Light Pollution Effects Humans, Animals and the Planet

Light Pollution Effects Humans, Animals and the Planet

The invention of the electric light bulb is considered one of the most important advancements for civilization, changing how we live, work and socialize, but what happens when you have too much of a good thing? Light pollution is the presence of unwanted, inappropriate, or excessive artificial lighting and it is having a negative impact on the world.

Four Types of Light Pollution

Glare is excessive brightness that can cause visual discomfort such as oncoming headlights when driving.

Clutter is bright, confusing, and excessive groupings of light sources such as electronic billboards and Times Square in New York City.

Light trespass is when light extends into an area where it is not wanted or needed such as a streetlamp illuminating a bedroom window.

Skyglow is a brightening of the night sky over inhabited areas. Can't see the milky way? 80% of the world’s population lives under skyglow and in the United States and Europe 99% of the public can’t experience a natural night.

Light Pollution Diagram

Effects on People, Animals and the Planet

People - Circadian rhythms are disrupted and less melatonin is produced, not only effecting sleep patterns, but often the cause of migraines, stress and anxiety. The American Medical Association (AMA) has established guidelines related to the use of LED's in streetlights and the emission of blue light which is also known to reduce the production of melatonin.

Animals - Migration patterns and animal behavior are changing, resulting in an increase in endangered species and disruptions in natural food chains. For example sea turtles confuse artificial light as moonlight and die heading away from the water. Birds get confused and fly into buildings, insects are killed when drawn to light sources.

Planet - It is estimated that about 60% of the nation’s total energy is used for public and commercial lighting while about 6% is used for outdoor lighting in residential areas.

What is Being Done About It

Some cities have what is called dark sky ordinances regulating light output for outdoor lighting. Fixtures may be required to have full shields directing light down and not into the sky.  The added benefit is that often less light is needed saving energy.

The National Park Service is also monitoring night brightness in some national parks and as of 2020 the International Dark Sky Association (IDA) has designated 130 International Dark Sky Places, one of which is Central Idaho Dark Sky Reserve approximately 1,416 square miles.

Interactive Night Sky Maps

Here is a list of some interesting interactive maps to visualize the impact artificial light is having on our night sky.

International Dark Sky Places

NASA: Blue Marble Navigator

The New World Atlas of Artificial Sky Brightness

NOAA: Light Pollution – Artificial Sky Brightness

The milky way is one of the greatest wonders of the world and everyone should be able to experience it. Do you have a picture or story to share? Add it to the comments section below.  Next week we will outline ways to reduce light pollution in your home.

Thanks for reading,


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Inspiring Reads -

Keep the lights on while reading these books and help fund literacy by buying books from Better World Books.

 The World Atlas of Light Pollution

The World Atlas of Light Pollution
by Fabio Falchi

The first book that shows in detail the spread of light pollution on our planet. Containing full color plates of the continents and of the main countries. Choose the best places for stargazing or the nearest site to admire the view of the Milky Way. It will show how polluted... 
Light Pollution: The Global View

 Light Pollution: The Global View
by Hugo E. Schwarz, H. E. Schwarz

It is only since recent years that the importance of the effects of outdoor lighting on the night-time environment and on the physical and mental health of humans is recognized on a wider scale. The related issue of light pollution is a particularly complex one...   

The End of Night: Searching for Natural Darkness in an Age of Artificial Light

The End of Night: Searching for Natural Darkness in an Age of Artificial Light
by Paul Bogard

Streetlamps, neon signs - an ever-present glow that has changed the natural world and adversely affected our health; Paul Bogard illuminates the problems caused by a lack of darkness.

Buy Books, Spread Literacy

In Case You Missed It - 

Responsible living is more than just caring about the environment.  Woven into the ethos is taking a stand for social equity and East Fork Pottery has been fully committed to that from day one.  Partnering with community outreach organizations to stretch outside their comfort zone; always paying employees a living wage, they are now working towards increasing wages to a family living wage.  Receiving their Carbon Neutral Certification in April has been another huge milestone.  All these steps and more have earned them B Corporation Certification, read about the journey here. Instead of seeing this accomplishment as the finish line, they view it as an inspiration for making additional changes.  Reading East Fork's About Page was part of our inspiration for starting The Savvy Elephant. AND we haven't even touched on how stunning and beautiful their pottery is!  See for yourself by clicking through to the East Fork Website.  

The Coupe     The Mug 

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