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— Calvin Luther Martin, PhD

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Ten or so years ago, cities and towns across America began swapping out HPS (High Pressure Sodium) streetlights for LEDs.  (Malone did not fall for this fad.  We currently have HPS streetlights — and pray to God we keep them!)  LEDs became the municipal rage.  After all, said the hucksters selling them, they’re cheaper in the long run and use less juice, thus cutting down on the electric bill — except they are very expensive to buy.
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The uproar was swift and, frankly, predictable, if municipal officials had done their homework.

When my city of Newton, Mass., announced plans to install LED streetlights in 2014, I was optimistic. I’m all for energy conservation, and I was happy with the LED bulbs in my home office. But months later, returning from a week’s vacation in rural Maine, I was shocked to find my neighborhood lit by a stark bluish blaze that washed out almost all of the stars in the night sky.1


In the meantime, human beings are making their own displeasure known based on health, environmental, and quality-of-life concerns. Some residents of Brooklyn, Seattle, and Houston have joined the International Dark-Sky Association (IDA) in fighting installations of blue-rich LED street lighting. And in Canada, public outcry over the city of Montreal’s $84 million plan to replace existing streetlights with LEDs centered on light pollution and health impacts.2


In interviews with the media, my fellow experimental subjects have compared the nighttime environment under the new streetlights to a film set, a prison yard, “a strip mall in outer space” and “the mother ship coming in for a landing” in “Close Encounters of the Third Kind.” Although going half-blind at 58, I can read by the beam that the new lamp blasts into our front room without tapping our own Con Ed service. Once the LEDs went in, our next-door neighbor began walking her dog at night in sunglasses.3

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I have published a photograph, at the top of this page, from one such community. Here are several more, all taken at nighttime, believe it or not.

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