To engage and unite Virginians to improve our natural and scenic environment.

Is it still pollution?

light pollution

A friend of ours recently turned us on to a cool video called The Mountain on Vimeo.  This photog has done some really remarkable work and his time-lapse shots of the Milky Way are some of the most amazing we’ve seen.  (You can watch it here.)

Here at Keep Virginia Beautiful we talk an awful lot about beautification and greening things up but we began to wonder about what other forms pollution might take.

The whole Milky Way sequence brings up the issue of light pollution.  Some of our friends in Western Virginia or more rural areas may get in some serious stargazing but here in the River City we have a relatively starless sky.  Nearly 40% of Americans no longer view a night sky that the human eye perceives as dark.  In addition to the loss of twinkling stars light pollution takes its toll on our natural friends.  Studies show that artificial light changes the spawning cycle of certain types of fish that rely on a lunar clock.  Scientists observing tree frogs noticed that they stopped their mating calls whenever a nearby football team held a night game.   Scientists in Germany studied the impact of new gas stations and found that their lights attracted huge numbers of moths and other bugs the first two years but then the numbers dropped radically.  Seems the lights from the stations attracted unusual numbers of bugs which lured unusual numbers of bats that ate the bugs and destroyed the bug reproductive cycle.

What’s the easiest fix?  Use only the light you need, when you need it.  Maybe your yard looks great at night but do you really need it to glow like Vegas at 3 a.m.?  We don’t think your trashcans are afraid of the dark.  And look at the type of fixture!  Are you lighting what you need to light or are you sending a Bat-Signal to the entire city?  Make sure you have energy efficient lighting in a cut-off fixture.   This type of fixture directs light where you need it and doesn’t allow it to bleed out where you don’t.

Remember the long car trip as a kid?  “Hey kids:  lets play the quiet game.”   Dad would give a dollar to whoever could not talk the longest.  An examination of noise pollution would ask, “Where is Dad when we need him”?

The word “noise” came from the Latin “nausea” which meant seasickness or discomfort.  Does your Honda sound like an atomic leaf-blower?  Is the kicker box registering with the U.S. Geological Survey?  Noise pollution causes both physiological and psychological issues.  It can affect sleep patterns, cause aggression, severe depression and cause panic attacks.  Our animal friends feel it too.  Pods of whales beached themselves after being exposed to military sonar.  European Robins in urban environments sang more at night.  Why?  It was quieter and they could get their message out.  Zebra Finches were less faithful to their partners when exposed to traffic noise.  “The car horn made me do it!”

What to do?  Start your car.  Turn on the stereo to the level that you would use on a trip.  Look at yourself in the rearview and say “tinnitus”.  Lips moving but you can’t hear your voice?  Too loud.  In some instances a power tool is a necessary evil.  Not using it?  Cut it off or better yet go electric.  You could challenge yourself to the “quiet game”!

Remember, the beauty of Virginia is not just affected by the soda bottle on the side of the road.  It is our contributions to the vistas and scenery that we all see and hear.