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28 November 2021

Opinion from Adrian Leopard & Co

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Light pollution – so easy to reduce!
Adrian Leopard 132

Light pollution – so easy to reduce!

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We need to think “little” as well as big; there are things we can all do to help our planet to survive

While there is a pandemic around we spend a lot of time analysing the figures, counting new cases, deaths and hospitalisations and indeed it is one of the most worrying facets of our lives today.

What we must not forget, however, is that this is probably just the tip of the iceberg, an iceberg well-known to exist by all, namely global warming and an overall constant threat towards our planet and its inhabitants, and I do not just mean humans.

It was interesting to see an article today on the BBC News website linking insect loss to light pollution. Essentially the article points out that scientists consider that light pollution by way of street lights may be contributing to worrying declines in insects seen in recent decades. It is an interesting article and if you would like to read it all, you can find it here:

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-58333233

The decline in the insect population is potentially a serious threat to the planet because that is how most of the world’s plants are pollinated and food grown. Insects are also a vital part of the food chain.

However, light pollution is actually quite a big topic for various reasons and take a look here and you will see a 2015 map showing areas of light pollution.

https://www.lightpollutionmap.info/#zoom=4.00&lat=46.7654&lon=10.4475&layers=B0FFFFFFTFFFFFFFFFF

It reveals a startling picture and Britain does not come out of that examination very well! But why do we have all this light on? Here we are in a carbon emissions crisis and the amount of wasted energy going into lighting must be huge. I recall times when we were urged to turn off all unnecessary electrical items in the home so that we could reduce electricity. Sky TV at one time were saying that if everyone turned their Sky boxes into standby mode when they had finished watching TV, there would be enough electricity saved to light the City of Birmingham. It wasn’t quite clear how long Birmingham would benefit, a year if memory serves me right, but it was a realistic point – so many electrical gadgets today have automatic energy saving built in that savings must be considerable but much more can be done.

And yet it is so easy to find that the television remains on when there is no one in the room watching it, lights are left on and so it goes on. Anyone who has had a smart meter installed will realise just how easily the electricity bill mounts up – you can see happen in front of your very eyes.

One of the areas where there is great contention over street lighting is motorways. And I dare say that it is street lighting which is causing the light pollution which shows up so effectively on the light map. Motorcars have always been made with headlights, the object being to be able to see in the dark. So why then do many motorways, generally urban ones but not always, have to be lit up so brightly, or even at all? Pedestrians are not supposed to be on the motorways and these days everyone is expected to wear a fluorescent jacket if they break down. Those who argue that road safety is at stake are evidently not concerned about the consumption of vast quantities of electricity used, and the light pollution it causes.

The effect of light pollution is noticed most where there is no such pollution. Places like the Channel Islands or the mountains of Andorra where there is little artificial light come to mind. Go there for your star gazing and the sky is totally different to what you would see from even rural England. When it is dark, it is dark! The night sky reveals itself to be amazing; turn up the lights and the stars disappear.

There is an interesting article here showing how well Wales is in fact doing:

https://naturalresources.wales/about-us/news-and-events/news/new-map-casts-light-on-wales-dark-skies/?lang=en

It seems obvious that if we reduce our lighting and as a result our consumption of electricity, this has got to be beneficial in terms of reducing carbon emissions. Every little helps, as they say. So why does the government not push forward with a major energy saving policy? Most people do not want to waste electricity; they just need reminding to turn the lights off and they will.

And who knows, perhaps the insect population will be pleased by this inadvertent assistance! You could help them even more by creating a part of your garden as a wild area to allow insects to thrive; it may sound crazy but weeds have flowers and the insects love them. Install a small water feature if you can, and may be even start getting dragonflies.

These are small measures which we can do at home and make a surprising difference. Insects survive based on there being a habitat for them to occupy; increase the habitat and you will increase the insect population and this will percolate along the food chain.

Adrian Leopard 28-08-21

Photo Kalai Venthan Gopal

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