We are going through a lot of crisis right now, forests are burning one after another, new viruses are coming up and locking us inside, people are depressed, losing jobs and what not. But we have to agree on this that most of the environmental pollutions come from the human inventions and some from our ignorance. Similarly, Light Pollution is the excessive amount of human-made/artificial light in our surrounding during day and night. It can also have its own consequences for our health, environment and different factor such as it washes out the starlight in the sky, disturbs the astronomical research, and the fireflies are vanishing. Light pollution include: Sky glow, glare, light clutter and light trespass.
Sky glow is brightening the night sky over the inhabitants’ areas where the lights are not needed.
Glare is excessive, unshielded and confusing brightness that can cause visual discomfort
Light clutter is the excessive grouping of lights. It is mainly noticeable where the street lights are badly designed, those bright lit advertisement on the roadways/highways etc.
Light trespass occurs when unwanted light is flashed into someone’s property
How it is affecting us, the animals and the planet?
The planet and its inhabitants have evolved to the rhythms of natural cycle of day and night. We no longer experience the darkness of the night due to excessiveness of the artificial light.
Yes, electric light is the greatest invention and can be a beautiful thing to look at, we can travel during night, don’t have to stay in the dark, makes our home look cosy etc but excessive or inappropriate use of anything can lead to hazardous problem. It is effecting our health, the wildlife animals etc.
Our bodies produce the hormone melatonin in response to circadian rhythm. Melatonin is a hormone primarily released by the pineal gland at night, and has long been associated with control of the sleep–wake cycle. It helps keep us stay healthy. It has antioxidant properties, induces sleep, boosts the immune system, lowers cholesterol, and helps the functioning of the thyroid, pancreas, ovaries, testes and adrenal glands. Night-time exposure to artificial light suppresses melatonin production.
Investigations on negative effects of light pollution on human health found that this pollution can increase the incidence of headache, migration, stress and anxiety and decrease melatonin production in the body, which low melatonin levels can increase the risk of specific cancers. According to a recent study done by Harvard, High exposure to bright, artificial outdoor lights during the night may result in sleepless nights for older adults. The more of this light pollution are exposed to at night, the more they seemed to turn to medication to help them sleep, for example excessive use of our smart-phones, laptops etc can be a problem.
Light pollution can also impact on animals such as their migration patterns, wake-sleep habits and habitat formation. Such as:
- Nocturnal animals sleep during the day and are active at night because light pollution completely alters their night time environment by turning darkness of night with all the excessive amount of light.
- Glare from the artificial lights can also cause disturbance to the amphibians such as frogs as night-time croaking is a part of their breeding ritual which might lead to reduction of their population.
- Sea turtles hatches at night on the beach and after which they find the sea by detecting the bright horizon over the ocean. These artificial lights draw their attention away from the ocean, causing death which can be seen in the news.
- Migratory birds or the birds who hunt at night depends on the cues from properly timed seasonal schedules. Artificial lights can cause them to migrate too early or late and miss the ideal time for nesting and other behaviours. Every year millions of birds die colliding with the buildings and towers, which also can be seen all over internet and news from time to time.
- Many insects are also drawn to light. Needless to say, every species depends largely on the insect species and light pollution plays a devastating role in the declining population of the insects which can negatively impact all the species that rely on insects for food or pollination.
What will lead if we don’t stop?
Light pollution contributes to climate change, too, by adding excess heat into the air. Light pollution also leads to air pollution affecting the atmosphere. Since for the illumination at night, huge amounts of electricity are used, this leads to a high level of CO2 emissions and other harmful gases.
Moreover, when it comes to climate change; new diseases, natural disaster etc follows with it and after the release of sixth assessment report by IPCC, 2021, we can clearly see it all. It will also increase the problem that is stated above on “how it is affecting us”
How can we change?
Despite all the benefits of artificial light that keep us safe from darkness, we should consider the negative actions of the light and comply accordingly. This is 21st century, so along the light pollution, human being has also created some management options to lessen night time light pollution. There are multiple ways we can create a better environment for us and the upcoming generation, here are few ways I personally think we should do:
- Reduce the use of decorative: During all the festival season, whether it is New Year or wedding or religious event, artificial lights are used as “decorative” which can be used with more eco-friendly decorative options.
- Use a covered light which is facing downwards: by installing directional covers on outdoor lights so they only illuminate the areas where they are needed. Or, another solution can be by investing in lights motion-activated so they’re only on when people are around. Also, turning off the street light when not in use.
- Usage of more CFLs: CFLs help by using up to 75% less energy than other lamps which decreases the amount of green house gas emission in our atmosphere. There is an article “LED practical guide” on the website darksky.org, check that out and learn more.
- Minimize the use of lights:
- Refrain from light trespassing: Avoid lights that are reaches where it is not needed by putting better quality lights, motion sensor lights, dimmers etc.
- Glare-free lightning for the vehicles: When buying a vehicle make sure to go through the description properly because certain companies only cares about their profit and provide the customer with cheap material without being concern about their life.
- Development of the better alternatives for light pollution: Rejecting cheap and poorly made things and asking the companies to make better alternatives that is good for the environment and also, the government to take necessary actions against the one who violates the rules to keep the environment save because we deserve to live a quality life in a good environment.
- Have all information and facts about light pollution: Read more and more, get educated and teach others as well because there is never enough information, we can learn.
If you wish to know more, please read go the website darksky.org and you can get involved with them by joining their membership, donate, join their email list etc.
There are other websites like: globeatnight.org, nationalgeographic.com, conserve-energy-future.com, treehugger.com, scarce.org, earthhour.org etc. who talk about environment and there are a lot of YouTube videos discussing about this topic in details. Check them out
And don’t forget to check the website Lightpollutionmap.info to know the light pollution in your area.
Remember, it might be too late to stop climate change, but together we can slow it down.