Light pollution – Blinded by Artificial Light:
Light pollution is damaging the earth’s ecosystems, killing wildlife, affecting our health and is a huge contributor to global warming. This article is a detailed study of light pollution and its effects on our environment and ecosystems.
Light Pollution Map:
The latest images taken from space show almost the whole of Britain, most of the USA and much of Europe is bathed in an eerie glow at night. If you stand on the top of the remotest parts of the Brecon Beacons in South Wales, you can see the orange sky-glow from the Midlands of England, many miles away. There are very few places in populous developed countries today that ever get properly dark any more. The following map is a visual representation of light pollution in entire world
Global Effects of Light Pollution:
The global effects of over-lighting has yet to be calculated and is often overlooked. Its cost to us in terms of energy consumption is staggering. In the U.S. alone, excessive use of light at night wastes over two million barrels of oil a day. In many countries, including Australia, public lighting is the single biggest source of local government’s greenhouse gas emissions. In Britain, on most nights, three power stations are pumping out electricity just to keep the skies over the country artificially illuminated.
Light Pollution – Impacts on Environment and Ecosystems:
Life on earth has evolved with a very delicate ecosystem and a natural daily cycle of dark and night. We humans are destroying this balance. The effect of light pollution on nature and ecosystems is immense. Light from floodlit supermarkets, garages, sports grounds and industrial parks is turning our song birds into insomniacs. The British Trust for Ornithology estimates that on most winter nights there are over 30,000 robins, blackbirds and thrushes continually welcoming the dawn because they are losing the ability to tell day from night. In the USA over 5 million birds a year that migrate at night, die after becoming disoriented by lights and colliding with tall towers. There are also many casualties caused by light pollution throwing off birds navigational abilities at sea.
Other species of animals and insects, particularly nocturnal ones, are also badly impacted. The breeding habits of turtles, toads, frogs and salamanders have all been reported as being damaged by excessive artificial light. Many species of bats are threatened by suburban light; it creates no- go areas for them in their search for food or mates. Certain moths, such as the hawk moth, only mate on dark, moonless nights. There is speculation that this is the reason why many moth species are in rapid decline. It’s the same for fireflies and glow-worms. Male glow-worms need deep darkness to hunt out their lambent females; maybe that’s the reason they’re hardly ever seen today. There is also concern at the sheer number of insects that are killed by flying into lights at night. This has a great impact on ecosystems as so many animals and birds are dependent on them for food.
Light pollution also effects both human and animal health. Excessive light at night prevents the brain’s secretion of a hormone called melatonin, which governs our ability to sleep. This results in insomnia, headaches, tiredness and anxiety in both humans and animals.
You don’t need planning permission in most countries to floodlight your house and garden, and few cases of light trespass actually make it through court. No matter how comfortable, organic and environment friendly your best memory foam mattress is, you’re not going to get a decent night’s sleep if your neighbour’s high security light is glaring through the curtains every time a cat runs across his lawn.
Research has also shown that light pollution at night destroys the ability of nitrates to reduce smog produced by cars and factories, which means increased atmospheric pollution.
How to Reduce Light Pollution?
So what can be done to control light pollution? Some people are calling for excessive lights to be simply turned off. Astronomers and naturalists are at the forefront of this campaign. The Council for the Protection of Rural England is currently the most vocal environment group calling for a solution. But increasingly it’s being backed by government and industry as well. In Britain, Highways Agency rules require street lights to be pointed downwards to shield the skies. Many large retailers selling security lights are offering customers advice on buying the lowest wattage necessary for the job, and on the correct placement of lighting. Light fixtures and lighting plans are being redesigned and timers used in many organizations, including the armed forces. But to make a real impact, we need everybody in societies across the world to think about how they use light at night, and ask, is this really necessary? Wouldn’t we rather be able to see the Milky Way?
Guest Posts by Imogen