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In the dark in Loudoun

By Tom DeWeese
web posted July 22, 2002

Let us begin with the understanding that there is no such thing as "light pollution", yet this idiotic notion is generating legislation to "save the night skies" from it. It is one more example of the way environmentalists will use any bizarre excuse to secure control over our lives and our property rights. The fact that publicly elected officials would give serious consideration to such nonsense reflects the degree to which environmentalism has destroyed common sense.

Where's the connection, you ask? Consider being told it is against the law for you to put up Christmas lights as decoration or that you have used too much illumination to provide safe access to walkways and stairs leading to your home? When you have lost the right to how much light you can use to illuminate your property you have lost an important element of your property rights. When such restrictions are applied to a commercial business, they can represent thousands of dollars in lost income.

In July, in Loudoun County, Virginia a group of "light pollution" activists have been pushing hard for a law that would plunge the citizens and businesses, as well as public facilities, into darkness by limiting the kinds and amount of light they could display. In April, Virginia's Governor, Mark Warner, approved a new piece of statewide legislation that requires state facilities to use shielded outdoor lighting fixtures that emit no more than two percent of their light output above a horizontal plane. By 2004, the State's Department of Transportation must use such fixtures. As similar bill made its way through New York State's legislature, guided all the way by dark sky advocates and other environmental groups.

Pause for a moment and consider the economic impact of such restrictions. The owner of a Loudoun County Taco Bell/Pizza Hut makes between $1,400 and $1,600 after 9 PM every night. The Loudoun dark skies proposal would have a devastating impact on his business. The same holds true for the owner of a Citgo gas station on Leesburg Pike who just spent $25,000 for a new sign to enhance his 24-hour service. Extend the restriction on outdoor lighting at night to all the other businesses in just one Virginia County and you have created an economic disaster zone.

Residents of Loudoun County would be restricted to 5,500 lumens of light per property. The typical incandescent lights around a home range from 1,650 lumens to 4,000 lumens. Forget about those Fourth of July, Halloween or Christmas decorations.

Consider now the idiotic reasons put forth for the need to control the amount of light you or anyone else can use. "Light pollution" advocates worry that "Billions of moths and other nocturnal insects are killed each year at lights" or that "Newborn sea turtles are disoriented by lights on their natal beaches and some amphibians congregate around porch lights."

"Increased night lighting associated with human civilization disrupts important behaviors and physiological processes with significant ecological consequences." Darn that human civilization! Darn that Thomas Edison with his infernal invention of the electric light bulb!

People who are more concerned about the fate of "billions of moths" or who claim that "over four million migrating birds are killed in collisions with lighted communications towers in the United States" have totally lost contact with the fact that nighttime lighting is an essential component of modern life.

Over the years, radical environmentalists have given us a long list of various forms of pollution. They have insisted that everything we breath, drink and eat is polluted and now they tell us there's "light pollution." These lovers of darkness have an international organization that is working hard to insure that we can all see the stars at night, but not the entrances to our homes and driveways. They belong to a Tucson, Arizona organization called the International Dark-Sky Association (IDA). This group of environmental loonies exists "to preserve and protect our heritage of dark skies through quality outdoor lighting."

I'll bet you didn't even know you had this "heritage"? Who, in fact, really likes the dark? Criminals, that's who. Criminals who value being unseen as they creep around your home or business, seeking the fastest way to break in. Then there is the ever-popular darkened parking area outside of your local mall where you can be easily assaulted or have your car stolen.

In truth, the only people who really are concerned about too much light at night are amateur astronomers and lovers out for a midnight walk. The rest of us need light to get around at night. It's about safety. It's about the economic benefits that accrue from good lighting. It's about common sense.

Tom DeWeese is the publisher/editor of The DeWeese Report and is president of the American Policy Center, headquartered in Warrenton, Virginia. The Center maintains an Internet site at www.americanpolicy.org. (c) Tom DeWeese, 2002

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