Humankind’s electrical illumination of the earth can be seen from outer space. While the effect is stunning and beautiful, there is a growing movement toward lessening artificial lighting. Called “light pollution,” the excessive use of electrical lighting is said to have a significant environmental impact. Here are some reasons why some people are concerned about light pollution.
Electricity from “the grid” is produced by the burning of fossil fuels, usually coal. The heat from the burning fuel is used to heat water. As the water heats, it produces steam, and the steam is channeled into a generator. The force of the steam turns a turbine in the generator, making – or generating – electricity.
Remember those smoke stacks? At large electric plants, the smoke from the burning coal is sent up and out via smoke stacks. This sends large quantities of carbon dioxide and other harmful emissions (greenhouse gases) into the atmosphere.
While technology is improving in this regard – progressive electric companies are installing filters in their smoke stacks to reduce the harmful elements of the emissions – there are other issues with burning large quantities of fossil fuels. For one thing, fossil fuels cannot last forever. Another issue is the danger posed to coal miners who harvest the coal. Yet another concern is the damage done to the environment as a result of some forms of mining.
Animals can not distinguish between natural and artificial lights. Wildlife that uses the moon as a navigational beacon can get confused, often with fatal consequences. Anyone who has watched a moth flit around a light bulb has seen this effect in action. Sea turtles are particularly vulnerable to this kind of lunar confusion.
When large numbers of lights are directed upward and/or outward, an effect known as “sky glow” occurs. Have you ever tried to view a meteor shower or constellations near a city or even a small town? You can’t – the sky emits a continual glow that obscures your view of the stars and other celestial bodies. To get a good view, you have to travel to a remote area where the sky is genuinely dark.
This continual glow may have effects on human and animal biorhythms. Studies on animals, particularly reptiles, show that the pineal gland responds to the regular rhythm of light and dark. If this rhythm is disrupted, reproductive capabilities are compromised.
Interestingly, while it has not been studied extensively in people, human sensitivity to night lighting may also have an effect on fertility. According to an observational study over more than 25 years, women who had trouble with infertility found that their fertility improved upon eliminating all light sources from their bedroom at night, including digital clock faces.
The regular rhythm between light and dark, day and night, is ingrained in the bodies of earth’s inhabitants. Changing a rhythm that fundamental must have some sort of effect.
We hope Earth light pollution an explanation has enlightened you!