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Wasting Light


Every year, countries across the globe set their clocks forward in an effort to save energy. In theory, daylight savings time decreases demand for electricity by making the days longer. Now that it has ended, more people have started using more energy to account for the shorter days. It may not seem as dark as it should, though. New data indicates that the use of artificial lights has increased global light pollution by two percent every year for the last five years. These finds have experts worried about the effect this could have on the planet.

lightWhat is Light Pollution?

Light pollution (known as photopollution in the scientific community ) is the presence of artificial light in the night sky. This can happen in a number of ways. Most people blame rampant urbanization for the majority of light pollution. Even the most careful and responsible cities negatively impact the environment with illumination. Advocates for energy conservation claim that in order to combat this growing problem, there must be a fundamental change in habits to ensure efficient energy use

Though the most recognizable term, light pollution actually encompasses a number of different issues.

  • Over-illumination is just that, an excessive use of light. Experts estimate that this problem accounts for energy waste equivalent to two million barrels of oil a day.
  • Light trespass occurs when invasive light enters your property or home. This is a problem, especially in urban centers.
  • Glare comes from different sources. Staring at the sun or any bright light is an instance of glare. Doing so can cause discomfort and temporary or permanent blindness.
  • Skyglow is the phenomenon you see over large urban areas. The diffuse light from cities hangs over the skyline and is noticeable from great distances.

Effects of Light Pollution

Researchers fear that rapid increases in light pollution can have a variety of negative effects on the planet. It disrupts ecosystems, compromises the health of human beings, and ruins the beauty of the natural world.

Excessive light pollution has the potential to affect the habits of animals in ecosystems worldwide. Some say that it could change the migratory patterns of birds. In the latter part of the year, birds migrate south for the winter, many of them at night. This excessive light throws off their path, which could cause serious ecological issues in the future.

light-pollutionSome researchers see this pollution has a matter of public health. Obtrusive light can impact sleep patterns and the biological clocks of human beings. Those living in metropolitan areas see a more noticeable connection between light and health.

This issue has made an impact on the night sky, as well. It is increasingly difficult for people to view the stars because of this light pollution. Advocates now seek to create dark sky spaces so that human beings don’t lose connection with the stars. Recent measurements show that excessive light hides views of the Milky Way from 80% of North America.

Light pollution is a growing issue that experts must address to avoid severe negative consequences in the future. Has it affected you directly? Do you think it is important to decrease wasted light to maintain a connection with a natural night sky? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below.


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