Where is the night in University Heights?

Used to be we could sit outside at night and see stars, maybe not the Milky Way, but still, lots of stars. Where did they go? Where did the dark sky go? Since the 1990s, our municipal governments have neglected to keep up with a looming problem facing most of the Heights, outdoor light pollution.

Our elected officials aren’t even aware of the growing dangers to health, safety and the environment of outdoor light pollution. This is an important quality-of-life issue for us.  

University Heights’ elected officials have a unique opportunity to ensure we will not contribute to growing health, safety and environmental problems. They can do this by writing outdoor lighting codes to protect us. Cities such as Flagstaff, Ariz., have codes already in place. Why not use them as models?

Why now? Why University Heights? I was driving on North Park Boulevard one night and my eyes went straight to three consecutive light posts because of the newest LED light in one. I’m no expert, but one had yellowish light (at the warm end of the light spectrum). One had a bluish light, and the third had a powerful new LED blue-end-of-the-spectrum bulb system that obliterated the sky.

Outdoor light pollution is complicated. But it is one of the few pollution dangers that has a solution at the municipal level, at the University Heights level.

University Heights can become the area’s model for responsible lighting. Isn’t it bad enough we have the warm-end-of-the-light-spectrum streetlamps shining into our bedrooms at night? Imagine what it will be like if the new high-power blue-light-emitting diodes (LEDs) replace those bulbs? Do we really want to wear sunglasses at night?

The International Dark Sky Association reports, “Light in the blue part of the spectrum is the most significant contributor to sky glow. And many of Earth’s inhabitants, including people, are particularly sensitive to this blue light. It disrupts the natural circadian rhythm of animals, insects and plants . . . and is correlated with a range of devastating diseases in people.”

A National Geographic article stated: “An increased amount of light at night lowers melatonin production, which results in sleep deprivation, fatigue, headaches, stress, anxiety, and other health problems. Recent studies also show a connection between reduced melatonin levels and cancer. . . . [N]ew scientific discoveries about the health effects of artificial light have convinced the American Medical Association (AMA) to support efforts to control light pollution and conduct research on the potential risks of exposure to light at night. Blue light, in particular, has been shown to reduce levels of melatonin in humans.”   

We need to restore our night for many reasons. Does it mean we give up light? No. As humans we have been using light at night for at least 400,000 years and we are not about to give it up.

What we face in the 21st century is how to ensure this is done responsibly. University Heights can be a leader [in asking] how we use outdoor light responsibly. University Heights City Council needs to consider this question and pass codes that protect our health, safety and the environment from outdoor light pollution.

Anita Kazarian

Anita Kazarian considers University Heights her home of choice and has been active in many of the city’s volunteer organizations. She wants to hear your thoughts about making University Heights a city of choice.

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Volume 14, Issue 8, Posted 3:27 PM, 07.30.2021