Julia Hailes MBE

Sustainability Pioneer


Street light rant (Feb08)

There’s been some discussion recently about councils turning off lights between midnight and dawn. Hooray. Actually, I think there are lots of places where they shouldn’t be on at all. And others where some lights might be a good idea but not nearly as many.

Street lights are big energy guzzlers because they have to produce quite a powerful light over a distance – and much of what they produce is wasted going straight into the night sky. And that brings me to another point – light pollution. Looking at a world map in the darkness of night, it’s not actually dark at all, it’s blazing with light. And if you’re on the ground looking up at the sky there aren’t many places where you can get a clear view of the stars.

Sailing across the Carribbean in the 80’s I spent hours gazing at the sky and saw lots of shooting stars. But most people growing up today won’t see any in their lifetime – only a ghastly orange murky glow.

When I sat on the District Council in Somerset, I discovered that there were some pretty dreadful policies on street lighting and once they were in place they were very hard to get rid of. New housing developments above a certain size were automatically fitted with lights, even if the residents opposed the idea. This meant that villages that for centuries descended into peaceful darkness at night were transformed into urban outposts.

Actually, there’s one particular street light that really gets my goat. I live on the top of a hill in the countryside with a few farms and other houses nearby. It’s not even a village. But there’s one street light in the lane. It happens to be visible from my bedroom window. I haven’t raised a protest because I know how difficult and time consuming it would be to get rid of it. But I’d be very happy if someone put it out of action….

So roll on Councils turning lights off – and more…..

Comment Section

0 Responses

  1. Yes – please keep ranting about street lights, and not just in cities – what about on roads. For example, a highway was upgraded near us, and a new roundabout added at the intersection. At night its lit up like a mall. There are zero pedestrians at the intersection, and everyone driving around it presumably has headlights (if not they are going to be in trouble as all the other roads at the intersection are rural, unlit). From the hillside its the most glaring landscape facility for 20km (apart from the next intersection).
    You are right about it being rules. The transport authority claim they are just following rules. So lets get the rules changed.

    – Mitra
    (p.s. yes, this is the Mitra that worked in the same Earthlife office as you 20 years ago – now working on renewable energy in Australia)

  2. Mitra – how amazing to hear from you! Yes, I agree about street lights on roads. There are far more than we need and they’re a real blight. Presumably, this is also happening in Australia or you wouldn’t have written. How did you find my blog?

  3. Hi Julia – your blog turned up in a search I did a while ago, and I added it to my subscriptions. Nothing too surprising at that since for the last few years I’ve been helping people create businesses around sustainability. For the last six months I’ve been working on a project to make green buildings and renewable energy affordable in Australia. (www.beyondbuildingenergy.com)

  4. The government lecture us all on using energy saving lightbulbs, and turning off our tvs from standby, and not boiling a full kettle etc etc, all of which I believe are good things. However the government should take a leaf from their own book and stop needlessly lighting up the night sky night after night, how many millios of pounds go into doing this each year, despite the environmental damage and light pollution.

    I hate the damn things, I live in rural Wales, but yet they seem to be everywhere! I too have one that shines straight into my bedroom window from a footpath, a footpath by the way that no-one walks after dark, so what is the point???

    Anyway my rant is over.

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