Singapore, 29th May 2010
Being back in Singapore the first thing that always strikes me is the night sky. Back in Perth, Australia we have mostly clear night skies with great views to the starry Milky Way, even when you are in the city. But in Singapore there is hardly any, maybe down at the beach you may spot one or two of the brightest stars but in general the light glow from the city creates a blanket of light obstructing view into space. Can you believe that there are people in this world, living in the big cities, who have never seen a real star!
In order to preserve the dark skies, the International Dark-Sky Association (IDA) was formed in the eighties. It’s main aim being to promote good outdoor lighting practices and to educate the public about preserving our beautiful stars and night sky. It is easy to see that lighting is the main culprit and that increasing light pollution is the main cause. It not only is threatening astronomical research but also is affecting natural habitat and wildlife sensitive to light at night. At the root of it all is of course wasted energy consumption, as light pollution (as in light wasted into space) is really wasted energy.
While complete dark skies will be a forever dream in big cities in these modern times, we have a duty as lighting designers to be very concerned about minimizing light spill. And even if we manage to keep all lights below the horizontal, we still need to realize that a lot of light is reflected back into space, hence light pollution is not only a matter of beam control but also a matter of quantity and duration. Maybe someday we will find a way to “light” without lighting and who knows, we may be able to find ways to “see” in the dark in the future and return the starry nights to our grand children.