Letter: Starlight, star bright
Kudos to The Recorder for raising the profile of light pollution. You rightly point out that this obscures our appreciation of the starscape, and I, for one, could think of no more compelling reason to address this problem. We would do well to not think this a strictly metropolitan issue, as even the most rural parts of the readership have seen their view of the night sky diminished over the last century.
Lack of starlight is far from the only consequence of our failures in this area. Light that escapes to the sky, while doing nobody any good, represents a waste of billions of dollars annually. Additionally, lighting incorrectly directed, or in excess amounts, adds to glare. On the roads, this means an increase in accidents, and stress for drivers. Off road, glare actually reduces the effectiveness of lighting for crime prevention and safety.
Above and beyond aesthetic and pecuniary considerations, we are finding more and more effects that nighttime lighting has on human health, including increases in cancer rates. Of course, humans are not the only ones whose health is impacted. Animal life can be severely disrupted, including, but not limited to changes in migratory and reproductive behaviors.
Again all these effects are not the result of some trade off between wants. There is no upside to wasting light in this manner, and it seems to me that a lack of public awareness is the only thing lacking to start us on the road to reducing light pollution. It could be as little as installing a shade on outside fixtures restricting the light above the horizon. This will not only prevent light shining where it is not needed, but will allow for lower output bulbs to provide the same coverage as before.
Interested readers can find much more at darksky.org