The future is bright, too bright, and it is disrupting the environment and hurting our health. We see images of beaches strewn with plastic bottles and trash, hear about land that has been leveled, and we all know about smog and air pollution choking our cities. We hardly ever see or hear about light pollution, and often times, when we see a photograph of a large light laden city, it’s frankly very pretty. The sight is glamorous and lively, it is exciting and somewhere we want to be. The truth is, all those lights can do a plethora of damage to us and the environment.
Indoor light can disrupt our circadian rhythms, the 24 hour cycle that lets our body know when to sleep and when to stay alert. Doing something as simple as turning off LED lights, avoiding cell phone screens and TV for a few hours before bed can immensely help. Outdoor lighting not only blocks out our view of the night sky, but can disrupt the hunting patterns of nocturnal predators, knock off the migratory patterns for birds, send sea turtle hatchlings towards the bright city lights instead of the sea, and can even hurt plant life by distracting and drawing in insects who would normally pollinate that flora. Some outdoor lighting designed to help us see better when driving at night can actually make it more difficult to navigate. If you’ve ever been driving through an urban area and have seen the harsh glare, you will know what that is like. Urban sky glow is a term used describe the brightening of the sky in urban areas making it almost impossible to see the stars and night sky; this video shows different levels of light pollution and the difference urban sky glow can have, and this interactive map shows how bright your area is.
Luckily, light pollution is the easiest type of pollution to fix. I could say it’s as easy as turning off your lights, and most times it is, but we all know that is not a viable solution at every turn. Lighting the right areas can be an issue of safety, for those places try motion sensor lights with a timer. It does not completely eradicate the outdoor lighting, but it is definitely not the constant beacon it once was. If you are like me, there are going to be nights where you will find yourself up late on your phone or watching TV, most of these devices have a night mode that producers say cut out on blue light, making it easier on your eyes and your health, but studies have yet to confirm this. There is no substitute for simply shutting off your lights though. It may seem like a drop in the bucket to flip one switch, but it can make a world of difference.
If you are having trouble seeing the need to lessen light pollution, you might want to visit one of these certified dark sky locations and see just how much of a difference it really makes.