Getting Irate So That You Don't Have To

Getting Irate So That You Don't Have To

Tuesday, 1 April 2008

And The Womble Says: Let There Be Darkness !

I wouldn't want everyone thinking that I'm turning into some sort of raving environmentalist, but there is one issue that touches on the planet-saving agenda which I've been meaning to blog about for some time; light pollution.

Generations older than mine will tell you that there was a time, even in towns and cities, when you could look up at the night sky and actually see the stars. Well OK, you still can, but I'm very conscious when I try that the view isn't as spectacular as it could be. It's harder to see our universe than it should be because of the amount of light down on the ground. And much of that light is ill-directed, brighter than it needs to be, unnecessary or all three.

And so starts a Womble On Tour Campaign. To bring the issue of light pollution to my reader(s)'s consciousness and to cite specific examples where electricity is just being wasted.

(Almost) needless to say, the two most blatant examples of light pollution which I see on my journey into work are on government-run premises. They've been bugging me all winter. So over the past couple of mornings I've taken a camera in and taken some pictures at about dawn. I've found it difficult, with a cheap camera (hat-tip to Womble On Tour Junior I for lending me hers) and simple software, to know how to tread the line between producing over-enhanced photos which unfairly emphasise the amount of light being used, and living with pictures that just look black. I've tried to steer the middle course, and portray honestly what these places look like to the naked eye.

The first culprit is a medical centre on my way into Bradford. It's a fairly new building, and I was struck as soon as it opened by the brightness of its lighting. It has lights all the way round the outside of the building, which is, as far as I can tell, completely unnecessary because there is no need for anyone to walk round it. Access - if needed in the middle of the night, which seems unlikely - is through the car park. So why these lights are needed all round the outside is just beyond me.

If anything these pictures don't do the lights justice – they really are very bright. They catch your eye as you drive past.

There is a worse example a couple of miles further on, at a car park belonging to the University of Bradford. Again, it’s a new creation – they’ve recently knocked down the halls of residence where I spent my first year, and replaced them with a car park. I’ve never actually seen it full, but perhaps I don’t see it during standard university working hours. One thing is for certain; at 6:30 in the morning it’s next to empty. This morning there was one car in it; it must have space for around 80. The whole area though, regardless of how well populated it is, is illuminated by around eight erected floodlights. The lights are really ludicrously bright. And they shine - presumably - all night long on an almost deserted car park. I hesitate to use the word "obscene", and as abuses of taxpayers' money goes I guess it's pretty small beer, but it is indicative of a lack of care for the use of public funds and of a "must have light" culture which is bad for the environment and spoils our enjoyment of the night sky.

UPDATE: I've had an email from the Estates Team at the University of Bradford defending their lighting of the car park. They say that this ridiculous lighting level "is needed in order to ensure our staff, students and visitors feel safe when they are going to and from cars....and also to allow coverage by CCTV cameras that are in place to provide a safe and secure environment". Which, quite frankly, is complete balls.

1 comment:

Man in a Shed said...

your wish in about 3-4 years and the UK doesn't have enough power generating capacity - due to gutless Labour mismanagement. And its almost too late to build it.