More and more research about the negative effect light pollution has on humans and wildlife is coming to light (pun intended). As the population of the planet increases, so does the amount of homes, businesses, parking lots, schools, airports and roadways. All these structures use electricity and need to be lighted.
Humans demand these lights. They want their homes more comfortable and they want their streets safe. The problem is that researchers are finding that all this light is having a negative impact on humans and wildlife as well.
Less than 10 years ago I drove to a less populated section of my town lay down in the middle of the road and watched a spectacular meteor shower. The area was devoid of homes, street lights and traffic. If I did that today, first off I wouldn’t be able to see the meteor shower as well, due to the increase in street lights, but I would surely be run over by a car. Urban sprawl has taken over those sparsely populated areas.
Light pollution has always been a problem for those of us who are interested in learning about the night sky, but now scientist are finding that light pollution can be almost as bad as carbon dioxide pollution. If you have ever taken a flight at night, the view is beautiful, but you must remember that all the light you see is wasted electricity. The crews of the space shuttles see an even bigger picture of how extensive this wasted electricity is worldwide.
One of the saddest parts of light pollution is that most of it is unnecessary and most of the outdoor light that we use is wasted. One only need to look at a row of street lights to see how much of the light shines upwards and lights the sky; a total waste of electricity. With the millions of streetlights worldwide, this is a serious problem.
One can only guess at the amount of money spent to pay for that wasted electricity. Additionally, somewhere this electricity needs to generated, and the generation of that electricity creates pollution by emitting greenhouse gasses. This affects the air we breathe and our quality of life. One must weigh the balance of whether we want to keep our streets and parking lots safe or do we want to breathe cleaner air?
Scientists are also studying the effects of light pollution on wildlife. Many creatures are nocturnal and depend on darkness to hunt, navigate and to even to breed. They have biological rhythms that are being profoundly affected by light pollution.
Birds use the moon and the stars to navigate and migrate and are the species most affected by light pollution. Thousands of birds die each year when they crash into highly lit buildings, as they become disoriented by the light. Even the birds at sea that depend on the bioluminescent plankton to feed, are being drawn to lit structures along the shore. It has been long know that tiny sea turtle hatchlings become disorientated and follow lights on the shore instead to heading towards the sea.
So what individuals do about light pollution?
• The simple answer is to turn off all unnecessary lights in our home. Much of the lights we use indoors spills outside and contributes to light pollution.
• Avoid the use of extensive unnecessary decorative lighting on our homes.
• Install motion sensor lights where possible.
• Install outdoor lighting that limits the amount of light that escapes upward.
• Don’t turn on lights every time you go outdoors. If it is safe, go out in the dark and enjoy the night sky.
• Get involved in educating your neighbors and city officials about light pollution.
• Install low wattage lighting fixtures when possible.
• Install timers on lights.
Light pollution is one of the easiest sources of pollution that can be corrected without a negative impact. Following the above guidelines and a little searching on Google can give you many ideas on how to reduce your contribution to light pollution. Buzz up!