Combating light pollution a shared responsibility

Recent reports have put Singapore at the top of a list identifying countries with the highest levels of light pollution.

Although this issue receives far less attention than other forms of pollution, it has many negative effects on our natural environment, including disruption to the migratory patterns of birds, new threats to animal and plant ecosystems and adverse health effects for humans who rely on natural light to regulate body cycles relating to sleep and rest.

While light pollution is often attributed to the rapid rate of urbanisation, where the increasing number of glitzy skyscrapers and roads equate to more artificial light being thrown into the atmosphere, proper lighting design and application can ensure buildings and roads are safely lit at an appropriate angle, minimising light wastage upwards and towards the night sky.

Given this context, companies which provide lighting infrastructure and solutions have a huge responsibility.

The potential for light to disrupt and damage nature is apparent.

Therefore, companies must develop and provide lighting solutions that are responsible and sustainable, illuminating spaces in ways that effectively - not redundantly - ensure the safety and security of the general populace.

Proper lighting design and application can ensure buildings and roads are safely lit at an appropriate angle, minimising light wastage upwards and towards the night sky.

A prime example would be in street lamps. Over the years, extensive research and development brought breakthroughs in the design of street lamps. Responsible designs now incorporate cut-off features that ensure light is projected only horizontally and downwards, delivering light that operates in harmony with dark skies.

With responsible LED lighting to illuminate all 3,500km of Singapore's roads, we can be certain that the road to lesser light pollution can be adequately and responsibly lit.

At home, having good habits in light usage, such as turning unused lights off and drawing the blinds or curtains of a lit room, do go a long way in reducing light wastage.

Lessening light pollution at home is also as simple as switching from conventional light bulbs to ones that use energy-efficient LEDs.

In the quest to pollute less, every little step counts, and every step is a victory.

Combating light pollution is a shared responsibility between both corporations and individuals.

As long as we each play our part in ensuring responsible stewardship of light, the world can look forward to more stars, better sleep and a thriving, well-functioning natural ecosystem.

Wee Shiang Ning

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 25, 2016, with the headline 'Combating light pollution a shared responsibility'. Print Edition | Subscribe