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View of the U.S. at night. Photo: NASA via Getty Images

As cities invest in technology upgrades, they have an opportunity to reduce light pollution, which impacts 99% of people in the U.S. and Europe.

Why it matters: Pollution is typically thought of as air, water and soil contamination, but light pollution — including from streetlights that cast excessive light — also harms the environment, human health and the stability of the global ecosystem.

The impact: Light pollution is associated with sleep deprivation, impaired daytime functioning and obesity.

Reality check: Unlike air or water pollution, however, light pollution is easily reversible.

What's happening: Cities are making strategic investments, including updating streetlights to reduce the span of light and to replace existing infrastructure with LED technology, which is environmentally friendly and offers cost savings.

  • Pittsburgh is partnering with Carnegie Mellon University to retrofit the city’s streetlights with LED lights that mimic natural light.
  • Middletown, Ohio, recently announced a plan to convert 2,000 streetlight heads to LED, which will save the city $359,000 in energy and maintenance costs each year.

In the process of LED conversion, some municipalities, like Wilmington, Del., have also explored retrofitting streetlight fixtures with sensor technology that could collect air quality, weather and noise pollution data.

But, but, but: LED deployment is not the end-all, be-all solution. At one point, Davis, Calif., inadvertently over-lit the city with LED lights.

  • And, as is the case with any urban sensor technology, any data collected by new streetlight technology will need to be anonymized and secure.

What to watch: In addition to LED deployment, cities are exploring other tactics to encourage reduce light pollution and encourage energy efficiency.

  • Asheville, N.C., has an ordinance that limits restaurants' outdoor lighting.
  • Hollywood, Fla., has an ordinance requiring oceanfront properties to dim their lights at night to avoid interfering with sea turtle mating and migration patterns.

Karen Lightman is executive director of Metro21: Smart Cities Institute at Carnegie Mellon University.

Go deeper

5 mins ago - World

Taliban: Executions and strict punishments will return

Taliban fighters in Kabul. Photo: Oliver Weiken/picture alliance via Getty Images

Strict punishments such as hand amputations and executions will return in Afghanistan, one of the Taliban's founders said in an interview with the Associated Press.

Why it matters: Despite attempting to project a new image, the Taliban remain committed to a hard-line, conservative ideology, including harsh ruling tactics.

Felix Salmon, author of Capital
2 hours ago - Economy & Business

Investors pour millions into immersive, interactive art experiences

Photo Illustration: Megan Robinson/Axios. Photo: Martin Bureau/AFP via Getty Images

How much would you pay for "a sleek, if pleasantly confusing, package of moods" or "a confusing tangle of disjointed installations" or even "the total erosion of meaning itself"? The answer, according to the current market-clearing price, seems to be about $35.

Why it matters: Investors are pouring hundreds of millions of dollars into ticketed experiences — immersive, interactive museum-like spaces that don't have the d0-not-touch stuffiness of traditional museums.

Special envoy for Haiti resigns over Biden deportations

Daniel Foote testifies during a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing on May 26, 2016. Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

The special envoy for Haiti on Wednesday resigned from his position, writing in his resignation letter obtained by PBS that he "will not be associated with the United States inhumane, counterproductive decision to deport thousands of Haitian refugees."

Why it matters: Ambassador Daniel Foote's resignation comes amid heightened anger over the treatment of Haitian migrants and asylum-seekers living in a temporary encampment in Del Rio, Texas — especially after images surfaced of Border Patrol agents whipping at the migrants from horseback.

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