Light Pollution Robs the Night Sky
Written by SurfWriter Girls Sunny Magdaug and Patti Kishel
They say, “Too much of a good thing can be bad.” Even something that’s become a basic part of our lives – like artificial light.
In 1879 Thomas Edison’s light bulb lit up the night, freeing people from darkness and enabling them to see and do things they couldn’t before. But, the world has drastically changed since then and now the welcoming beams of light that illuminated people’s lives have morphed into light pollution.
SurfWriter Girls Sunny Magdaug and Patti Kishel learned from a new study in the journal Science Advances that the level of global outdoor lighting has grown over 2% per year from 2012 – 2016.
The stars and moon are being blotted from view by the bright lights of outdoor lighting as growing cities and developing regions around the world increase their light usage.
Astronomers are finding it more and more difficult to find places that are dark enough at night to set up their telescopes to study the heavens.
One of the study’s authors, Franz Holker, of Berlin’s Leibniz Institute of Freshwater Ecology and Inland Fisheries, warns that there is a cost to having light at our fingertips wherever we want it – “an ecological, environmental cost.”
Animal migration and reproductive patterns are being affected. Newborn sea turtles, mistaking street lights for the light of the moon, have headed inland instead of to the ocean.
Plants are affected, too, as the increased light causes changes in growth and flowering.
The light also reduces the activity of nighttime pollinators – insects, bats and beetles – that the plants depend on for fertilization.
And people aren’t immune, either, as sleep cycles get out of sync, affecting our health and productivity.
To combat light pollution, countries will need to learn to use outdoor lighting wisely and only when and where it’s needed.
And we all can help by closing our window blinds, reducing decorative landscape lighting and shielding and aiming lights downward to eliminate upward glare.
Then look up and enjoy the beauty of the celestial universe.
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