Calling out light pollution in a post has been on my mind for a while. A recent article on Phys.org gave me the little push that I needed. You see, my mom was affectionately called Susan Kay of the Milky Way by family and friends, so it really hit me and made me sad to think that the Milky Way is currently hidden from one third of the earth's population. I used to be able to see it where I currently live but not so much now. It is beautiful and awe inspiring and everyone should be able to take in the beauty of our galactic neighborhood. An amazing example the effects of what many consider to be standard outdoor lighting can be found here (scroll down to the before and after picture).
Back in college I used to help give astronomy point outs to students in a local park, until some apartments were built and you could no longer see all of the stars that the students were required to learn as part of their course due to the added light pollution. Once upon a time a full moon was the biggest bane when trying to see meteors during a meteor shower. Fast forward a decade or two and research began showing that urban light pollution was disruptive to its human and nonhuman occupants. Several groups started to tout the benefits of dark skies such as Dark Skies Awareness and the International Dark-Sky Association.
Two of the biggest reasons for lighting the night is to facilitate moving from point A to point B and to increase security. The funny thing though is that over lighting actually decreases the ability to safely navigate and is detrimental to security. To quote Dark Skies Awareness, "Our eyes, when dark-adapted, have good natural capacity in lowlight situations. But when nightscapes are over-lit, eyes never have a chance to become dark-adapted, and areas adjacent to brightly lit areas become impenetrable, reducing safety. Some communities have experienced a decrease in crime by reducing or eliminating nighttime lighting in appropriate areas."
You can make a difference in your life and the lives of the people and critters that live around you. Lighting that is shielded so it falls only where needed or turned off when not needed is within your control on your property. For a wider influence, educate the public, especially public officials so that commercial developments are required to install dark sky friendly lighting, so that street lamps are properly shielded and citizens are taught the benefits of dark skies. You might just sleep better and feel better when the light trespass in your home goes down. Don't let the mythical flying pig be the only creature to see the stars in the future.
Update: June 10, 2016 artificial sky brightness atlas image with key.