Should you shut down street lights to save? Detroit might

The cash-strapped city of Detroit, which is facing a staggering deficit of a quarter billion dollars, is considering turning off half of its streetlights in sparsely populated areas to save money. Details, pros, cons, and related research is inside.


What Happened?

The cash-strapped city of Detroit, which is facing a staggering deficit of a quarter billion dollars (yes, that’s billion with a “b”), is considering turning off half of its streetlights in sparsely populated areas to save money.

So What?

This isn’t an isolated decision for a single city. Colorado Springs, CO, Santa Rosa, CA, Rockford, IL, and many other cities have also gone dark, or partially dark.

The Pros

An organization that advocates for preserving the night sky, called The International Dark-Sky Association, claim that outdoor “light pollution” is a serious problem that accounts for 8 percent of all U.S. energy consumption. Among the growing body of evidence that the eco-friendly group cites relates to crime (“light does not equal safety”), the impact on wildlife, street safety, energy waste, and more.

The Cons

Merchants and residents fear that the elimination of street lights will increase crime and accelerate the decay of their neighborhoods.

What’s Next?

The proposed “lights out” move would require state legislative approval. It has already been sanctioned by Governor Rick Snyder.

Action Items

If you’d like to learn more about The International Dark-Sky Association, visit their Web site, or check out this PDF that offers an introduction to light pollution.

A quick review of some of the intangible costs of light pollution was published in 2006 by the New Jersey Astronomical Association. And a brief FAQ on light pollution can be found at the Web site of Environmental Protection, in the UK.

The Institution of Lighting Engineers, also in the UK, published in January a very detailed 32-page paper on “Lighting Against Crime,” which explores many of the concerns raised by the residents of Detroit, and includes guidelines for recommended lighting to deter crime.

National Geographic also published a visually arresting piece on light pollution titled, “Our Vanishing Night.”

Gov1 has also written about streetlight shut down in Vista, CA

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