LETTERS: Light pollution brings with it far-reaching ill effects


It was bad enough when our apartment complex installed 41 outdoor LED lights that turned every square inch into 24/7 daytime, so that entire flocks of birds ran from us like they were fleeing Chernobyl, and those who are too confused to leave serenade us with birdsong at 3 a.m. because we have failed to provide them with avian sleep aids to combat the unrelenting light.

If I was gut-punched last June when I stepped onto my balcony at midnight into a world so bright that it disappears the stars, I am apoplectic now to discover that BC Hydro has installed LED streetlights on Marine Drive and elsewhere. It’s like The Blob, oozing from street to street, swallowing up the darkness, causing harm to humans and ecosystems by messing with the natural cycle of day and night.

That so many of us are indifferent to these lights has me reduced to a horrified stutter. Because if we don’t stop it now – if we decide to ‘get used to it’– it’s only going to get worse. And the bigger it grows, the bigger the excuse that it’s too costly to reverse.

As if money is more important than we are.

Organizations such as the International Dark-Sky Association (IDA), and the American Medical Association (AMA), are raising the alarm. “At the heart of every white LED is a blue LED with special coatings. Many of Earth’s inhabitants, including people, are sensitive to this blue light. It disrupts the natural circadian rhythm of animals, insects, and plants. It is often fatally attractive to birds and insects and is correlated with a range of devastating diseases in people.”

I don’t need studies. Headaches and burning eyeballs if I forget to shield them from the glare, insomniac neighbours and wildlife, and the loss of a night sky that connects us with nature and fills us with a sense of wonder are the only evidence I require.

IDA delegates are creating critical momentum to tackle biodiversity loss, climate change, and the adverse health effects caused by light pollution. In Canada, and across the globe, people are winning the fight against inappropriate and excessive use of artificial light.

So can we.

Guidelines for responsible lighting are posted at darksky.org, and we are not meeting them. Contact BC Hydro, your MLA, your city or municipality, the BC Minister of Environment & Climate Change, the BC Minister of Health, and the BC Green Party. Shout loud and long for change, and don’t blindly accept industry hype.

The push for safety and energy efficiency is a poor argument for lighting that both destroys the nitrate radicals which cleanse our air, and wreaks planetary havoc like a freight train heading our way. We deserve better. As does every living organism in our stewardship.

Maureen Kerr, South Surrey

Letter to the Editor