas. And when we take an even closer inspection, we can see that we have a big problem.
The term »light pollution« does not refer to a lack of cleanliness but rather to an excessive amount of artificial light at night – in fact, the amount of artificial light around the world is increasing at a rate of two percent each year. By looking back up at space from Earth, we can see one of the issues that light pollution causes. In places where large numbers of people live, the stars seem to be considerably duller than they were 50 years ago – even Orion does not shine as bright as he once did. It is often not possible to see the stars in the Milky Way at all.
Some people may be able to live with that fact, but you don't have to be a keen stargazer to recognise that light pollution is a serious issue. It is partly due to the inescapable fact that global energy consumption is constantly on the rise, which can often be attributed to wasteful human behaviour. Canadian researcher Christopher Kyba recently reported that, contrary to predictions, some areas are actually becoming brighter, as replacing older sodium lamps with cheaper LEDs frees up funds to install additional lighting.
The effects of light pollution on nature are devastating. Artificial light at night can impact trees' ability to detect the current season. It can disorientate migratory birds, causing them to have fatal collisions with illuminated buildings. It stimulates a phototactic response in millions of insects, causing them to circle around the light endlessly instead of feeding and breeding, and often driving them to exhaustion and death. Experts believe artificial light to be linked to the current increase in insect mortality which, in turn, has a negative impact on bird populations and plant life.
By 2007, the issue of light pollution had become so noticeable that UNESCO signed a declaration to protect areas with natural darkness and a clear night sky from light pollution. Communities in Florida whose artificial light sources confuse sea turtles have banned night-time lighting on beaches where the mothers lay their eggs. A few countries have started implementing laws or regulations in an effort to stem the increase in light pollution.
Introducing bans is not always practical or possible, not to mention the fact that existing legal measures had hardly made an impact on reducing the annual amount of night-time lighting. However, it would be easy to take countermeasures in many locations as lighting solutions are available that can significantly reduce light pollution without compromising on lighting quality. One option is an intelligently controlled light that only shines at night when it is absolutely necessary and remains inactive the rest of the time.
ESYLUX offers an extensive portfolio of these solutions to give its customers endless possibilities, such as combining ESYLUX outdoor motion detectors with ESYLUX outdoor lights or fitting outdoor lights with an integrated sensor system. The bollard lights with integrated motion detectors from the ALVA series are a prime example, as these can be used to switch sensorless ALVA bollard lights on and off automatically, control entire lighting groups in an energy-efficient manner and also integrate 230 V lights via a DALI switch. In this way, these lighting solutions help combat the growing environmental issue of light pollution and improve safety – all while also saving money!