Often I received the inevitable reply:
“Seeing the stars is nice but I want my
security. Lights attract business and
reduce vandalism.” But in fact, nonglaring light with appropriate wattage
increases security. Try this: shield your
eyes from a glaring light—and notice
greatly improved visibility.
Arti>cial light has in many ways served
us well, but we have been lax in pondering the possible negative consequences.
I >nally found reference to a conference
at the Boston Museum of Science that
brought together health professionals,
environmentalists, criminologists, lighting
engineers, lawmakers, manufacturers,
and members of the International Dark-Sky Association to learn how arti>cial
outdoor light a=ects us in ways perhaps
Today’s outdated outdoor night lights
waste over $2 billion a year in energy
costs in the U.S. alone. They produce
glare that law enforcement agencies know
is unsafe. Millions of migrating songbirds die each year by slamming into
brightly lit buildings. Most disturbing,
these lights can negatively a=ect our health
in ways we are only recently beginning to
Armed with research and visual aids—
thanks to a grant from the University of
Minnesota—I started to share information with city councils, planning commissions, county boards, and service clubs.
At >rst people were perturbed: “Who is
this woman? And what is she talking
about?” Then, after a while, people sighed
and rolled their eyes: “Oh, it’s her.”
I became known as the Night Lady.
But after over eighty->ve presentations, something began to happen. At
planning meetings when the issue of
outdoor lighting came up, someone
would say, “Let’s make sure we have
proper downlighting.” And the Night
Lady was nowhere around. A new, large,
local subdivision proudly installed elegant,
full-cuto= streetlights (which point the
light down rather than out and upward).
The University of Minnesota put downlighting of street lamps in their long-range plan.
When we built a home on forty acres
in rural Minnesota, we recessed the lights
on our front porch and used nonglaring
lights on the garage. We put our land in
perpetual conservation with the Minnesota
Land Trust, and outdoor lighting language
is now part of their easements and
discussed with landowners.
Yes, we bene>t from arti>cial outdoor
lights. But we need to get rid of the
outdated models and keep working to
preserve everyone’s birthright of being
able to gape at that awesome, mysterious,
Lake City, Minnesota
I grew up on a farm in Iron Station, North
Carolina, and as a teenager I split a lot of
wood to feed the stove that kept our house
warm. As a result, I quickly gained an
appreciation for deadfall trees. Many
times I went with my father to visit a
sawmill down the road. Watching the old
circle sawmill, I often thought of what it
would be like to saw wood for a living.
Later in life, when I began to notice the
number of trees that were thrown into
land>lls, I decided to start a business
sawing lumber from “waste” trees.
The goal of “treecyling” is twofold: to
reduce waste in the land>ll and to create
higher end-value from what was once considered good only for >rewood or mulch.
I estimate that close to 2 million board feet
of lumber is wasted annually in the local
land>lls in the Charlotte metro area due to
storms, land clearing, maintenance, or disease. This is approximately eight thousand
tons of waste in the Charlotte area alone.
I recycle only a small portion of this
material, but reducing waste a little at a
time can make a di=erence.
At our family farm, I process approximately 15,000 to 20,000 board feet a year
of local urban lumber from private land
for use in homes, sheds, barns, farms,
or woodworking projects. Homeowners
or tree services load up the usable wood
and transport it to our mill. There is a
charge for sawing and drying the wood
and for further processing if needed.
Waste slabs, limbs, and crooked trees that
can be used for heating are provided at no
cost to anyone in the community who
needs >rewood. I also process very large
trees into slabs for use in live-edge furniture in the Nakashima tradition, which
attempts to incorporate the natural form
and character of the wood into the func-tionality of the piece.
Since my company, Edwards Sawmill
& Lumber ( www.sawmillnc.com), was
started, we have sawed 100,000 board feet
of lumber for various uses, and approximately double that amount has been used
as cordwood. That’s about twelve hundred
tons of wood diverted from the waste
stream. I have to believe that treecycling
this urban and suburban wood could, on
some level, also reduce demands on our
national and state forests.
Iron Station, North Carolina
Making a gift of appreciated stock is one way you can support
the dialogue about nature and culture you find in Orion magazine. Gifts
of stock may also offer you tax advantages. Please call The Orion Society
at 413/528-4422 for more information. Thank you.