Scientist Martin Rees tells the British newspaper Watchman That light pollution has gotten worse since it concluded in 2016 that the Milky Way was no longer visible to a third of the world. Pollution continues to increase every year.
point of concern
It is also a point of concern in the Netherlands. “The realization that we are part of a larger universe no longer comes naturally when the landscape completely disappears,” Felix Betonville told RTL Nieuws.
Beetonville is an astronomer at the Leiden Observatory. The light from cities, greenhouses, and bright advertisements ensure that visibility continues to decline. The map below shows light pollution in the Netherlands (see Here is the interactive map which you can enlarge):
This has to do with the atmosphere. The light from the stars, Bethonville explains, is “very weak.” “They are very small points, very far away.” Meanwhile, we produce a lot of light on Earth. The atmosphere, which is a layer of air with very small particles of dust and moisture, scatters this light.
“It becomes like a kind of milk, making the background brighter and brighter. Those faint stars no longer pierce through,” explains Beetonville. So the light pollution in the city is much worse than in the countryside, for example, where there are few buildings. “When a farmer sticks his head out the window, all he sees is the splendor of the stars.”
Light pollution is not only bad news for the starry sky, but also for our health and nature. Judith Holwerda, South Holland coordinator for Nacht van de Nacht, calls it “Bad Spicy”. This is an initiative of the nature and environment federations to turn off all public lights one night a year.
Holwerda explains that light pollution in the Netherlands is increasing by 2 percent annually. “We’re already seeing significant declines in certain types of animals, especially birds,” Holwerda says. For example, birds lose their way if it is too light at night.
In addition, light pollution has a negative impact on our biorhythms. Just like animals, insects, flowers, and plants, humans have a circadian rhythm that is disrupted by too much light. Our sleep in particular suffers from it.
Although office buildings and billboards mainly fall under “unnecessary lighting,” there are also measures you can take yourself to reduce light pollution. Holwerda cites garden lighting as an example. “I understand it’s great, but just turn on the lights in your garden when you’re out there by yourself.” According to Holwerda, the lights in the house are also best left off.
People can also lodge an objection with the municipality. In this case, it mainly concerns lamp posts. Nowadays, LEDs are often used, but they produce a white light, “brighter than the yellow light we are used to”. In addition, there are certain types of lamps that are better for animals, for example a green light for birds.
Felix Betonville of the Leiden Observatory hopes that we can all make sure that we emit less light. “This is also an energy and climate aspect that we can contribute to, because then we use less energy.” He gives advice to ask yourself with all the lighting if it is really necessary.
“As an astronomer, I think it is very important that our children and grandchildren continue to see the stars with their own eyes. In this sense, everything that produces unnecessary light worries me.”
“Lifelong zombie fanatic. Hardcore web practitioner. Thinker. Music expert. Unapologetic pop culture scholar.”