Bountiful Utah Temple by tephdra
Anyone who has seen an LDS Temple at night can confirm its beauty and how it stood out as a "light to the world". Unfortunately, this literal interpretation of scripture has a significant downside which many are unaware of. It's called light pollution, and is a global problem that provides the Church a wonderful opportunity to take a leading role and set an example to the world of its concern for the environment. One building may seem like a small gesture, but taking into account how the Church lights the thousands of Temples and Chapels around the world, and this represents a significant issue. Does our symbolic need to be a light to the world outweigh our damage to the environment and waste of energy?
There are various forms of light pollution - Light trespass is unwanted light spilling onto others property. Over-illumination is the excessive use of light. Glare is caused when there is high contrast between bright and dark areas in your field of view. And sky glow is what happens typically at the scale of a city or metropolis.
Ways to reduce light pollution include improved fixtures, adjusted light sources, redesigned lighting plans, use of timers, etc. In this and other ways, lighting can be used more efficiently and with less waste.
Additionally, the Church is starting to use LED strings of Christmas lights for some of its holiday light shows. The Deseret News reported that Temple Square is beginning to use LED strings. And the Washington Post stated, “The Festival of Lights at the Mormon Temple in Kensington has replaced more than three-fourths of its half-million lights and hopes to finish the rest next year.” While they may cost slightly more than standard Christmas lights, they are cool to the touch, use only 10% of the energy of a standard incandescent bulb, and are virtually indestructible, lasting for many years. If you are interested for your home you can check out http://www.holidayleds.com/.
Probably more urgent than energy consumption, though, is the affect light pollution has on the surrounding environment. The main concern appears to be the disruption of nocturnal animals and migrating birds. This also begs for an increased density in our cities, rather than spreading out endlessly, but that is another discussion. Both birds and reptiles are at risk according to this National Geographic article. And the article, Is light pollution killing our birds? talks about how we are killing off the insects which many bird species rely on.
A Science News article by Ben Harder states, "A few trees that fail to show fall colors, or extra moths that become bat food aren't necessarily going to catalyze public opinion against light pollution." "However", says Kenneth D Frank, "when people consider that disturbing one component of an ecosystem may have ramifications for many other organisms, the case for reducing light pollution begins to look more compelling."
Harder concludes, "There are other signs that light pollution is entering public awareness. To commemorate the victims of the terrorist attacks, New York City beamed two pillars of light into the Manhattan sky from the former site of the World Trade Center. The memorial fomented some concern about its effects on spring bird migrations. Fortunately, the memorial's architects had taken ecological effects into account. After consulting the city's Audubon Society about peak migration times, they scheduled it to shut off each night at 11 p.m. and to operate only through April 13."
So it appears that there are ways to be a light to the world without also damaging the environment at the same time. All it requires is knowledge and action.
International Dark-Sky Association - Utah Section
Great images of light pollution
09 January 2008
Bountiful Utah Temple by tephdra
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