Anna Lang

United States

Boston, MA

Destroying Stars- Light Pollution

October 19, 2015

 I imagine the the first light humans ever saw at night were the stars. Million of diamonds spilled across black velvet, tumbling through thick strands of iridescent colors. A century later, I stand in the same spot as my ancestors and see a dirty brown cast over the sky. It is ironic that in man's feverish race to light the night, we have destroyed the gift nature had given to us- the stars. I had no idea that as a child, when I sang those words: twinkle twinkle little star, how I wonder what you are- that in maybe a decade they would be irrelevant.

Light pollution is simply described as articial or unnatrual light, usually in outdoor areas. There are four major types of light pollution. Glare is when a sudden bright ray of light is cast, which poses a danger to both humans and animals. Skyglow is the reason why the stars are disappearing. The enormous amount of light from nearby cities reflects into the sky, impacting both within and around the city. Only one and four people have ever a seen a pristine, night sky within their entire lives. Light trepass could be described as wasteful lighting. When light floods into areas where it is unwanted, it is described as trespassing. Clutter is the last type of light, when an unneccessary amount of light is installed together in a confusing manner. Light pollution is not just about seeing the stars- it poses a plethora of serious problems that are all too often overlooked.

The first adverse effect of light pollution is towards humans. Light when sleeping can stop natural body cycles from happening that are crucial to life. A chemical known as melatonin is produced during darkness, and without it, fatigue, stress and even cancer can set in. Unwanted light can also throw off one's biological clock, also producing unwanted stress. The trouble is, light is hardly seen as  a problem when one is trying to get a better night's sleep. Instead of a new mattress, try turning off the phone and blocking all source of light. Glare, or that quick moment of shock and blindness when light shoots out, can cause accidents especially among older citizens. Many driving accidents are caused from glare.

Secondly, 68% of the organisms in this world are nocturnal. 68% of the organisms in this world depend on darkness, and with every streetlamp light is burning away an animal's life.  Light pollution can confuse animals- many do not know when to or how to eat, migrate or even see.  Baby sea turtles are drawn to street lamps instead of the sea, which leads to death and a drastic decline of their populations. Many bird species use the stars as a map during migration. Without them, millions of birds die every year from crashing into urban landscapes or from starvation cause from being pulled off course. The simple act of turning on the light tears the very fabric of an animal's life. 

Lastly, the amount of greenhouse gasses produced by light pollution is a staggering 21 million tons of carbon dioxide is released into the sky, melting holes in the ozone layer and creating unpredictable and dangerous  weather patterns. By striding to quench our insatiable want to turn night into day, we are literally destroying the world.

But the brightest light within this world is the tangible solutions to every one of these problems. Every single word can be erased by a minute of your time. Turn off outdoor lights during the night, and turn off any other lights that are not in use. Especially now, with energy efficient lightbulbs and LEDs, light sources are much more efficient and produce less carbon dioxide. With such a great alternative, switching the lights within your home could also reduce the carbon footprint, as well as the amount of money on your electricity bill. Many times, countries produce so much light that they do not need. By shielding lights, or directing them where they are meant for, nearly half of the lights could be eliminated. Many times, unshielded lights simply throw light into the sky without any real effect on what they're supposed to illuminate. 

Light pollution is as much of a pollutant as chemicals or litter. With such accessible and easy ways to fix this problem, and with the added benefits of saving money, the day that when we look up and see the stars should be so close. I can feel it already- my children and my children's children and the animals of this world, stopping for stolen minutes to gaze at the free, breathtaking beauty of the starry sky. 


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  • October 19, 2015 - 10:33pm (Now Viewing)

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