Collingswood Resident Wants to Dim Light Pollution
Collingswood resident Suzanne Cloud thinks the borough should consider a 'light trespass' ordinance to control luminous pollution.
When she goes outside at night, Collingswood resident Suzanne Cloud looks up at the sky and is disappointed.
"Maybe you can see Orion, and maybe you can see The Big Dipper, but you probably can’t see the Pleiades, and you probably can’t see Beetlejuice," she says, "because it’s just too bright."
As a child, Cloud beheld the arc of the Milky Way in the darkness over Pennsauken. Nowadays, she said, a hazy flood of lights from businesses, shopping centers and overanxious security timers spills out.
"We’re competing with Philadelphia, that’s to be sure, but we’re also creating our own pollution," Cloud said.
At the December 2012 meeting of the borough commissioners, Cloud spoke up to invite Collingswood leaders to consider a "light trespass law," citing the International Dark-Sky Association as a likely source for language.
The ominously named agency advocates for communities to redirect their man-made lighting and to use less of it:
Human-produced light pollution not only mars our view of the stars; poor lighting threatens astronomy, disrupts ecosystems, affects human circadian rhythms, and wastes energy to the tune of $2.2 billion per year in the U.S. alone.
"All you have to do is drive around town some night," Cloud said. "Everybody’s got big, bright, luminous security lights. If you just look where they’re shining, bathing a neighbor’s house in light, bathing the yards in light; if you train yourself to notice it, it’ll freak you out."
Cloud said she's not in favor of a town plunged into darkness, but just wishes people could learn to install their security lights properly and purchase systems of appropriate luminosity. A light trespass ordinance could not only restore some of the necessary shade to Collingswood's night sky, but it might possibly help save a few bucks on electric bills, she said.
"I just think an ordinance would be good for people to have some recourse when things are just too bright," Cloud said. "You can’t have a business that has a big flashing sign out front.
"It’s something that I’d like the town to have a conversation about."
Check out the lighting code handbook produced by Dark Skies above, and tell us in the comments if you think Collingswood could benefit from a light trespass ordinance.