Thursday, June 04, 2015

Light Pollution

One of the things that has really been bothering me lately is light pollution.  I remember as a kid growing up at Flathead Lake how amazing the stars were at night up there.  That was part of what was cool about being at the lake.  Now more and more people have moved in and what was once a remote location with very few people has become almost a city.

Recently a neighbor built a large shop on a property not far from my little cabin.  It has lights between each bay and they often are left on at night.  It is lit up all the way around except for the back and the lights are really bright.  Paying for the electricity is no big deal to a lot of these folks.  They have so much money that energy conservation isn't a consideration for them.  The problem with all of these lights is that they don't just light up their own property they shine across several properties including mine.  It's so bright I put up a black army blanket over my already dark curtain and the light still bleeds through the sides into my bedroom at night.

It's one thing to light up your own property, but it's another to impose that light on someone else.  You don't or at least shouldn't have that right.  I'm reading a book called The End of Night by Paul Bogard.  The book defines that situation as "light trespass".  If you must leave lights on at least use fixtures that direct the light down. My neighbor here in Spokanistan built a giant shop behind my house.  On that shop he put a giant bright light that lights up my back yard and the back of my house and also the neighbors on the other side of him.  So no matter if I go to Montana or stay here in Spokanistan I've have someone's light pollution to deal with.

Here's a pic of me in Montana back in the day with my future cabin in the background. The stars used to go all the way down to the horizon in all directions.  I guess those days are gone, and I noticed that it's getting harder and harder to see the milky way up there thanks to all of the light pollution.  It will be gone soon too.  How very sad...


Quiet Paths said...

I totally can identify and agree with this essay. It would be so easy to put little shades on the tops of the lights which would help but there is very little awareness among some folks about this topic. Last summer in Glacier Park a couple with a camper left their outdoor lights on all night and you'd think they would have figured it out. Would your neighbors respond if you just talked to them about it? Worth a try...

don said...

Glacier Park, one of the few remaining light free areas in Montana other than the Bob. Yes you'd think the couple would have turned out the lights there. The subject of light pollution was brought up at a naturalist talk we attended at Apgar. And don't get me started on generators and loud motorcycles in the park.

I have thought about talking to my neighbor at the lake. I almost did a couple of weeks ago but stopped short of it. I don't even leave a porch light on at night. People think they are safer with lots of lights on and that's really a false sense of security.

I think changing minds on this subject is really going to be tough. There was a piece on a CBS morning news about a flashing billboard installed across from an elderly couple's home. This sign was electronic and the size of a semi trailer. The couple complained to the company which got them nowhere, so they contacted the clients of the billboard company who agreed to not advertise at night. The result was that the billboard company sued the couple. Charlie Rose, Norah O'donnell, and Gail King sided with the billboard company saying the company had the right to advertise and couple should get better blinds... They might have the right to advertise but do they have the right to trespass?

And the elderly couple was there first. Not that that means anything.

Quiet Paths said...

Yeah, I hear you. Well, I hope that awareness will soon grow about this issue, along with dogs, jet skis and motorcycles. :) Hope the opportunity arises so you can have a discussion with your neighbor on the lake. Indeed the light is trespassing onto your property and you have your rights too. I believe that most people just don't know what they are missing which is why it's nice to introduce them to another way of thinking.

don said...

You might be right and I've got nothing to loose except now the guy turns the lights off some of the time. He might cop an attitude and leave them on all the time.

The motorcycle people often think the more noise they make the safer they are kind of like the light people leaving lights on, but I heard an RCMP talk about biker noise on the CBC saying it gives them a false sense of security. In Canada they are cracking down on the biker noise a little anyway.

The dog people think they are safer with their dog on the hiking trail but the wounded dog often leads the bear right back to the owner. From what I understand that has happened in Alaska.

Jules said...

Noise pollution and light pollution are different issues, but both are a problem indeed. The last time we were at Apgar, I actually overheard 2 men on motorbikes making fun of the sound meter thing at the bottom of the GTTSRoad, that measures decibles. The problem is that even if there is awareness brought to these types of problems, people have free will and will just do what pleases them. That brings up an entirely different problem with people living only to serve themselves and not caring about others. Somewhere along the way, people have lost the notion of being considerate.

It must have been amazing back when there was hardly anyone around the lake and you could see gazillions of stars and the Milky Way. I remember one time on the phone you said to me "see the Milky Way.. look east of that" as we tried to see the same satellite. I couldn't even see the Milky Way.

don said...

Yes that's why we need rules. Motorcycles only so loud, and so on. It's selfish to impose your music, light, noise or whatever on someone else but you're right, more and more people just do what they want as long as it serves them.

I think about the dog ownership a lot. Everyone in my neighborhood has two or three in their back yard. Like you need a dog. Just another consumer item like needing a TV or a hot water tank. And then it's like, well now we have it and it's in the back yard all the time for the neighbor to have to deal with and listen to while we ignore it for the most part.

I was recently working in my back yard and the whole time my neighbors dog barked at me for well over an hour. I can't go in my back yard without hearing one or more of many dogs barking. It is insane. But if you have an issue with anyone's dog they take it very personal.