A Voice From the Audubon Society Talks About Light Pollution

Light Pollution, Birds and Window Collisions

-Mary Coolidge, BirdSafe Campaign Coordinator 

Many birds migrate at night, using constellations, the moon, and the magnetic pull of the earth to navigate. Sky glow over lit areas confuses nighttime migrants and lures them into the maze of urban areas, where they may be entrapped by light and circle until they collapse from exhaustion. Migration is already an energetically demanding and dangerous feat, and detours on these arduous journeys can gravely impair birds’ ability to reach their destinations. 

The night is actually habitat. Biological systems evolved on this planet in a cycle of dark nights and bright days. Fully 30% of vertebrates and 60% of invertebrates are nocturnal! When we light the night, we fragment the dark and impact ecosystems that rely on carefully timed circadian rhythms that govern cycles of sleep, foraging, mating, migration, flowering, hunting, hibernating, bud burst, leaf drop, and the list goes on. Artificial light at night also disrupts predator prey relationships to the benefit of some and peril of others. It attracts some species and repels others, causes some to sing a night and others to remain silent. When we alter these rhythms, we disrupt carefully choreographed and complex relationships.

The proliferation of urban areas along bird migration routes can present significant threats to migrants both during the day and at night. During the day, window glass presents yet another deceptive and deadly hazard. Window collisions are one of the most critical threats to wild bird populations, killing up to 1 billion birds annually in the US alone. Birds simply do not perceive unmarked glass as a barrier, and fly into reflections of sky and vegetation in window glass. 

LightsOut programs help prevent migrating birds from being attracted into developed areas. In addition to reducing collision hazard for migrants, LightsOut programs provide many other benefits, including saving energy and money, reducing our carbon footprint, and preserving our view of the stars! 

Today, there is a rapid LED conversion happening around the globe because they offer significant energy savings and reduced maintenance costs. However, early generation LEDs emit blue-rich white light, which scatters more readily in the atmosphere than longer wavelength light, thus contributing to skyglow.

Responsive lighting design meets a range of climate resiliency and sustainability objectives including energy efficiency, cost savings, ecological health, human health, and preservation of the night sky. Window collisions and light pollution are hazards with real solutions It will be the cumulative actions of all of us that will ultimately make the difference.

For more information on how you can help, visit: HERE. 

or contact Mary Coolidge, BirdSafe Campaign Coordinator HERE


Our Profession - Some Errant Thoughts

Zachary Suchara, AIA, IES; Luma Lighting Design

The lighting industry is incestuous, tumultuous, fickle and I love it. These are not inherently bad traits. I rarely hear people say they are bored and that our industry is too stagnant. I think anyone who works in this industry will agree that we do things a little differently than most product/design driven industries. Granted, I can only speak from my own experience, but here is how I see it. 

I have only met a handful of people who studied or trained specifically to enter the lighting industry. This is a really amazing thing. It means that most people who work as designers, reps, distributors, contractors, etc. come to the trade from another path. This is the definition of professional diversity. This diversity does not happen anywhere near the same level in architecture, engineering, law, the medical profession and so on. We are unique. Feel free to put that in air quotes. So what does this uniqueness buy us?

Well, we, as a profession, have the power to shape human experience. Do not take this power lightly for with it comes great responsibility. From the designer who paints the first light map for an owner to the facilities engineer who curses the inexplicable failure of a lamp then works diligently to replace it, we all make up a component in a chain that drives how people interact visually with space, other people and the environment. If this was not important, we would not have professional designers. Light shapes space. If you are an electrical contractor installing a light fixture, you are impacting a person’s perception of that space. You are enabling them to see.  If you are a distributor ensuring a fixture makes it to a job site with the proper color temperature, CRI and finish, you are shaping human perception. And if we all do our jobs to the best of our abilities, we can make real a vision conceived by another human being. 

This blows my mind! We translate electrical impulses in the brain of one person (or a group of people) to matter, photons, emotion and the ability for another brain to “see” the result of those original electrical impulses through the built and physical environment. The irony that we use electricity and photons to do this is, not lost on me.  

Now, if we all thought alike, studied the same rote texts, learned the same way to calculate and draw a space, we may live in a very different world. Praise the sages we don’t. We all bring different perspectives, expertise, knowledge and experience to the table.  However, like a Kandinsky painting, if you only look at one section and one perspective, you will miss the meaning and larger experience. I bring my own experiences, knowledge and expertise to the projects I work on, but this is the lens and perspective I see from. That is not to say I believe all ideas have equal value. Let’s face it, there are bad ideas out there, but our jobs…no, our responsibility is to select and advance those ideas that better the human condition, protect our planet and still allow us to be profitable. This is the triple bottom line that we should not deviate from. 

So, what is the point of these ramblings? Value what you do and bring value to what you work on. I am excited that our section of the IES is starting a blog. I look forward to becoming more familiar with the perspectives of the other parts in this chain. It can only help to make it stronger.



IES dues: How much should they be?

A number of supporters of good lighting are non members because their employer cut that during the recession. In some cases they have changed jobs. If your employer pays the way, that is great --- but would we have a more vibrant membership if we did not charge as much?

Oregon High Desert Museum --IA award recipient

Oregon High Desert Museum --IA award recipient