Have you ever looked into the night sky carefully and wondered, where have all the stars gone that once illuminated the night sky beautifully?
Today, many people long for a beautiful and dark sky that have been lost because of light pollution!
If you really want to experience what this article is talking about then you should travel to a rural area that does not have a well-developed lighting system in order to know the difference between the night sky of a city and a village. What we are talking about is light pollution. The stars and our Milky Way galaxy, we could see in a dark sky, have disappeared virtually due to the advanced engineered lighting systems that we have developed to illuminate our streets and homes. The beauty of natural darkness has disappeared because of light pollution!
Before jumping on the solutions for preventing light pollution, it would be a wise decision to first understand that what exactly is light pollution?
What is light pollution?
Just like sound, water and soil pollution, the earth is facing with a new disease called light pollution, which is also known as photo-pollution or luminous pollution.
Light pollution is the undesirable use of artificial light that causes problem such as the alteration of natural light level in the outdoor environment, disruption of the natural habitat, etc. Human and plant health is also affected due to poorly designed lighting systems. Sky glow caused due to discrete sources such as the moon and stars at night is natural and there is no harm due to it. However, light pollution has brightened up the sky to such an extent that if you travel across a technically well-developed city that has huge skyscrapers, you could even read a book sitting on a terrace at night time.
Since the invention of lightbulb and the advancement of electricity, we have been augmenting our skills and developing more and more powerful artificial lighting sources. We have been blindly lighting up the cities and beautifying them with artificial lights without thinking of the consequences. Hence, the results are turning out to be worse today and can worsen up in the future. Light pollution is the adverse effect caused by over and unnecessary use of artificial lights. This pollution has completely disrupted the aesthetic beauty of our environment. The fireflies that used to roam around have silently decreased in number; in fact they have vanished in many places. Light pollution is a major factor in the disappearance of fireflies from our environment.
Light pollution is considered one of the fastest growing pollution by many environmentalists. Excessive outdoor lighting also adds up to this fastest growing pollution as the new bungalows, villas, skyscrapers that are under construction would require lighting systems and people would want to illuminate their homes and office buildings with one of the best and brightest lights available. If two or four lightbulbs could illuminate the whole garden area, people would want to use double that number. These are the small things that we ignore in the present date, but these small things add up to become a major problem.
Sky glow is also caused due to light pollution as mentioned in the second paragraph. Sky glow is caused due to the scattering effect when artificial light reflects back from the clouds and other small water and dust particles in the sky. Due to the over glowing night sky migrating birds have problems in sensing the directions. The newly hatched (on sand) turtles, which need to find their way to the sea, become disoriented due to nearby lights. Environmentalists believe that sea turtles in Florida are endangered due to light pollution as a major contributing factor. Human health is also affected due to sky glow. Many scientists believe that humans need a certain amount of darkness for the best health. Our biological clock gets disrupted due to this.
It is obvious that any form of pollution would disturb ecological balance and an example for this is the disturbance in the lifestyle of nocturnal (only active at night) species. Such species would be unable to live in areas that are always brightened even at night. Many species who are predators would benefit from sky glow as they would be able to observe prey more properly at night. However, that’s again a disadvantage for the prey. Some species correct their direction of migration by perceiving polarized light. Water polarizes light, i.e., changes the direction of light’s oscillation. Insects like dragon flies think of horizontally polarized lights as a source of water and sometimes polarized light coming from other sources are like a sign of water for them that causes major troubles. Light trespassing is also a form a light pollution in which bright light enters one’s property and causes problems. Bright light entering your window from outside and disturbing your sleep exemplifies the same!
10 Ways to reduce light pollution
1. Stay informed about light pollution – The first recommended solution for this problem is to spread awareness about light pollution & its remedies. Many of us don’t even know that light can also cause pollution. It is not that intuitive as well. Therefore, it is the duty of those, who already know and are well aware of light pollution, to spread awareness among people who haven’t heard of it.
2. Use Less Lights – Another easy way to reduce light pollution is to switch off unnecessary lights whenever and wherever possible. Also, the outdoor lights should be switched off when you are about to sleep or you don’t have any work outside your house.
3. Use automatic timers to put off street light at pre-scheduled time – In many places, it has been observed that street lights stay on even in daytime. Hence, automatic timers should be added to street lights so that they turn off automatically at the pre-set time.
4. Use less decorative lighting – Festival seasons consume a lot of lighting. Many people keep the bright lighting on throughout the day and night. The use of such decorative lighting should be lessened. Instead, the use of candles and ‘diyas’ should be encouraged, especially during the festive season.
5. Check & stop using unnecessary daytime lighting – The use of unessential daytime lighting should be checked and prevented. Be it the showrooms, streets, offices or other such places, the natural light sources should be used to fulfill all activities that require brightness.
6. Use of Covered Bulbs & Light Facing Downwards – Street lighting systems should be designed properly in such a way that they do not transfer too much light into the sky. Using covered bulbs and designs with light facing downwards are some of the useful solutions. Such solutions would definitely help reduce the sky glow that is caused due to the light that directly goes straight up into the sky.
7. Take preventive measures wherever possible – To reduce light pollution, preventive measures should be taken wherever possible. For example, the glare-free light should be used wherever possible and vehicles should not be allowed to use lighting systems that have powerful glare.
8. Avoid light trespassing- It should be ensured that outdoor light does not enter residential houses through windows. For example, if you want to light your garden, then make sure that your garden lighting does not enter your neighbor’s house in such a way that they get annoyed with it. Use lighting systems that do not glare at your neighbor’s window.
9. Use motion and occupancy sensors to turn off lights when not in use – Using motion & occupancy sensors at places like malls, parking areas, parks, etc., will help switch off lights automatically when not in use.
10. Better alternatives to light houses, cruises & ships – Light houses are used for navigational purposes for ships and boats. They emit powerful light to guide the ships. Using such powerful lights directly affects the habitat of marine organisms. Therefore, scientists should check on this issue as well and should find better alternatives for guiding the ships.
Taking preventive measures to decrease light pollution does not mean living in the dark! Actually, these measures should be followed to make lighting more resourceful, valuable and favorable!