You know you can light up the world by switching off the light. I know, that sounds odd, but it’s a lesson I learned this past Christmas when I visited the bioluminescent bay in Fajardo, Puerto Rico and learned a lot about light pollution and its affects.
Puerto Rico is a tropical paradise but the capital, San Juan, is a dense urban area. The island is small and each household averages two cars. As a result, Puerto Rico has some of the worst light pollution in the world, According to the Dark Skies Awareness Project, “light pollution is excessive and inappropriate artificial light.” It can include urban sky glow “the brightening of the night sky over inhabited areas [and] light trespass, light falling where it is not intended, wanted, or needed.”
The United States Department of Agriculture estimates that Puerto Rico spends an excessive amount of money supplying power to its over three million residents. Heat maps of Puerto Rico show that the entire island has almost no true dark spots. This light pollution not only makes it difficult to see the stars but also has a negative impact on nocturnal species. There is also an increase in the cost of energy and carbon emissions.
Light pollution is not only an issue that affects Puerto Rico. Every single continent in the world has at least one, and most likely at least two, dense urban areas that are negatively affected by light pollution. There are several initiatives around the world trying to manage the impact of light pollution in certain areas.
In Puerto Rico, the local organization Para La Naturaleza, has taken a community engagement approach by educating the people who live in Fajardo about light pollution. The organization has worked with neighbors to reduce the amount of light pollution around the bioluminescent bay. This effort has worked beautifully, when you look out over the bay, there is a clear difference between the neighborhoods in Fajardo that have worked to reduce light pollution and the neighborhoods that Para La Naturaleza has not yet approached.
If you want to visit a light pollution project stateside you can head to the Grand Canyon. Attend the Grand Canyon Star Party on June 17-24th, 2017. The Star Party lasts for eight days, guests experience the night sky in a whole new way on Grand Canyon National Park’s South Rim with the Tucson Amateur Astronomy Association and on the North Rim with the Saguaro Astronomy Club of Phoenix. For more information you can watch this video on the event.
Light pollution is a worldwide problem that we all can play a part in solving. To learn more about how light pollution affects where you live check out this interactive map that allows you to search light pollution in any area in the world. There are simple things you can do right now to make a difference. Talk to your friends and families about light pollution and share with them some of the simple tips you have learned. By everyone doing a little bit we can reduce light pollution all around the world.