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.
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.
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.
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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.
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.
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