City of Lights Gets Curfew as France Implements Regulations

As one of the world’s most comprehensive lighting ordinances went into effect last month, France — including the City of Light — grew darker late at night. Between the hours of 1am and 7am, shop lights are turned off, lights inside office buildings must be extinguished within an hour of workers leaving the premises and the lighting on France’s building facades cannot be turned on before sunset. Within the next two years, there will also be regulations restricting lighting on billboards – but why? Excessive use of light makes a deep impact on environmental wellness, not only harming the wellbeing of animals but also adversely affecting our health and wellness.


France’s enlightened approach should eventually cut the country’s carbon dioxide emissions by 250,000 tons per year, save the annual energy consumption of about 750,000 households, and slash France’s overall energy bill by 200 million Euros, or 167.8 million pounds. According to France’s Environment Ministry, their goal is to ‘reduce the print of artificial lighting on the nocturnal environment,’ which is a powerful acknowledgement that excessive use of lighting is negatively impacting health and our ecosystems, as well as proving that light pollution is readily within our grasp to control.


Paul Bogard, author of The End of Night: Searching for Natural Darkness in an Age of Artificial Light and editor of Let There Be Night: Testimony on Behalf of the Dark, explains, ‘Researchers are increasingly focusing on the impacts of so-called ecological light pollution, warning that disrupting these natural patterns of light and dark, and thus the structures and functions of ecosystems, is having profound impacts. The problem is worsening as China, India, Brazil, and numerous other countries are becoming increasingly affluent and urbanised. Satellite views of Earth at night show vast areas of North America, Europe, the Middle East, and Asia glowing white, with only the world’s remotest regions — Siberia, the Tibetan plateau, the Sahara Desert, the Amazon, and the Australian outback — still cloaked in darkness.’


Italian astronomer Fabio Falchi, a creator of the World Atlas of the Artificial Night Sky Brightness, the computer-generated maps that dramatically depict the extent of light pollution across the globe, comments, ‘We have levels of light hundreds and thousands of time higher than the natural level during the night. What would happen if we modified the day and lowered the light a hundred or a thousand times?’ He concedes that this would be much worse, but his point is that ‘you cannot modify [light] half the time without consequences.’ Few countries and cities are doing anything to lessen their light pollution, but it doesn’t have to be this way.


However, the approach of using LEDs may be doing more harm than good to the planet. ‘Technological advances such as LEDs, or light-emitting diodes, can improve our ability to reduce and better regulate lighting,’ says Bogard. ‘But these same new lights may actually make things worse because they contain heavy doses of a “blue-rich” white light that is especially disruptive to circadian rhythms.’ This was the conclusion of Falchi and others in a recent article from the Journal of Environmental Management, which noted that LEDs could ‘exacerbate known and possible unknown effects of light pollution on human health (and the) environment’ by more than five times.


Bogard asserts, ‘Scientists are investigating new ways to provide society with the lighting it demands for security, commerce, and aesthetics, while greatly reducing the flood of light that is increasingly interfering with human health and the ability of many creatures to function.’ Explaining France’s new lighting rules, Delphine Batho, who was, until recently, France’s environment minister, described the government’s desire to ‘change the culture’ to include responsible use of light. Bogard comments, ‘This change is to be applauded, for what increasing numbers of studies — as well as our own eyes — tell us is that we are using far more light than we need, and at tremendous cost.’

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