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June 20, 2008
This afternoon, I attended a briefing on Capitol Hill about light pollution, a subject that has filled many of my notebooks. A representative of a major utility company, a conservation scientist, a medical researcher, and other experts addressed a roomful of congressional staffers in an effort to move the federal legislature to take action against wasteful artificial lighting. Several states, including Texas, and hundreds of towns across the country, including Homer Glen, Ill., have taken measures to control how much light gets cast into the sky rather than onto targets on the ground. But the federal government has not made rules aimed at limiting light pollution.
One presenter, biologist Travis Longcore of the Urban Wildlands Group in Los Angeles, ran through a litany of species that are harmed by misdirected illumination, such as migratory birds, which can become disoriented and crash fatally into lighted towers, and sea turtle hatchlings, which can be lured away from the sea—and to their inevitable death—by illuminated roadways. Another presenter, David Blask of the Bassett Research Institute in Cooperstown, N.Y., focused on explaining why nocturnal illumination is linked to health problems in one important species in particular: humans.