Light Pollution: A Problem Finally Emerging From the Darkness
The inappropriate use of artificial light at night can have unintended effects on amphibians, birds, mammals, insects, plants, and even our own bodies’ natural cycles. Fortunately, the solution could be as easy as flipping a switch.
For billions of years, life on our planet has evolved to the natural rhythms of night and day caused by the rotation of the earth.
For humans, the sun gives us essential vitamins and the light we need to function. When the sun goes down and darkness sets in, the melatonin in our brains make us sleepy. Around us, other creatures awaken and use the darkness to hide or to hunt, to travel, reproduce, and even communicate. However, over the last hundred years or so, our night sky has been fighting a losing battle against humans’ artificial light.
Not only does light pollution waste billions of dollars in fossil fuels every year, but it causes harm to the nocturnal life and natural systems that we depend on.
The inappropriate use of artificial light at night can have deadly effects on amphibians, birds, mammals, insects and plants. Twinkling lighting bugs flash in the dark to communicate, prey use the shadows to hide and predators use the shielding darkness to hunt. Migrating birds crash into buildings, and newly hatched sea turtles mistake the glow of streets for the shimmer of the moon on the ocean.
We even face more direct health risks from artificial light. Artificial light emitted from our screens, lamps, and streetlights disrupts our normal sleep rhythms and decreases our melatonin production, which can cause adverse effects to our health.
“…unlike many environmental issues, light pollution is a problem researchers say could disappear with the flick of a switch. Solutions include turning off unnecessary lights and putting shields on streetlights to direct beams downward.” – Nicholas St. Fleur (NYTIMES)
The IDA (International Dark-Sky Association) has found ways that each one of us can help decrease light pollution and fight for the night. Solving this issue could be as easy as being sure to shut off all unnecessary lights at night, or investing in quality outdoor lighting that shines towards the ground.
For your own health, you can download apps like F.lux, Lux, or Twlight to reduce the blue light emitting from your laptop or phone. Finally, visit www.darksky.org to learn more about the Dark Sky Movement, and what lighting tips you can follow to protect yourself as well as the nocturnal creatures in your back yard.