On June 7th, the draft lighting ordinance was presented to the plan commission in Harrison County, IN.
The concept is simple: “Thou shall not shine thy light on thy neighbor’s property”. The ordinance sets reasonable lighting levels and mandates the installation of shields on outdoor lighting fixtures.A $39 yard light will not solve your security issues. Such lights actually show criminals the way to your property.
As an amateur astronomer for over 35 years I have watched as the view of the dark, natural night sky has virtually disappeared in urban areas like Louisville, KY. Now only a few of the brightest stars are visible. From my home near Elizabeth the sky to the east is awash in an orange glow that is nothing more than wasted energy from thousands of lights at homes and businesses in Jefferson county and beyond. On moonless nights I can walk outside and see my shadow under this reflected glare. As I look to the south the “light dome” above Brandenburg, KY is visible, similar glare is visible over Corydon to the west and Lanesville to the northwest.
I have invested thousands of dollars in telescopes and astronomy accessories and hundreds of thousands of dollars to become a property owner here in Harrison county. With this property came the expectation that I would be free to enjoy the benefits of a semi-rural lifestyle including a natural, dark night sky.
There are 5 lights on neighbor’s properties surrounding my home which throw glare onto my property. This is not acceptable.
There are two problems with light trespass. The first is obvious: skyglow that blots out all but the brightest stars. On occasions when there is an opportunity to view a comet, nebulae, galaxy or some other deep sky wonder I’m out of luck if it’s to the east. If there’s something in that part of the sky I can pack up my gear and drive 50 miles to find a dark site or put the telescope away. The other problem, which is due to the glare from lighting coming from my neighbor’s property, is that such glare makes it impossible for my eyes to “dark adapt”. The human eye requires about 30 minutes in darkness to “dark adapt” to “night vision”. In less than one second glare from a neighbor’s light overwhelms the eye and “resets” dark adaptation.
Light trespass is an intrusion for everyone, not just astronomers. Glare from neighbor’s lights intrude into the rooms in my home. The night is split by the ugly blue white glare of no fewer than 4 dusk to dawn “security” lights when I spend and evening relaxing on my front porch. Why can I see lights which are quarter of a mile or more distant?
Glare from excessive lighting does not enhance security it creates safety hazards. Glare across roadways creates blinding “veiling luminance” that overwhelms the eye and is a driving hazard. The recent renovation and parking lot lighting installation around the tractor farm supply store in Corydon is an example of excessive lighting. There is considerable evidence that dusk to dawn lights DO NOT enhance security. To the contrary, the glare from these lights show would-be criminals where you keep your stuff and provide shadows where intruders can hide in the harsh glare. A much better solution would be a motion activated, shielded fixture.
Consider this: Which is more likely to alert the homeowner and neighbors to the presence of an intruder? A light that’s glaring all the time or a motion sensor activated light that comes on only when someone or something is outside where they don’t belong?
The International Dark Sky Association estimates that, in the U.S. alone, consumers waste over $3 billion dollars worth of energy every year with poorly designed outdoor lighting which does little more than throw glare into the sky. Using the local power cooperative’s numbers there are more than 5,000 dusk to dawn lights in use in the Harrison county area. Each of these lights uses 125 kilowatt hours of energy per month. That’s 625,000 kilowatt hours per month or about 7.5 million kilowatt hours every year. More than half of that energy is wasted throwing glare across property lines and into the night sky.
I believe that glare from neighboring lights is an intrusion. We all have the right to enjoy the wonder that is a natural, dark night sky. Harrison county tourism promotes a scenic, rustic community. There is nothing scenic or rustic about the glare around the hotel on SR135 north of I-64 and at other locations in Corydon. Many commercial locations are lit up like a prison yard. I believe that if future generations are to enjoy the beautiful natural resource that is the night sky it is imperative that our county planners and commissioners enact the proposed outdoor lighting ordinance without further delay. If you agree please contact me via email or through postal mail at H.E.L.P, the Harrison Efficient Lighting Project at POB 5973, Elizabeth, IN 47117. Please support this effort by making your opinion known to your county commissioners and attend the Commissioner’s meeting on Thursday, June 7th, 7:30 pm at the county courthouse in Corydon.
Our outdoor lighting efforts are supported by Starry Night Lights. Thanks to Anthony Arrigo for his product and information support. To quote Anthony “Starry Night Lights aims to restore the night sky to its past luster. We’re working to address the problem one bad light at a time.” Visit their light pollution blog.