FreeWord – Light Pollution and its effects on our planet
Hello folks! Wherever you are, stop for a minute and have some time for yourself to look at the sky. Do you see what you’re supposed to see – a clear infinite sky full of stars?
At times like these, more people have started to realize how wonderful the nature around them is, and they would be humbled and reminded of the majesty of the universe when they looked up and saw the infinite sky on a clear night – if they could see it! Instead, we have started to realize how disconnected from our planet we truly are. We have forgotten that we are part of the universe. We have decided to switch off the most magnificent art in the world so that we could see better at night.
Light pollution is so widespread, so universal, and so common to urban life that we hardly give it a thought. Some people have never seen a clear sky full of stars because light pollution simply blocks us from seeing it. This is the harsh reality we currently live in. Too much light pollution has other effects as well; it interferes with astronomical research, disrupts ecosystems, has adverse health effects, and wastes energy.
What is light pollution?
Light pollution arises mostly from careless and often misguided exterior night lighting practices. Its sources include streetlights, advertising, commercial buildings, offices, factories, households, illuminated monuments, and sports venues. Light pollution occurs mostly in metropolises and their suburbia.
The problem is worsening globally, as most countries are becoming increasingly affluent and urbanized. Satellite views of the Earth at night show vast areas from all continents glowing white, with only the world’s remotest regions such as Siberia, the Sahara Desert, the Amazon, and geographical poles still covered in darkness.
Light pollution consequences
Our nights are getting brighter, and everybody on planet Earth is paying the price. The adverse effects of artificial light include sky glow, glare, light trespass, light clutter, decreased visibility at night, energy wastage, increased production of greenhouse gases, and compromised public safety. Light pollution is not only a barrier to astronomy, but it also impacts us directly.
Effects on animals – Light pollution interferes with wildlife migratory and breeding patterns, threatens aquatic ecosystems, alters competitive animal interactions, changes predator-prey relations, and causes physiological harm.
Effects on humans – We, like many other animals, are dependent on circadian rhythms and the production of melatonin, which is regulated by the balance of light and dark. This leads to sleep disorders, which in turn cause other health issues such as stress, headache, fatigue, increased anxiety, obesity, and eventually, even some types of cancers. In addition, constant exposure to artificial lighting interferes with human metabolism and ages our eyes.
Biggest problems with our existing lighting systems
The unfortunate side effect of societal growth and development is the increased level of light pollution. In terms of energy waste, the main problem is that our existing lights are managed poorly and are heavily outdated; they are used negligently, without any optimization, and as of today, lighting is responsible for at least a quarter of the world’s electricity consumption. Artificial lighting doesn’t often serve its intended purpose of providing safety and convenience. Instead, it spills outward and upward from poorly designed or inefficient light fixtures, trespassing on surrounding properties and polluting the skies. This creates a perversely unnatural orange night sky around cities at night, and over-illumination constitutes energy wastage, which is also a waste in cost and an increased carbon footprint.
Finally, researchers have started to focus on the impacts of ecological light pollution and its profound effects. LED technology continues its global spread and is supported by innovation programs by using sustainability as its selling point. However, its environmental concerns have started to cause uncertainty. Most of us have been living under the illusion that LED lights are the eco-friendly lighting option. Still, the truth is far from that – LEDs have been found to be very unsustainable, ecologically unfriendly, causing side effects on flora, fauna, and humans, and ultimately on biodiversity. LEDs can improve our ability to reduce and better regulate lighting, but by emitting heavy doses of blue-rich white light, they can make things even worse. Blue-rich white light is particularly disruptive to circadian rhythms. Both lighting professionals and light pollution experts see a strong relationship between LED lighting and environmentally unfriendly artificial light at night.
We can reduce our light pollution reasonably easy, by adjusting our behavioral patterns and equipment: such as shielding lights properly, using lights only when and where it is needed, and favoring energy-efficient bulbs. Some countries, such as Britain, have enacted legislation to reduce light pollution, but most countries and cities still do very little or nothing to combat excessive use of lights. The next expected improvement will be in intelligent lighting systems.
Scientists are trying to invent new ways to provide society with the proper lighting for its demands: security, commerce, and aesthetics, while greatly reducing the flood of light that is increasingly interfering with human health. However, the current investment and attention on the subject is far too small. Light pollution should be treated as a widespread, long-term damaging toxic chemical spreading across the globe. At our own peril, we would act to prepare and retaliate. Perhaps this would help to combat this continuously ignored problem.