March 5, 2021
While the invention of the light bulb changed human life forever, it also changed the lives of many nocturnal animals. Light pollution can cause disturbances in animals’ nights, affect people’s jobs, and more.
Light pollution is the brightening of the night sky caused by street lights and other man-made sources. Some people might think that this is not a problem. Are we not making the world safer at night by allowing people to see? The truth is, lighting streets and paths isn’t as effective as we might think. According to the UK’s Highways Agency, lighting motorways at night only reduces accidents by ten percent, and that other safety features such as reflective lane markers could have a greater impact. There is also no scientific evidence which shows that more lighting reduces crime, as a study in London proved in 2011. In fact, a more lit alleyway at night may allow a robber to better see their victim, and offenders who commit vandalism crimes like graffiti need light to see what they are doing. The Chicago Alley Lighting Project also proves that brighter lighting increases crime in alleyways. Less lighting does more for the world and our communities, but the effect on humans is not the only thing to worry about.
Artificial light at night can have many effects on animals. There are frogs in the wetlands who croak during night to find mates in order to reproduce. When glares from homes light up the area, the breeding cycle of the amphibians is disturbed because of the light causing them to think it is day. It is not just frogs, any animal that uses the cover of darkness to breed or hide from predators can be put in danger by an excess of man-made light. Baby sea turtles hatch at night and are led to the ocean by the moon. According to darksky.org, human light draws them away from the ocean, and millions die every year in Florida because of this. With these animals dying, so are others. Everything is connected. If the wetland frogs were to go extinct, what would the herons eat? Light pollution has much more of an effect than people realize, and it’s even affecting people’s pockets.
The world revolves around money. That is why it is such a big deal when someone wastes it. Thirty-five percent of light is wasted (meaning too much light than needed/using light when or where it’s unneeded) on poor outdoor lighting, according to darksky.org. That is three billion dollars down the drain every year. Plus, light pollution can cause astronomers to have to send satellites/telescopes into space, instead of viewing the stars from the Earth. This costs a lot of money.
Maybe most importantly, with light pollution brightening our skies, people cannot see the stars. The wonder that someone feels when they look at the world beyond is something that cannot be recreated anywhere else. Stars are a beautiful and wondrous thing that inspires many people. In addition, cultures could be lost forever if the stars disappear. The Greeks told stories about the stars. Mayans used them for their calendars; multiple cultures used the stars for navigation. Stars guided rituals and played an important role in many ancient civilizations. If stars were to be covered, they would only exist in the normal person’s life as memories and pictures.
There are ways to combat this destruction of the sky. Shielded lights, pointed towards the ground, would prevent some light from lighting the sky. Unneeded lights can be turned off. According to darksy.org, humans emit 15 million tons of carbon dioxide every year to power outdoor lighting. Cut down on these emissions and install quality outdoor lighting. This will cut energy use by 60-70 percent. Try not to use unnecessary lighting. Think, does this light have a purpose? Is it lighting up an area or the tree?
Light pollution is something that will only get worse as the world gets more populated, so we need to start doing what we can now to save animals, money, and the state of our world.