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Light Pollution

What is Light Pollution?

Light pollution is excessive, misdirected or inappropriate outdoor lighting. Too
much of light pollution washes out view of the Universe, result in increase in the
energy consumption, interferes with astronomical research, disrupts ecosystems,
affects the health and safety of humans and wildlife. It may surprise you to know
that light pollution can have as great an impact on the planet as levels of carbon
monoxide and other airborne pollutants.
When most people talk about light pollution they are speaking of all the ways
that man made light is changing the natural lighting of the environment For.
example, all the lights of a city change the way light and dark fall. There is
really no more night there, and plants or animals that are dependent on that
night illumination are compromised. There are other reasons why maintaining
natural light is important too.

Why is maintaining natural light so important?

While science has made great strides in creating ways to illuminate darkness, we
now know that changing the natural light of any environment can
have devastating effects on the plant, animal and natural life. It can even affect
weather in some cases. The natural world is set to respond to the suns patterns
of light. The seasons are a result of the distance of the sun to the Earth. This
creates growing and hibernation seasons that natural life recognizes because
most are photosensitive. The type of light is also a warning as to the climate to
come and can trigger natural protections such as the turning of leaves and the
slowing down of metabolic systems.

What happens to those natural processes when there is light pollution?

When there is too much light, too little light, or the wrong kind of light present it
can disrupt the natural harmonies and metabolic cycles of lifeforms on Earth.
While worrying about whether the ground worm is confused as to whether it is
night or day doesnt seem like an issue, consider that human beings have
metabolic systems that are also highly light dependent. We are as responsive to
light as a plant that turns its bloom towards the sun. In fact, Seasonal Affective
Disorder (SAD) is thought to be caused by a sharp decrease in exposure to
natural light.
Different Types and Sources of Light
There are many different types and sources of light pollution. Light pollution can
mean visible light disruptions from a flooding of too much man-made light (as in
the example of the city lights); it can also mean a lack of light again, city lights
take away a form of natural illumination and replace it with an artificial means;
and it can also mean changes to light that cannot be seen. Light that cannot be
seen is found on the radio-wave spectrum. When people talk about light pollution
they tend to mean one of five specific types:

1. Over-illumination: This is caused by misuse of lights. Lights

that are left on, or even street lamps that arent adjusted for
daylight savings time, can cause millions of barrels of oil to be
wasted. It can have the immediate effect of raising utility costs in
an area as well as disrupting natural sleep patterns.

2. Glare: Glare is a two-fold problem in which lights are reflected

off surrounding surfaces so that the light scatters and causes
vision problems. It doesnt interfere with night vision, but makes
it difficult to identify and place objects.

3. Light clutter: Light clutter is a uniquely man-made issue and

it stems from poor placement design. A cluster of business lights,
or streetlights, can create a contrast illumination that interferes
with night vision and illumination. It can also be strong enough to
throw off the natural nocturnal systems of animals.

4. Sky Glow: This is a term used to refer to the almost dome-like

cover of light to city areas. The light that is escaping from street
lamps, signs, homes and businesses goes up to change the
quality of light in the atmosphere, and it bounces back down to
the city from the atmosphere. It can affect natural growth
patterns, and the ability of planes to navigate at night too.

5. Light Trespass: Not only is this a form of pollution but it is

also a crime in many areas. Light trespass refers to unwanted
light entering someones property. It could be light from a sign
coming into a residential area or any similar circumstance.
Causes of Light Pollution
Light pollution is unique as it is caused by man only. There is no comparable natural form of the

pollution like there is with carbon dioxide. The main causes of light pollution are:

Poor Planning The placement of signage and street lights is

planned by engineers, if they do not take into account the effect
placement has on the surrounding environment they can create
glare, light trespass and light clutter.

Irresponsible use You may love Christmas lights but leaving

them on all night is a form of pollution, as is leaving a room with
the lights still on or setting the timers on streetlamps and not
adjusting the timer for the season. Not actively choosing to
minimize energy waste is a huge source of light pollution.

Overpopulation That is really a zoning issue. Too many

businesses, or too many residences, grouped in one area can
cause light pollution of many kinds.

Effects of Light Pollution

While many people choose to dismiss light pollution as being the price of modern
life, it has serious effects on everything around it.

Animals Lights can attract or repel animals and insects. Most

animal life functions on a diurnal or nocturnal system that is
thrown out of sync by light pollution. This can place entire
species in danger, or attract unwanted species into human areas.

People The wrong kind of light, or too much light has been
proven to have an impact on your health and quality of life. Light
pollution also increases danger to people as it can interfere with
important navigational systems for trains, planes and even
The Earth The Earths ecosystem is dependent on cycles of
natural light. Sky Glow alone can cause a loss in growth
protection as the reflected light off the atmosphere will prevent
the natural UV rays from reaching the Earth. This disrupts growth
and decay cycles that our food, air and water supply is
dependent on.

Solutions for Light Pollution

There are two basic approaches to solving light pollution planning and education.

Planning means more consideration about how areas are zoned and where lights are

placed. It also means changing the types of lights used within the home, signs

and streetlamps to more efficient bulbs, and with a light output that is not so

disruptive. Education is also key. The more people understand the importance of

turning off lights to conserve energy and reduce light pollution the faster change will

be seen.