An Open Letter to McDonald’s on Their Light Pollution

Dear McDonald’s,

Now is the time to make amends for your transgressions.

You may not be the absolute worst of corporate violators, but you are near the top of those publicly visible.  And the growth of your company, starting about 60 years ago, coincidences with the meteoric rise of the environmental mess.  Over the past century, your explosive insertion into the fabric of the developed world has marched hand-in-hand with the rampant spread of this most severe problem.

All of your violations, in aggregate, are far worse than any one-time ocean oil spill.  For though such water pollution events are severe, they are also short-term and localized.  The pollution you generate is widespread, long-term, and gradually destructive, altering huge swaths of the Earth’s natural environment.

From every urban neighborhood where a McDonald’s stands to the remotest of your locations on lonesome country highways, you are destroying the environments for the very customers you serve.  If your byproduct was a green sludge poured into rivers or a toxic gas pumped into the air, you would be facing an avalanche of lawsuits while your executives answered heated questions before the U.S. Congress.

Your pollution is aggressively silent, one of the core obstacles to both identifying the problem and rectifying its conditions.  So in the interest of laying out the problem straightforward, here it is: you are pumping egregiously excessive amounts of light pollution into the night sky.

Like a pale attempt at being their own Suns, tens of thousands of Golden Arches spearhead the false day your locations generate.  Bright white neon strips shine unnecessarily into the night above, pushing out an intruding dome into open skies which neither need nor want to be illuminated.  Side fixtures and parking lot poles build on the problem as well, any time they are not explicitly shielded to shine only upon their targeted ground areas.

McDonald’s light pollution is a prime factor to the destruction of our night environment.  For too long, we have all assumed that bright nights are “just the way it is” and a consequence of a civilized society.  But we cannot afford to think like this anymore, with all the mounting evidence for how bad light pollution is to our own health as well as to the ecosystems that rely on the living Earth’s innate cadence of day dancing with night.

You McDonald’s, are a corporate polluter.  It is time for the public to hold you accountable for your infractions.  But while the situation appears dire and hopeless to so many, you could make a great penance for your actions by asserting a leading role for the reversal of light pollution.  Your dedication to responsible corporate citizenry would not go unnoticed, as it would literally be visible if you decide to embark on the path to real change.

You, McDonald’s, have in your power the ability to do so much to end the harmful effects of light pollution, while at the same time elevating the problem’s awareness with the public at large.  You can and should, immediately, start redesigning your restaurants’ exteriors and surrounding properties to make them light pollution-neutral in the evenings, a task which could be completed at all your worldwide franchises within five years.  Broadcast public service messages on light pollution in your television commercials, showing the problem and what McDonald’s is doing to correct it.  And make your new corporate headquarters in the heart of Chicago a true example for how large companies, even in the heaviest of pollution blight, can guide the mantel of light-pollution neutrality.

Please, be willing to say, “no more,” and demonstrate your conscience to turn right this old wrong.

Today, I call you a corporate polluter.  I look forward to the day I can call McDonald’s a corporate leader by example that played a large role in ending the tragedy of light pollution.

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4 thoughts on “An Open Letter to McDonald’s on Their Light Pollution

  1. It’s funny, or “funny,” but the number of people I’ve spoken to who think of light pollution as a joke is surprising. McDonald’s is terrible about it. I remember a road trip many years ago, and, thanks to hillsides and tress, which, otherwise, would have made for a gorgeous sight, only being able to see the rising moon through the arches. It was high on top of one of those poles they put in their parking lots, so drivers along the Interstate (Woo! I-40!) can start drooling and reflexively raising their blood pressure, miles ahead. The damage that light pollution causes, not just to our enjoyment of the sky, but to the lifecycles of many, many plant and animal species, as well as humans, is too much. It’s time for change.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I will have a lot more to say about all this in coming posts. In short, right now light pollution is too fringe. There are isolated efforts, it seems, with various organizations, but nothing large-scale to penetrate the general public. You’re right, it’s a joke to most. No major politician or celebrity champions it in any meaningful way. Most of us who do understand the problem passive aggressively chide about gas station light domes and neighbors’ blaring porch floods, but light pollution will never be solved until a real change of strategy and mindset occurs.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. It’s an important topic, no doubt, and I really respect the work being done by cities like Flagstaff, and Sedona AZ, some places in Scotland, and other certified dark sky places that I can’t think of off the top of my head. I’ve had it with the passive aggressive chiding, just like I have with the passive aggressive chiding about climate change. I recently switched from “yeah, boy, it’s strange that it’s 70 degrees three days running in February” to “This is climate change. This is bad.” I think you’re right; it’s time to do the same with light pollution. I can’t wait to see what else you have to say about it.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Very true that there are good, and healthy, pockets of effort making localized impacts. Yet still, they are merely pinholes in the growing light blight.

      It’s the first thing I noticed when I started learning about light pollution – the resignation to defeat rampant everywhere. Put up light wall screens. Call your utility in futility. Just travel to a dark site. But the big, core problem is that light pollution is spreading, and especially if that latter attitude is all we have, soon there will be no dark skies remaining in the developed world. Frankly, the strategies and tactics of the last 20-30 years have been marginal at best.

      Liked by 1 person

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