When residential, commercial and industrial development occurs on or beside farmland and fields, we lose hedgerows, which may include blackberries and wild flowers, and wetlands including sloughs.
This takes away habitat and food sources for pollinator species such as insects, bees, birds and butterflies, as well as for frogs and bats.
Remaining wildlife also face a new problem. Once homes and commercial buildings are ready for occupancy, we’re seeing a disturbing trend in the South Slough area. New owners are over-lighting their property causing light pollution.
Light pollution is excessive use of artificial light. It includes unnecessary bright lights which trespass onto adjoining properties and cause glare and sky glow which brightens the night sky. The cause is poorly designed lighting and it’s harmful wildlife, humans and our climate.
Why do property owners install these types of lights?
Farm areas tend to be darker at night. Owners of homes and industrial parks alongside farms typically place excessive lighting on building exteriors believing this will stop crime.
Does it? No, the opposite is true and there is significant evidence to support this. Bright lights don’t prevent crime or accidents, they just cost a lot of money from wasted energy and they disturb the neighbours.
The South Slough area has a number of sloughs which are mosquito breeding grounds. West Nile virus has been found not far from here. This year there were far fewer bats and the diminishing number can’t all be explained by white nose syndrome.
Bats are nocturnal and need darkness and our area is becoming too bright, so bats are moving elsewhere.
The has serious consequences for us. In one summer season, a colony of 150 brown bats can eat 38,000 cucumber beetles, 16,000 June bugs, 19,000 stinkbugs and 50,000 leafhoppers, according to the BC Ministry of Environment.
Light pollution is also affecting our frog population in the sloughs and our bird population which both also eat mosquitoes and other insects. Excessive light alters their behavior, disrupting their migration and feeding habits.
Eagles used to nest in trees above the Woodward Slough. After a car with a speeding teenager drove into the slough, the City responded by installing bright flashing lights that operate 24 hours.
Farms attract rats and the eagles were the only reliable predators. Now they’re gone and we’re left with so many rats our vehicle wires are being chewed through.
Light pollution also affects farmers. It inhibits the production of the hormone melatonin, and interferes with circadian ryhthms and pineal gland function. This:
- lowers the immune system;
- leads to an increase in disease – breast and prostate cancer, fetal abnormalities; and
- has a direct tie to increased levels of depression.
What is a solution?
The City should bring in a light pollution abatement bylaw which provides standards for lighting including shielded fixtures and downward aiming lights. Other local municipalities such as Delta and Saanich have implement bylaws.
In the long term, they save property owners and local governments money in energy costs, they lower our carbon footprint and they help bring back wildlife.
For my next blog I’m going to get outside and interview some locals. Action is the key according to Story Craft: the complete Guide to Writing Nonfiction by Jack Hart.