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What Is Light Pollution?

What Is Light Pollution? - By Felicia

You probably have heard of pollution. Pollution, as I studied in science class, is any type of waste that can’t be broken down by the environment. In short, it’s bad for the planet. Light pollution is also bad for the planet. As the name says, light pollution is extra light outside, usually at night, that prevents you from seeing the stars and planets.

You also might think that it’s not a big deal. Not everyone stargazes, after all. But it’s not just the stargazers that are affected. Light pollution interferes with astronomical research, disrupts entire ecosystems. It also can have adverse side effects to the body, plus, it wastes a lot of energy.

A bit more than a century ago, you could walk outside at night even in a city and see the Milky Way galaxy arch across the night sky. That must have really been beautiful! Being able to see thousands of stars was part of everyday life, inspiring artists like Van Gogh or writers like Shakespeare. By allowing artificial lights to wash out our starry night skies, we are losing touch with what has made us who we are.

With more than half of the world’s population now living in cities, 3 out of every 4 people in cities have never experienced the wonderment of pristinely dark skies. How do you explain the importance of what they’ve lost to light pollution? How can you make them aware that light pollution is a concern on many fronts: safety, energy conservation, cost, health and effects on wildlife, as well as our ability to view the stars? Finally, how do you convince them that it’s worthwhile to take even small steps, to help fix this problem?

Light pollution poses a threat mostly to nocturnal wildlife, having negative impacts on plants and animals. It can confuse the migratory patterns of animals, alter competitive interactions of animals, change predator-prey relations, and cause physiological harm. The rhythm of life is orchestrated by the natural patterns of light and dark, so disruption to these patterns impacts the ecological dynamics.

Many species, especially humans, are dependent on natural body cycles called circadian rhythms and the production of melatonin, which are regulated by light/day and dark/night. If humans are exposed to light while sleeping, melatonin production can be suppressed. This can lead to sleep disorders and other health problems such as increased headaches, worker fatigue, medically defined stress, some forms of obesity due to lack of sleep and increased anxiety. And ties are being found to a couple of types of cancer. AAAAAAAAAAH!!!!!!!

Lighting is responsible for at least one-fourth of all electricity consumption worldwide. Over illumination can constitute energy wastage, especially upward directed lighting at night. Energy wastage is also a waste in cost and carbon footprint.

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