Letter: Light pollution is affecting local wildlife

Shamong resident Jaime Philpot looked into the sky and couldn't see stars.

“The Pine Barrens are so close to New York that on a clear night a bright light in

the pines would be visible from the Empire State Building.” This quote from John

McPhee’s book “The Pine Barrens” has stuck with me.

Recently, my 6-year-old son received a telescope. Since we live within the Pinelands, we presumed that we’d easily be able to pick up some stars or planets. Unfortunately, we encountered a glow that seemed to block the night sky. This is ultimately the result of light pollution. 

This led us down an informative wormhole. We decided to look further into “dark cities” and learn how to prevent unnecessary light pollution. One staggering statistic is that in the United States, 99 percent of the public can’t experience a natural night sky. We learned scientists are only beginning to have a solid understanding of how this light affects all living things. 

As a child, I have fond memories of catching lightning bugs. We’d play outside in the dark for hours and there would be so many fireflies it seemed almost magical. Now-a-days, they’re hard to find. This is because of light pollution. 

Like many nocturnal animals and insects, the firefly has struggled to reproduce because of light pollution. Other creatures affected include birds, frogs and toads. Many of you know the sound of the Spring Peeper frog, but what you might not know is that your landscaping and porch lights could be hurting them.

A neat website to check out is the International Dark Sky Association. The International Dark Sky Places Program encourages communities, parks and protected areas around the world to preserve dark sites through responsible lighting policies and public education. I’d ask everyone to make 2021 a year where you experiment with responsible lighting. You have nothing to lose.

-Jaime Philpot