Target: Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency Gina McCarthy
Goal: Reduce light pollution by using more efficient street lamps.
Everyone is aware of air and water pollution; but light pollution, while lesser known, can be just as harmful. If you’ve ever tried to gaze at the stars only to see a brown haze, then you have experienced light pollution. Not only is it aesthetically unappealing, but it is also disruptive to nature’s biological clock. The best way to solve this problem is to implement street lamps that reduce the amount of excess light that escapes into the sky.
The street lamps that we are currently using have high-pressure sodium or mercury bulbs that don’t shine uniformly or in one direction. Instead, the light shines in many directions, with more than half of it spilling into the sky. With artificial light obscuring the night sky, both animal and human sleep cycles are disrupted. Many animals depend on the natural cycle of day and night to time their sleep, growth, eating, and mating, and this man-made daytime is throwing them off. Humans’ melatonin levels are also affected by this, which could contribute to the diminishing amount of sleep people are getting in recent times. A lot of growth and brain development occur during sleep, so people are being physically and mentally stunted by this loss of sleep.
Fortunately, researchers are designing a LED street lamp where the bulb is placed in a cavity to help focus the light, which then passes through a diffuser to reduce glare. This will prevent any excess light from spilling into the sky, all while saving energy. In order to reduce the widespread effects of light pollution, cities need to adopt this smarter design of street lamp.
Dear Administrator McCarthy,
Light pollution is a serious problem that is disrupting nature’s biological cycles. Many animals, including humans, are acutely attuned to the change of night and day. This artificial extension of the daytime can prevent necessary development that occurs during sleep, as well as confuse animals of when to mate, eat, or migrate. To reduce these effects, the best solution is to redesign the main contributor to light pollution: street lamps.
Researchers are developing a LED street lamp that could immensely reduce the amount of wasted light. Unlike the current street lamps, this design has the light bulb placed within a cavity to focus the light, which then passes through a diffuser to reduce glare. This way the light is uniformly concentrated downwards, with no excess light spilling into the sky. Not only will this design reduce light pollution, but it will also save a large amount of energy.
The EPA needs to encourage cities to adopt this design, either through grants, incentives, or taxes. There are already programs against air and water pollution, so now is the time to take on light pollution.
[Your Name Here]
Photo credit: Christopher Kyba and Ray Stinson