The French government just announced that they are taking the vanguard position on light pollution and energy conservation with a new law to control lighting at night. The environmental ministry announced the law yesterday (to go into effect July 1 2013) to require businesses and municipalities to shut their lights between 1AM and 7AM. There will be exceptions for some public monuments and holiday celebrations but shop windows, streetlights, facades will all be dark in the wee hours.

This is supremely good news on many fronts. The move is expected to save some 250,000 tons of carbon dioxide emissions per year. That’s a massive step in the right direction for reducing greenhouses gasses and the attendant global warming. It’s also an acknowledgement that light pollution itself is a huge problem that needs addressing. Light pollution negatively effects human health (specifically as it disrupts circadian rhythms), negatively impacts the ecosystem of nocturnal animals, as well as ruining our view of the night sky. Have you seen a great starry night recently?

I can only imagine there will be a backlash of billboard owners, searchlight operators, and makers of exterior-grade flood lights. But, try this and let me know what you find: take a walk in the dark. Let your eyes adjust to whatever light comes from the moon or stars. You’ll be amazed, I think at what you see and what you have been missing.

Perhaps against intuition as well, less brilliantly lit areas, ones with down-pointing/shielded fixtures, and ones with motion activated controls are safer than glare-y flood lit ones.

If this sounds interesting and you want to learn more, the International Dark Sky alliance’s website has great info: including tips for talking to those neighbors who’s prison-yard lighting is streaming in your windows.


-David Calligeros

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