Light Pollution

Light pollution is all around us is and is most unfortunately part of the industrialized world. It wreaks havoc in the ability to observe the skies and has many other negative effects towards plants and animal life! What most people do not realize is that with some common sense and decent lighting fixtures a lot of the environmental damage can be undone, nearly immediately. It takes decades to clean up river water, soil or atmosphere.... light pollution is the only environmental problem that can really be fixed overnight, with the flip of the switch.

Unfortunately the Joe's and Jane's in the government and corporations in Belgium do not care about the consequences of the careless lighting policy with disastrous results. People falsely claim that more light means more security while numerous studies show too much lighting actually has the opposite effect in both road safety and burglar/vandalism. More and more companies expand and light up big parking lots with huge luminance levels even when there is no outdoor activity. Safety is always the (false) argument. When did people get so afraid of the dark? Nevertheless, the environmental law VLAREM II clearly states that property can only be lit when there are people working outside. Unfortunately, outdoor lighting is low on the priority list of environmental officials.

The government itself is hardly a role model and has an overwhelming responsibility in the poor night conditions in Flanders. In Flanders nearly all roads are lit, even the smallest! That is kind of strange, right? Do rabbits read the newspaper at 3 am? Cars have lights on them and so do bicycles and surely at 3 am no pedestrian is walking through rural fields. So do we really need to waste energy en money in lighting deserted roads? Even more, in our neighboring countries, people CAN live without every square meter lit. Only municipalities are lit in France, The Netherlands. There is even a big difference in lighting policy between Flanders and Walloon (being much darker).

 A study from the VITO revealed that every square meter in Flanders receives ON AVERAGE 11 (ELEVEN!!) times the amount of light a full Moon will give. That is truly not acceptable. Having a sound lighting policy is beneficial for all. It saves money and conserves our heritage of the night sky. The lighting policies should move to a situation where lighting is demand driven. Only when there is a pedestrian or bicycle the lights should turn on. Lighting fixtures should also become efficient in terms of where the light is going. Current lighting fixtures will waste as much of half the light output because the light is not falling on the target area. Thirdly luminance levels should decrease, but uniformity should increase. Lower lighting levels can be justified if the uniformity is more equal. The person will perceive just as much or even more than with higher light levels, because the light is distributed more evenly.

 So for all of you reading this: have you ever seen the Milky Way in Flanders? I haven't! Recently I visited Zell in Germany.  I could easily see the Milky Way in the city center! And yet the city itself was lit properly. If you can change something about outdoor lighting in your company or municipality, check out this website on lighting best practices. Installing good lighting fixtures won’t cost anything extra, it will save you money.

 Below are a number of images I took, all within 2 kilometers of my home. It just shows how careless people are. Luckily the worst of these cases can be dealt with. Did you know 2 million road lighting fixtures are spread across a 100 square kilometer stretch of land? No, not a joke.