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Cities Take Action Against Light Pollution: The Battle to Save the Night Sky

From London to Berlin, initiatives to limit artificial light at night are on the rise, benefiting both humans and wildlife.

Light pollution, the excessive and artificial illumination of the night sky, has a devastating impact on the natural environment. The stars become “invisible” to the human eye at an alarming rate, disrupting wildlife and human health, and wasting energy. Fortunately, there are cities around the world, such as London, that are taking action to reduce light pollution and its negative effects.

City of London Nighttime sky-scrapers

London authorities are considering new regulations that would require high-rise buildings to turn off unnecessary lights at night. The City of London Corporation, the financial district governing body, believes that the initiative would reduce light pollution and save energy. The new rules would ask buildings in the Square Mile, where most of the city’s high-rise buildings are clustered, to switch off unnecessary lights after dark. New buildings will be required to follow curfews, while existing buildings will be encouraged to adopt the policy, although it will not be mandatory.

The new policy is part of the “Lighting Supplementary Planning Document,” which outlines curfews for different “brightness zones” throughout London. Businesses in residential and heritage areas will be required to turn off lights at 10 p.m., while those in cultural and tourist areas can keep lights on until 11 p.m. In commercial areas, unnecessary lights can stay on until midnight. The policy is currently under consultation.

London is not alone in its fight against light pollution. Several European cities have implemented measures to limit light pollution, such as Berlin, which has unplugged the spotlights illuminating 200 of its historic buildings overnight. Spain has ordered certain shops to turn off their lights after dark. In Paris, parkour collective On the Spot has been turning off shop lights by somersaulting around the city. Last year, the French government extended an existing rule requiring shops to turn off their signs between 1 a.m. and 6 a.m.

The Night Sky without light pollution
The Night Sky without light pollution

The benefits of reducing light pollution are numerous. By limiting artificial light, we can protect biodiversity and help wildlife thrive. The “skyglow” from light pollution can interfere with animal migration, reproduction, and pollination rhythms. Sixty percent of wildlife in the UK depends on natural darkness to survive. Reducing light pollution can also help mitigate climate change by reducing energy waste. In the Canary Wharf area of London, the energy used overnight by buildings could power over 4,000 homes per year, according to a 2020 analysis.

Light pollution can also negatively affect human health by disrupting our circadian rhythms, leading to sleep disturbances and other health problems. By reducing light pollution, we can create a more natural environment that promotes better health and wellbeing.

Cities that limit light pollution can also enjoy other benefits, such as a more attractive and unique skyline. By dimming unnecessary lights, we can create a more immersive and authentic experience of the night sky, highlighting the beauty of the stars and planets. This can have a positive impact on tourism and the local economy.

Light pollution is a serious problem with far-reaching consequences for the natural environment and human health. By reducing unnecessary artificial light, we can protect wildlife, save energy, and promote better health and wellbeing. The City of London Corporation’s initiative to reduce light pollution is a step in the right direction, and other cities should follow suit to create a more sustainable and enjoyable environment for all.

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