I wrote this in response to Tim Pape–my city councilman–who asked that I explain my reasoning for supporting the light pollution ordinance. It passed, but it seems that most people in Fort Wayne oppose it. I think the opposition exists for three reasons:

  • A significant fraction of Fort Wayne is anti-government, not just anti-bad-government.
  • This ordinance was passed because of an argument between neighbors, not as a reasoned addition to the building code.
  • Most people made up their mind without giving the issue any thought.

Why I am in favor of Fort Wayne’s new anti-light-pollution ordinance:

The history of a lighting ordinance in Fort Wayne may stem from someone’s pet peeve, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t a serious issue.

Not creating light pollution is common sense and common courtesy. No one benefits from light pollution. It takes no extra effort to avoid creating light pollution. Any decent designer, architect, or thinking person, will already only use lighting that meets these standards. When deciding how to light something, the goals are to put good quality light where it is needed, and to not waste any. Any lighting that comes close to meeting these basic requirements will fit within the range allowed by the ordinance.

Any light directly illuminating anything it is not intended to is simply wasted. This extra light creates glare and sky-glow. Neither of these have any conceivable benefits. Glare makes it harder to see both what was intended to be lit and anything else in the area. Many people probably notice that something isn’t right, but don’t know what. This leads to more poor lighting being installed, exacerbating the situation.

Security lights don’t actually improve security. They are a placebo. People feel they have done something, so they must be more secure, but this is not true. The studies have shown no security difference between lighted and unlighted.

The only problem I see with this ordinance is that it only applies to residential properties. It should apply to all lights, not only residential lights. Common sense anti-light pollution rules should be added to building codes.

Light pollution is insidious, so many do not consciously notice it, but all will benefit from its elimination.