07 February 2009

Light Pollution of Bountiful Temple in National Geographic

This afternoon I was in Urgent Care, which as it turns out is anything but urgent. It wasn't for me, but for my wife who injured her ankle on one of our staircases at home. She was carrying the baby when she fell, and fortunately there were no serious injuries. While passing the many hours of waiting, I happened upon the November 2008 issue of National Geographic magazine. The feature article is entitled "Our Vanishing Night" and discusses light pollution throughout the country. I really enjoyed the article and highly recommend it. I was shocked when I got to page 120-121 to see a full two-page image of the Bountiful Utah Temple.

Long-time followers of this blog - both of you - will recall that I did a post on light pollution a year ago where I talked about how the poorly designed lighting of the Temples was adding to the light pollution of our cities. And the image used was of the Bountiful Utah Temple. So out of all the buildings in the country to single out, the National Geographic chose an LDS building for this article. And out of all the LDS buildings in the country, they chose the same building I used to speak about light pollution last year. Even more remarkable is I don't think the Bountiful Temple is any more of a light-polluter than other LDS Temples - I simply chose it as representative of all the others, and because I found such a great image of it. (As a side note, I like the image used in my original post more than the one used in the National Geographic. I think it does a better job capturing the excess light from the Temple.)

So is it even possible that this is just a random coincidence? In my weird little mind, I'd like to think I had something to do with this appearing in the National Geographic. But that, of course, would mean they saw my blog...I'll probably never know, but I can always hope, right? So on to the important stuff:

There were a surprisingly-high four beautiful images representing Utah in the article. It seems excessive, since Utah is not any worse a light-polluter than other states, but at least one of the images showed a beautiful example of no light pollution, while the remaining three showed examples of excessive light pollution.

Here are the four images included from the magazine with the captions below:

Photograph by Jim Richardson
"'Let thy glorious light ever shine upon it,' beseeched the 1995 dedicatory prayer for the Mormon temple in Bountiful, Utah. Plenty of earthly light bathes the granite structure, its brilliance exaggerated by a long photo exposure."

Photograph by Jim Richardson
"As if admiring a sunset, Balanced Rock in Arches National Park, Utah, basks in the glow of the town of Moab—with about 5,000 residents—less than ten miles away."

Photograph by Jim Richardson
"The electric blush of Salt Lake City, more than a hundred miles away, brushes the horizon over Utah's Bonneville Salt Flats."

And finally the positive one, showing us the goal of what we can return to. In my opinion, we shouldn't have to go to a National Park to see this kind of spectacular sky.

Photograph by Jim Richardson
"A starry night gleams above Owachomo Bridge in Utah's Natural Bridges National Monument—named the first Dark Sky Park by the International Dark-Sky Association (IDA). 'Here you see something forgotten,' says ranger Scott Ryan, 'and reconnect with the sky.'"

One of my favorite quotes from the article states, "Of all the pollutions we face, light pollution is perhaps the most easily remedied."


Patricia said...

Very interesting post! Light pollution is a favorite topic of mine, one I'd like to investigate more deeply. I wrote a post on it over at A Motley Vision:


What is the Church Office Building like, light pollution-wise?

I think it would be wonderful if temples could dial it back on the "let your light so shine" scale. There must exist lighting stragegies that would highlight temple architecture in such a way as to draw the eye in wonder yet still preserve nighttime splendor, help guard the health of people living near these structures, and ease the stress of night-migrating flocks who follow cues in light as they travel traditional migration routes.

But even if changes in temple lighting policies are not forthcoming, individual Mormons can do things at home to quiet the light noise, little things, like not leave porch lights on longer than they need to be and install outdoor lighting fixtures that direct light downward, etc.

Given all the scriptural metaphors linking light with power and even intelligence, maybe it's hard to make the leap to the idea of light posing a problem.

green mormon architect said...

Hi Patricia,
Great thoughts - thanks for stopping by. I enjoy your blog at A Motley Vision, and hadn't seen your post from 2005 - thanks for sharing. I haven't thought about the COB, but it probably is actually pretty good since the only windows are narrow vertical slots that don't allow too much light out. That's one advantage it has over Modernism and the beautiful all-glass buildings that have been inspired by Mies van der Rohe.

You are right about the little things. It's amazing how the small details can make all the difference. For instance, at the COB the handrails on North Temple each have linear lights in them on the bottom side only - lighting the steps below only. So it gives you the light you need where you need it.

One downside, however, are the huge flood lights shooting up at each corner of the building where they have murals of the world hemispheres. There is an attempt to integrally light them with rope lights around the globes, but it isn't enough, so they have the flood lights.

Graham Cliff said...

I think that light at night is killing our bids. Do YOU? Apparently it has been doing this since at least 1897 - according to the LA Times -