By David Fuller

 I am a firm believer in sales. Sales are what make the world go round – well, the business world, certainly, but what many people don't realize is that they are in sales even if they don't hold the title of “salesperson.” But to the point: Any good salesperson knows that logic does not drive sales; what does matter is something deeper and 'gut-level' for humans:


Yes, humans buy things based on emotion. I know you think you “need” that Televue eyepiece, but you also know that you really don't, you just want it. A lot. (And that's okay) We all do it. It's human nature. We also resist many things based on emotion too. With artificial lighting at night, humans were able to limit the occurrence of perhaps the most primal emotion:


What does that have to do with sales? Sales is all about overcoming objections – that is, obstacles to making a sale. So what are the biggest objections to reducing light pollution? Usually the primal human fear that less light will mean more crime. So we need to learn how to overcome the objection to that fear. Here are points you can easily remember to initiate those conversations, and make the “We should work towards a full-Moon-level light at night” argument:

1. Over half of crime happens during the day (in the U.S., per FBI statistics). MORE light isn't protecting us. If it's sunny, and people still get robbed (and more often then too!), then the light didn't stop the thief, did it? If anything, light shows thieves exactly what to target, because they can SEE what or who they are robbing. It's a whole lot easier to pick a lock or steal something when it can be seen with light, right? So use less light to stay safer.

2. Crime goes down when it's dark. Yes, really. Witness the city of Bristol in the U.K. In 2011, the city turned off a great many streetlights, and witnessed a DECREASE in crime, from 17% to 50%! Councillor Ron Hardie stated “...the police [say] that burglars don’t like it when it’s dark. They like to be able to see their escape route and they like to ‘case’ a premise.... They would attract too much attention if they were using torches (flashlights).”

3. The human eye is adapted for full Moon lighting. Most humans see the full spectrum of colors during the day. At night, our eyes adapted to use the 'rods' on the retina, which see more of a black and white shades in lower light conditions, and over a wider field of view. Light that is significantly brighter than the full Moon at night adversely affects humans ability to see at night, because it causes the pupils to constrict, which creates greater contrast and the appearance of more shadows. So less light is better. Not the elimination of light, just “full Moon-level” lighting.

4. Streetlights are 30x to 100x brighter than the full Moon. And humans can see just fine in truly dark locations with the Milky Way out when there is NO Moon visible at all! The full Moon provides us with 0.1 lux of illumination at night – more than enough to see. The proliferation of more streetlights continually adds to the problem – brighter sections get lit by streetlamps, we see more dark spots, so we add more streetlights, etc. There's more than one problem with this, but the most important one is....

5. Too much light at night negatively affects sleep. Not just for humans, but ALL animals, nocturnal creatures included. But let's look selfishly at ourselves anyway. It only takes as little as 5 lux of blue-shifted monochromatic light to negatively affect our circadian rhythms, which disrupts the production of melatonin in our bodies, and therefore, our sleep. This is according to Dr. David Blask of Tulane University School of Medicine, who studies light as it relates to sleep. Remember, streetlights are 30 to 100 times brighter than the full Moon, so a single streetlight can negatively affect your ability to sleep. Multiply that by many streetlights, plus security lights, plus “decorative” post lamps, plus headlights, well, you get the idea. We are artificially illuminating our local environments to the point of adversely affecting our sleep. The one exception to this is red-shifted (or even amber) light: This color has few or no adverse affects. So new streetlighting, particularly LED ones, should be red-spectrum shifted.

“Use curtains!” some skeptics will cry. Using curtains means that in warmer months, instead of being able to reduce energy by simply opening a window, now the curtains must remain drawn, and enormous extra energy used to run the air conditioning unit. This, while a simple breeze, from the moonlit-level lighting outside of a window, could easily cool us off – and for a lot less money.

The correlated argument for this is that if someone is playing very loud music, we do not tell the person hearing the music to “Buy earplugs!” - rather, the person playing the loud music is asked to turn it down. This is usually done promptly, yet with light... the victim is told to fix the problem. Why is that? We should reflect that argument back, and ask, “Why are you afraid of full Moon levels of lighting?”

Let's educate people about full-Moon level lighting, to make the rest of our artificial lighting only that bright (except for TRULY security-sensitive locations, like radio towers, airports, etc.). And if a bright light is needed, shield it down, leave it off except when really needed, or put it on a motion sensor. A light that blinks on in the middle of the night is far more likely to scare off an intruder or attract a neighbor's attention than an 'always-on' light. Then we'll all be able to see just fine at night, and probably reduce crime at the same time.


Who wouldn't want to do that? Get involved – start talking to your family, friends and neighbors about this today. For most light at night situations, we only need as much light as the full Moon to see. Argue that case, and we will make progress.





David Fuller David Fuller is the host of the “Eyes on the Sky” astronomy videos, has been featured in the Astronomy magazine blog of Editor Dave Eicher, and had his “Super Simple 2x4” tripod for tabletop telescopes featured in the February 2014 Sky and Telescope magazine. He has been actively working towards reducing light pollution by writing, making live presentations, and producing videos since 2008.



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