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The Gap Year Blog

Where and What is Light Pollution

7 Jun 2019 17:30 PM

Light pollution does not only cost us our night-time, but it is also adversely affecting our environment, our energy consumption and our health. Only 1 out of 50 UK residents can see a spectacularly starry and clear night sky. The artificial light that we surround us with impairs our view of the universe and blinds us – literally.

Everyone knows or is aware of water or air pollution, but did you now that the light can also be polluted? The inappropriate and excessive use of artificial light, also called light pollution, can a serious negative impact on environment, humans, wildlife and climate.

Do you have a hard time driving at night because of all the lights? Everywhere it is glaring and sparkling. The different light sources expose our eyes to an excessive brightness which strains the eyes and causes visual discomfort. Light Pollution can come into different forms. First, there is the excessive brightness as described above, the glare.

Second, there is the brightening of sky over inhabited areas, the skyglow. Especially big cities have an extremely bad skyglow. It never gets completely dark. This disturbs our and the animal’s day and night rhythm. Hence, it messes with our sleep patterns. It effects many different animals from fish over insects to birds and is especially disturbing for nocturnal wildlife that are dependent on the nightfall and the night-time environment to hunt for food. 

Bats, for example, navigate thanks to echolocation and their powerful night sight. Entering artifial light for them is like staring straight into a car's headlights at full beam for us. Now you can imagine what happens, they become dazed, lose orientation and might not see the objects in their way and mis their pray. It is bad for the human's and the wildlife's health

On top of that, just as we humans use the days with longer summer days to go out and work to get more things done and slowly slip off into sleep deprivation, the same happens with animals. They start hunting longer and change their eating patterns – more work, less rest.

Melatonin is a hormone that regulates human sleep patterns and is expressed under light. Thus, changing our sleep pattern form day-night cycles can disrupt melatonin’s natural regulation and expression. Which again has been linked to obesity, reduced sleep quality and impaired memory. Almost a quarter of the world is suffering from light pollution. If you want to find out how bad it is where you live, have a look at the interactive Light Pollution Map.

What you can help to reduce light pollution?

Help to map inappropriate public lightening by reporting it to your city council. Switch your own lights off when not needed (also saves an incredible amount of energy which you will see on your electricity bill), place motion sensors on essential outdoor or corridor lamps and check with your company if you actually pay for outdoor lighting as well.

By Desiree Schneider - Online Journalism Intern

Frontier runs terrestrial & marine conservationcommunityteaching and adventure projects in over 50 countries - join us and explore the world!