[Saguaro cactuses (Carnegiea gigantea) seem to reach toward the stars in an Arizona desert. With no city for miles to cast a hazy glow, the night sky puts on a dazzling performance].
Citation: National Geographic
Professor Diba Khan-Bureau
Date of Speaker: Wednesday April 16, 2014
Shedding A New Light On Light
As a young kid, Bob Crelin enjoyed going out at night to look up at the stars and observing his favorite thing, the Milky Way. Now, fast forward to 1994 when Bob Crelin first became active in amateur astronomy. One night he decided to take his daughter outside on a beautiful, clear summer evening in Branford, Connecticut, to show her the Milky Way. To his surprise, Crelin couldn't find it. He knew from memory where the Milky Way was, but because there was so much light pollution in the sky, the Milky Way, along with many stars,was hidden by an artificial sky glow. This Seminar was to inform us that lights are being used in excess now, so much that it causes light pollution, which is like a fog that covers the night sky. Light pollution not only blocks out the stars and the Milky Way, but it can also be detrimental to human health and the environment. Bob Crelin’s background is very diverse, unique and interesting. He is a designer, author, songwriter, and an inventor. Bob has published a few books including There Once Was a Sky Full of Stars and Faces of the Moon. Fortunately, our seminar class was able to purchase these books and have them signed. The details, imagery, and time put into these children like rhyme books was very impressive and quite beautiful. He has invented some pretty neat things, like the Moon Gazer’s wheel for example. The Moon Gazer’s wheel is a chart that rotates that can tell you any thing about the moon, such as the name of the phase the moon is in, the moon’s position in orbit, the day of the lunar month, etc. Another invention of his is The GlareBuster. The GlareBuster is a an outdoor light designed to save money for the consumer with the use of a 26 watt compact fluorescent bulb - which consumes nearly 12 times less energy than comparable outdoor lights. Bob and I have actually a lot of things in common, he has a strong passion for music, you can tell because of his 35+ years of dedication to songwriting, producing and recording his original music. He also established an award winning product design for Gibraltar Drum Hardware, Gretsch Drums, Takamine Guitars, Ovation Guitars & Dixon Drums, over all, enhancing the appearance of musical instruments world wide.
Bob Crelin decided to take action in lessening the amount of light pollution there is because it is hiding the natural beauty of the night sky. He was aware that most light pollution is unnecessary and preventable. Much of the light pollution in Connecticut was from poorly designed outdoor lighting, overly bright lights, and lights that are improperly aimed. With high hopes to pass an act that limited light pollution, Bob Crelin handed out postcards at his seminars, events, to the community, etc. These postcards were design to get the attention of higher authority figures who could put forth a change. The postcards worked, even people who knew very little about the stars in the sky, light pollution, it’s impact on health and the environment, provided their signature to show that there is a public concern about the excessive amount of light pollution. These postcards helped Crelin get the attention of Branford’s town planner, Shirley Rasmussen. Shortly after a public hearing, June 1, 1997 marked the day that approved the zoning regulation for outdoor lighting in Branford Connecticut. This law “Promotes full-cutoff (fully shielded) fixtures for most uses. These direct all lights below horizontal, not sideways or up. This law also discourages floodlighting and unshielded wallpacks, and disallows uplighting of buildings and signs. Also, non essential lighting must be off after business hours”(Sky & Telescope). With this regulation in place, there has been tremendous improvement. I applaud Bob Crelin because this is not a win lose situation, everyone benefits from this regulation. The area is more put together and nicer looking with appropriate fixtures on their lights, light owners save an impeccable amount of energy, and stargazers get to see a sky full of stars. Light pollution shields the stars from shining through. In some cities with high light pollution and no regulations, as little as 200-500 stars can be seen at night. Cities with regulations can see up to 2,500 stars with the naked eye, big difference!
Light pollution doesn't just ruin the view for stargazers and save money for businesses, it has also been shown that it can be detrimental to human health. Particularly light pollution is linked to cancer in humans and people who have difficulty sleeping. What happens is darkness releases the natural hormone, Melatonin. Light inhibits the release of Melatonin, making it harder for people to sleep. Sleep plays a big role in human health: Sleep helps maintain a healthy immune system, memory formation, and is an overwhelming important factor in the functioning of the human body and the brain. An experiment was done at the Ohio State University in Columbus with dwarf hamsters. Dwarf hamsters were monitored, “after four weeks of sleeping for eight hours in twilight conditions they started to exhibit symptoms of depression”(World Crunch). What’s even more interesting is that when the hamsters were able to sleep in complete darkness once again, signs of depression disappeared, and they appeared to be their happy healthy selves once again. This study is not only trying to show that light in excess affects animals, but also similarly affects human as well. Now to get to the main point I wanted to discuss in this paragraph, light pollution is linked to higher levels of breast cancer. How could this possibly be? Lights are everywhere we go, the idea that lights are linked to breast cancer is a scary thought. Like I said before, light inhibits the release of the hormone, Melatonin. As a result of this, estrogen levels rise, which is a high risk factor for breast cancer. Melatonin is extremely important because it is exactly what our bodies need to fight off cancers, with melatonin, our bodies are more resistant to certain types of cancer. Studies have been shown that “female medical staffers and workers on night shift have a markedly higher rate of breast cancer than the rest of the female population”(World Crunch). With this being said, too much light pollution can make us sick.
Light pollution also affects animals. It “ disturbs eco-systems, and interferes as well with the chronobiological rhythms of animals” (World Crunch). Animals that are active during the day and ones that are awake at night are running into each other, they are basically confused when it is night or day because of the excess use of lights. Artificial light is a dead end for many insects too, insects buzz around lights day after day and eventually quickly die from either burning to a crisp or from exhaustion. One thing that I thought was really interesting during the seminar was there was a light at a Burger King near Bob Crelin’s home. This light was so bright and improperly pointed that half of the tree was not changing color unlike the rest of the tree that was not lit. In this case, light pollution is interfering with mother nature.
Artificial Lights are a wonderful thing, a luxury, and we can all admit that lights play an important role in our everyday lives. However, the issue with lights is at night! Too much light is not a good thing. Artificial lights from street lights, business billboards, store fronts, stadium lights, or even lights glaring out of peoples homes can have a negative impact on human health, animals, and the environment. Light pollution is linked to an increase likelihood of breast cancer, many insects die and animals are often confused when they should be awake or sleeping. Finally, light pollution in the sky is like a heavy fog that blocks many of the stars from shining through. With less light pollution, everyone benefits.
"How I Beat Light Pollution in My Hometown - Sky & Telescope." Sky & Telescope. N.p., n.d. Web. 26 Apr. 2014 <http://www.skyandtelescope.com/astronomy-resources/how-i-beat-light-pollution-in-my-hometown/>.
"Worldcrunch." Bright Nights: Light Pollution Is Bad For The Planet, And Your Health. N.p., n.d. Web. 26 Apr. 2014. <http://www.worldcrunch.com/tech-science/bright-nights-light-pollution-is-bad-for-the-planet-and-your-health/artificial-light-breast-cancer-depression/c4s11269/#.U1r917w2Y00>.