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I haven't read Owen's article yet (I'm about 6 months beind in my New Yorkers) but I do recall that a former Eugene mayor a few years ago tried to change the streetlighting to a kind of lamp that didn't blot out the stars and consume so much energy.


Portland's street lights are only bright when they're outside your house. Walking or driving at night, when visibility is the concern, these things are pretty dim. Any dimmer would be pretty alarming in some neighborhoods.


Some blinds on your windows might help too. I once did the research necessary to win an argument with a county commission who wanted me to replace old street lights with more energy efficient ones. These are great to buy when installing new lights but the energy expended by the manufacturing and shipping of these new lights can never be recouped, nor can the expense.

Lynne Eldridge M.D.

Thanks for this great post. And, thank you for bringing up the cancer risk associated with night lighting. Since we are frightened by the "C" word with one half of men and one in three women expected to develop cancer (skin cancer not included) in their lifetime, perhaps this will help people listen to other issues as well.

I agree that melatonin plays a role in cancer prevention. While studies are going back and forth on whether night workers have a higher incidence of breast cancer, we know that airline personal have an elevated risk. On the other side of the equation, completely blind women have a very low risk of developing breast cancer.

Shades are a great idea while we look into more acceptable lighting ideas, but this is very important. We are sitting back trying to understand why Marin County (not from from Portland) is considered the breast cancer capitol of the world with one in four women expected to develop breast cancer. Issues such as lighting at night that many make a difference need to be addressed! Thanks!


I am torn on this issue.

On one hand, I taught observational astronomy in the Bay Area for several years and know first hand the problems light pollution has on our night skies. I even wrote a law review article about this issue and consulted with the folks in Tuscon, AZ who instituted strict light control ordinances to protect their local telescopes (Kitt Peak).

My understanding of the issue is two-fold: (1) one should use certain types of lighting technology, and (2) one should hood the light in a way to direct it in an appropriate path. Tuscon is awash in the yellowish (and some would say, sickly) low pressure sodium lights. And these lights have hoods that direct the light downward, and not upward or outward. Also, these low-pressure sodium lights emit very particular wavelengths of light, and these particular wavelengths are more easily filtered out by the astronomers so that they can make their observations. But, as anyone who has experienced these yellow lights can attest, their light is just not "friendly."

On the other hand, I see great value in the warm glow of incadescent lighting. Lighting can completely change the way you feel inside a room, and outside in the park. I am in complete support of the projects to light up Portland's bridges. And this comes just when we've seen the greatest advance since the light bulb -- the development of full-spectrum LEDs which are much more efficient and longer lasting than just about anything out there.

Personally, I think we are about to see a revolution in lighting where just about every light will be replaced with color-tunable LEDs. The trick then comes with deciding just where you want the light directed -- up, down, sideways. This is where we need the most work.

Sean Casey

Great post and comments regarding this issue. I agree it's as much a quality of life issue as anything else.

Not to engage in too much "subject drift", but indoor lighting can be problematic as well.

A few years ago when there were power grid issues on the west coast, many stores reduced their lighting as a conservation measure. I remember walking into the Safeway on NE Broadway, pleasantly surprised to see half the lighting ballasts turned off. That store was always so bright in there, so it was great not having to squint, or wear sunglasses, while shopping. Just enough to see the products, without having to look at every pore on peoples faces.

I understand the need for displaying products and security et al... but sometimes it goes a little overboard.

Thanks for allowing me to comment.


Sadly, I see a lot of statements here that aren't really true. I'm not going to delve into them, because I am so glad to see people who care enough to be interested. Most people aren't.

Lighting is indeed complicated. That's why there are professionals who devote their careers to the topic. I know there are some great resources in Portland who would be happy to share their knowledge and experience. Look them up. Call them. And listen to their views on LEDs, daylight, fluorescent lighting, and dark-sky.


Thick drapes/curtains also help, especially during winter. Obviously, during summer they aren't so helpful when its hot inside...


I didn't know Calgary is making strides to change - and I live here! BTW the link to the New Yorker article is: http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2007/08/20/070820fa_fact_owen
- it is a very good article.

Duncan Munday

I've been really interested by all of your comments. What I believe to be the most prominant issue is that of energy loss due to un-necessary lighting. It is interesting that lighting can be more focused but very few people use this method.
I think it boils down to the point that everyone should make their own small changes to help save energy in their homes, and then try and persuade councils to do the same. Tip to you- Led light bulbs and PIR Sensors. To find out more, visit www.deslamps.co.uk

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