phenomenon "light pollution": Ecological damage, energy waste and harm to human health

How to enable lighting for essential infrastructures, in the open areas, without harming the environment, and even save money and carbon emissions? The Ministry of Environmental Protection, the Society for the Protection of Nature and the Nature and Parks Authority publish a new guide for environmentally friendly lighting of infrastructures located in open areas

Lighting is an almost inseparable part of infrastructure in the open areas. However, such lighting has a heavy environmental price: a dramatic change in ecosystems and the emission of greenhouse gases. Lighting can also harm us, humans – both health-wise (exposure to excessive lighting, or the wrong shade) and the experience of watching a starry night sky. On the other hand, it is a field that is perceived as engineering and loaded with technical details, and is generally not accessible to the professionals who serve as representatives in the planning institutions, and to the licensing and control authorities of the infrastructures.

A new guide, on behalf of the Ministry of Environmental Protection, the Society for the Protection of Nature and the Nature and Parks Authority, named "Ecological code – environmentally friendly lighting"offers guidelines and rules for the planner, on the topic of keeping the night dark in the open areas, environmentally friendly lighting, preventing and minimizing light pollution in infrastructure planning.

This is a joint project of the three entities, coordinated by the AVIV AMCG company, as part of a project "Tevabiz – Businesses protect biodiversity". The guide gives environmental guidelines, for the prevention of light pollution in infrastructure, from the planning stage to the execution stage and provides a detailed toolbox, for the planner and the performer, for each of the stages of the process.

The Ministry of Environmental Protection, the Nature and Parks Authority and the Society for the Protection of Nature explain that a phenomenon "light pollution", is the set of negative effects, of artificial outdoor lighting, during the hours of darkness. These include illumination at a place, time, shade and intensity, which are not required, thus causing ecological damage, due to interference with the natural lighting patterns, energy waste, damage to human health, and damage to the ability to observe the dark night sky.

The guide deals with minimizing the effects of artificial lighting on ecosystems, which are sensitive to changes in natural light patterns. The three bodies state that the main purpose of this guide is to contribute to the reduction of light pollution in the open areas, by making practical tools available to planners and decision makers, how to reduce lighting and plan outdoor lighting, which is not harmful to the environment. The guide will contribute to the implementation and assimilation in the government offices, the planning system and the infrastructure bodies, to the consolidation and updating of the existing guidelines and especially to the simplification and accessibility of the engineering field of outdoor lighting and its effects, to the world of architects, city planners, environmental consultants and ecologists.

The guide focuses on lighting infrastructure and engineering facilities, near the open spaces. These infrastructures include water supply facilities, wastewater treatment facilities, power grid substations, energy facilities, such as transmission facilities, fuel tank farms, gas pressure reduction facilities, power plants, renewable energy facilities, such as photovoltaic facilities, storage facilities, and infrastructure Lengths, such as roads and rails and other transport routes.

According to the new guide, artificial lighting can provide safety, comfort, productivity and a sense of security to a person – during hours when there is no natural light. Sometimes, this enlightenment is the necessity of reality, but many times, it is unnecessary, or excessive. In order to protect the nocturnal environment, the chapters of the guide guide how to judge whether the installation of outdoor lighting is justified and valid. On top of that, they present the technological development of security and lighting management systems, which enable a variety of low-light solutions that have a minimal impact on the environment. The guide advises, for example, that when outdoor night lighting is required, to ensure security, safety and operation – it can be designed wisely – so that the light reaches only where it is needed, in the required shade, with the required intensity and at the required hours, thus minimizing energy waste, environmental damage and landscape damage. The guide details how an optimal infrastructure planning process can help minimize the environmental effects of night lighting, and even prevent them completely.

The detailed planning principles in the new guide:

1. The level of ecological sensitivity of the space to light pollution must be determined, and if necessary, location alternatives for the plan must be examined.

2. It must be examined whether the lighting of the facility is necessary on a routine basis – the starting point is maintaining the darkness of the night. Outdoor lighting in infrastructure facilities should be justified for specific purposes of safety, security or operation.

3. The local ecological sensitivity of the chosen alternative to light pollution must be analyzed.

4. The goals of the lighting and the required duration must be defined, according to the different uses in the program.

5. Plan the location of the uses in the plan with reference to the sensitivity of the space to lighting, and determine area cells to be kept dark.

6. Lighting experts, ecologists and professionals with experience in the subject should be consulted.

7. Managing the duration and hours of lighting – lighting planning is required that includes advanced systems to manage the system – adjust the lighting hours to the lighting needs.

8. Intensity – lighting should be used at the lowest intensity suitable for the defined need.

9. Light spillage – shielding, light spillage must be avoided by using bodies with limited light beam dispersion and precise planning. 10. Light shade – you must use light fixtures with a shade "hot"depending on the level of sensitivity of the surface to light pollution.

Tamar Raviv, Director of the Biodiversity and Open Areas Division, in the Ministry of Environmental Protection explained that "Over the years, awareness of the problem of light pollution has increased, as a phenomenon that harms not only human health, but also biological diversity and the functioning of ecosystems as a whole. Along with the growing awareness of the problem, the knowledge grew and the tools to reduce the phenomenon and prevent light pollution, especially in ecologically sensitive areas, expanded. The increasing development pressures in Israel and the threats to biological diversity create for us not only new challenges, but also solutions. Our new guide gathers the latest information in the field and represents practical tools with which you can achieve cumulative benefits: safe and efficient lighting planning that does not harm the environment, while saving significant energy. We hope that the guide will contribute to the implementation and assimilation in the government offices – for example in procurement processes – in the planning system and in the infrastructure bodies and in the local authorities and will also help professionals in the field such as architects and more".

Noam Lider, director of the Ecology Division, Science Division, at the Nature and Parks Authority stated that "The new guide, which concentrates instructions and rules for planners on the topic of keeping the night dark in the open areas, environmentally friendly lighting, preventing and minimizing light pollution in infrastructure planning, is a welcome culmination of many years of work dealing with the issue on the part of Ret"C together with the partner bodies."

Leader added that "The recognition in recent years of the serious ecological consequences of "light pollution" – That is, changing the natural lighting regimes at night with artificial lighting, on the functioning of biological systems in nature and on human health and the environment, poses this threat as critical already today and certainly in the future, in light of the rate of human growth."

"Happily, the treatment of light pollution is relatively simple, since it is based on awareness followed by proper planning, with relatively simple means, using the variety of tools offered in the guide." Leader said and added that "Many infrastructure entities in Israel are already implementing similar tools in order to optimize the need for infrastructure lighting, while minimizing the damage to the surrounding nature, such as Netibi Israel. I have no doubt that this guide will help in increasing the knowledge and intelligent use of artificial night lighting also by other bodies, such as the planning director and the security system".

Lehi Barkan, Business and Biodiversity Coordinator, at the Society for the Protection of Nature said that "In recent years, we have gained experience in joint projects with infrastructure bodies, and we have succeeded, in cooperation, in promoting the prevention of light pollution, through technical guidelines, which maintain safety and security, and prevent excess lighting for nature and the sky. The result is energy savings, environmental and health benefit, and satisfaction of the infrastructure managers and security officials. Such projects are currently being implemented in the replacement of all the lighting fixtures of Israel’s roads, by the Israel Routes Company, the prevention of light pollution, by darkening dozens of facilities, of the Mekorot Company and upgrading the lighting to environmental, in dozens of additional facilities, upgrading the lighting in the facilities of the Tash Company"N, in Timna Park, and more. The new guide brings the best accumulated knowledge to the planners and will allow them to implement innovative and simple guidelines for infrastructures all over Israel".

In the photos above – bad lighting in an infrastructure facility, with light effects for a distance of 100 meters, and the same lighting, after being replaced with better and friendlier lighting, with effects for only 10 meters.

after replacement. Photo: Gili Gozni, Or Mi’sin group
before replacement. Photo: Gili Gozni, Or Mi’sin group
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