Illinois Coalition for Responsible Outdoor Lighting

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Why Does Outdoor Lighting Matter?

Lights that shine upward waste energy and spoil the environment.

In looking at our country from Earth orbit at night, what we see is manmade light, blazing forth a steady stream of energy equivalent to the total output of numerous electric power plants. This light (and the electricity which was consumed while creating it) is all being wasted by spilling it into the sky, rather than focusing it on to the actual objects and areas which people intended to illuminate. The composite photo of the continental U.S. shown above is from the U.S. Defense Meteorological Satellite Program, scanned from orbit at nighttime back in 2003; the sky over our country shines even more brightly today.

The time has come to act to put an end to the waste and the destruction of our nighttime natural environment which this photo clearly illustrates. No new discoveries or engineering is called for; just the will to make changes for the better for our future, our children's future, and our planet. The reasons are numerous:

Energy Waste

Power plants pollute while creating electricity for inefficient lighting.

We find about half of the billions of kilowatt hours of electricity used on exterior lighting each year go to waste... Electrical energy isn't something which just magically comes out of our outlets; nearly all of it in Illinois comes either from burning coal, natural gas, or oil, or from nuclear power plants. All of these sources have definite negative effects on our planet...

Read more about this topic in the Key Issues > Energy Waste section of this website.


Excessive Nighttime Illumination and the Environment

Wildlife suffers from manmade nighttime glare.

Environmental problems related to irresponsible outdoor illumination are not limited to just those related to massive energy consumption and waste. Widespread, uncontrolled lighting has a direct effect on many species of plants and animals. The day/night cycle, which provides the rhythm to almost all life on Earth, is being disrupted in many ways by our eliminating the dark of night...

Read more about this topic in the Key Issues > Enviroment section of this website.


The Human Health Toll

Studies link nighttime over-illumination with disease.

New research is finding direct correlations to how disturbing the day/night cycles, especially by "short changing" the naturally dark (nighttime) portion of the cycle by keeping the ambient environment too bright, can actually promote disease in humans. While this topic is only just beginning to be researched, ongoing studies are starting to show direct correlations between increased nighttime light and health problems from sleep disorders to cancer...

Read more about this topic in the Key Issues > Health Concerns section of this website.

Safety & Esthetics Compromised by Glare

Poorly designed lighting is ugly and hard to live with.

We seem to have inherited a love of light from our ancient ancestors, whose camp fires helped keep wild beasts at bay. But our technology has allowed us to take things too far. Many of our lights are so bright that they dazzle the eye, actually making it harder to see at night, whether we're trying to spot the pedestrian or pet crossing in front of our vehicle, or the prowler on our property...

Read more about this topic in the Key Issues > Light, Safety & Crime section of this website.


The Loss of the Night

Most people can no longer see stars in their sky.

The majority of humans now live in places where they can never really see the stars at night; children grow up never seeing more than a few natural lights in the sky, never experiencing the spark of wonder which a dark, starry sky can ignite. The less our citizens (and especially our children) are exposed to the wonders of nature, the less inspired they are to study it and learn to live in harmony with it...

Read more about this topic in the Key Issues > Loss Of The Night section of this website.


What Can Be Done?

Our first goal is to educate our fellow citizens about the widespread deleterious effects of poor lighting practices, and to show how correct lighting techniques will save energy, money, and reduce our negative impact on the environment. We also believe that legislation needs to be passed to require that this energy waste and environmental destruction be curtailed, and that citizens who are concerned about these matters need to speak in one voice to our governmental leadership.

Manmade light has created fantastic opportunities for enriching human life. Now, it is time to adopt mature principles to govern our use of this wonderful resource.

Read more about this topic in the What You Can Do section of this website.

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