Well it ain’t no more.
For some time now – a century? – our towns have been enveloped in a yellow / orange glow. That warm, sometimes reassuring, glow is turning a bright white as incandescents are phased out and LEDs phased in, and it seems that wildlife won’t be celebrating. No doubt there are others (incandescent climate change deniers?) who will miss it too, and will campaign vigorously for their reinstatement. I for one have acquired some retro Edison style bulbs, but only because I am a debauched aesthete and they look great. Maybe they – the deniers – will campaign to leave the EU, and dump the Environmental Acquis that brings with it all those punishing directives that make life so difficult for businesses, who would rather sell you untested, unproven, unreliable, and uncertified products for the sake of a few lousily paid jobs.
We trained our kids to turn off the lights. In the old days it was to save money and today its to save the planet. As for money, parodying the famous Bessie Smith song, well I thought we ain’t got any. You wouldn’t think so, with the appetite that exists in some local authority transportation departments – aided and abetted by security neurotics, who are still going about erecting poles here, there and everywhere for little obvious benefit, except to floodlight everything. I think this is a synthetic problem, ie. made up, mainly to protect departmental budgets and safeguard jobs. Fairenuf.
I heard lately that one august local institution claims that bringing extra light to the local closes (and vennels) could generate tourism benefits. I thought this was a Wynd up, and preposterous. Do they really believe tourists visit places on the basis on the degree of night time illumination? Or were they considering lighting them in Christmas light colours? Maybe they’re considering an app, to highlight which Wynds are good for tourists to urinate in, now that would have some traction among the locals too? FFS. Despite what has been asserted about the so-called problem there’s little or no evidence that this either the most urgent problem or a priority one. Sure you can pick off anyone in the street and ask them a leading question and they’ll probably agree, mainly because they want to be helpful or they get a kick out thinking they guessed right (they don’t understand and neither do you about the concept of independent observations). If there are insalubrious closes, lets pin point each problem more accurately. In many cases I’ll bet there are bad neighbour businesses that are the problem, and I can’t see light making them go away. Pubs and takeaways are a problem. There are a few cases I can think of where some low level discrete lighting could be a benefit. But the reality is that I don’t think illumination will deter the drunks who piss on our thresholds in full view of CCTV cameras. Will it would stop the occasional drunk falling down badly lit steps or treading in the liberal dog shit they left earlier walking the dug? I am not sure I really care. Will it deter the occasional under-age smoker, who knows? More likely it will merely displace the problems or make them even more visible. When I was a kid you could smoke undisturbed in your local Cinema, out of harms way – now there’s nowhere left to hide.
It is true that certain rights of way are poorly lit, but the safety rationale for keeping the lights on on has been substantially debunked by a recent article in the BMJ. So please let us not invoke science. No community survey that I have seen has ever highlighted poor lighting as an issue, unless they have used leading questions, which are legion in dubious community methods of survey. Anecdotally, I hear more often that excessive lighting is a nuisance, but the council and local worthies are deaf to these sorts of concerns, so much so that they are not even registered / classified as complaints.
Given the degree of patronage of some of the closes, is the investment justified? I am really not sure it is. Its hard to provide light in some of these closes without considerable physical disruption, and without entailing significant costs let alone the annoyance to neighbours that the flood lighting could entail. The Co-op, that ethical giant of retail, has recently made our night views worse, not content with making a racket from 7 to 11.
In fact there is nothing more annoying that LIGHT POLLUTION, if like me you like to keep the shutters open and wake up to natural light. Never heard of light pollution? Here are some links to what wikipedia has on the matter of light pollution, in case you think this is a middle class issue.
- 1 Impact on energy usage
- 2 Types
- 3 Measurement and global effects
- 4 Consequences
Typically you’ll find that the Daily Mail, The AA (the defender of the rights of car drivers to kill) and UKIP, all think light pollution is a public good rather than evil. I beg to differ.
Personally I rather enjoy a different sort of nightlife. That of feeding pipistrelles, dark skies and starry nights or storms for that matter.