However, these lights are not hitting their targets alone. If you were to take a midnight stroll off campus and look back towards the Hill, you would see that it glows bright gold against the night sky. This kind of bothersome lighting is no longer functional. It is pollution.
Wikipedia defines light pollution as excess or obtrusive light created by humans. It further states: Among other effects, it can obscure all but a few stars to city dwellers, cause problems for astronomical observatories, and disrupt ecosystems.
Another definition of light pollution is light which people find annoying. Personally, I do not know the severity of light pollutions scientific effects, but I do know what annoys me about excessive lighting: its cost.
It is estimated that the United States loses between one and two billion dollars every year due to wasted light. Much of this is due to improperly shielded light fixtures which project a large portion of their light upwards and sideways.
Satellite images, in which a person can identify the worlds metropolitan areas by their lights, confirm this problem. Our campus may not be readily identifiable on such maps, but it is certainly contributing to the countrys annual costs from wasted light.
Take St. Olafs globe lights, for example. By design, the majority of their light is directed upwards toward the sky instead of down towards the sidewalk. The spotlights on top of Old Main are just as inefficient; they send more of their light into the night sky than actually hits the flag.
Light pollution should certainly be part of this years sustainability theme. According to the Black, Gold, and Green website, there are two ways of improving our electrical impact: Conservation and the purchase or production of renewable energy resources. When we conserve energy, we're in the business of producing negawatts, watts which are never generated in the first place. So it's important to replace inefficient lighting fixtures, and to purchase more energy-efficient appliances. I think we can do better in this regard.
I am not suggesting that we eliminate the lights from St. Olafs buildings, walkways and parking lots. I rather appreciate the security of the campuss lighted sidewalks when Im walking back to my dorm after the library closes. I also respect the need to light up the flag when it is flown at night.
However, I feel that we should improve St. Olafs night lighting so that we can be safe and sustainable at the same time.
Contribuiting writer Laura Botz is a first year from Sleepy Eye, Minn. She majors in English.