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It’s the year 1800, the beginning of the century. The natural abundance of nature is a part of our daily lives and, as usual, stars are everywhere to be seen. You decide to go for a walk after dinner and, there it is, the Milky Way Galaxy Arch across the night sky! It must have been amazing. Inevitably, as time passed, our development overwhelmed the privilege of experiencing the dark skies.
Artificial lighting has become a necessary sacrifice to keep up with our needs as a developing civilization, but is that all there is to it? At what point in history did light start interfering and having adverse effects on the environment?
Light can be considered a pollutant when it is used artificially in an inappropriate or excessive manner. As we know, its presence can vary from many sources like building interior and exterior lighting, streetlights, advertising, etc. The problem is: if we are aware and bring light pollution into the equation we notice that, in many cases, it is inefficient and most of it ends up being wasted. Sometimes it’s too bright, others not enough. In addition, there is a tremendous amount of electrical investment powering light that spills all over and into the sky, rather than focusing on the pretended areas.
This phenomenon, on a large scale, can cause serious environmental consequences for wildlife, the climate, and even humans. Apart from Skyglow, there are three other forms of light pollution: Light Trespass (misdirected), Glare (excessive brightness), and Clutter (excessive groupings of light).
“Lighting that emits too much light or shines when and where it’s not needed is wasteful. Wasting energy has huge economic and environmental consequences.”
When bringing nature into the subject, we can correctly assume that the most negative impact falls on the lap of nocturnal wildlife and its ecological dynamics. Light pollution interferes with plant and animal physiology, along with life patterns dictated by natural body cycles (circadian rhythm). For instance, it may disrupt the migratory behavior of animals or change competitive interactions within a larger scale of the so well-known food chain.
Regarding energy waste, lightning covers about 20% of the world’s total electricity. That alone translates to 6% of CO2 emissions being released into the atmosphere. Per year, when we add the lack of responsible usage, it is estimated that, in the US alone, there’s an economic loss of more than 3 billion $ and a huge release of 21 million tons of CO2. In sum, energy waste is a worrying problem in cost and carbon footprint!
Meanwhile, feel free to observe the current state of events, in your area, with the help of this online light pollution map!
At the end of the day, the bright side is that it’s easily solvable and a problem that we can all help with! Just remember to keep the lights off when it’s not necessary and have these kinds of precautions. Mother Nature will appreciate it!
We’ll see you next week!