Recently, the Washington County sheriff sent out a notice about an increase in home burglaries in the metro area (not specific to these northern communities). The notice provided tips to prevent burglaries. It’s important to know that one of those tips — leaving exterior lights on at night — has damaging side effects. 

Light pollution is a serious, and worsening problem. Scientists who measure the radiance of the earth’s surface have found yearly increases in brightness coinciding with the introduction of LED lights. 

Night lighting disrupts the circadian rhythms, navigational skills, and mating habits of insects and nocturnal animals. It distracts night-time pollinators from doing their job, reducing the production of fruits and seeds. It affects the ability of birds to navigate during migration and it disorients bats. It makes some creatures more vulnerable to predation. 

European studies found that artificial lights cause trees to bud noticeably earlier (creating a possible mismatch between the plant cycle and the insects and animals they host) and it changed the growth patterns of plants located near streetlights.  

All this harm to our ecosystem without clear scientific evidence that increased outdoor lighting deters crime. In some cases, it simply makes it easier for criminals to see what they’re doing. 

You can learn more about the research on pollinator and wildlife harm, and lighting and crime at the website of the International Dark Sky Association ( National Geographic also has been covering this problem. 

Please think twice about keeping lights on at night, for the sake of the wild ones who live with us. 


Leslie MacKenzie

Marine on Saint Croix

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