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An Overview of Light Pollution

Light pollution is also commonly referred to as luminous pollution, or photopollution, and is defined as excessive or obtrusive, misdirected, artificial light. Light pollution is a fairly new problem and can lead to a number of negative consequences. It can wash out the starlight from the night sky, disrupt ecosystems, greatly interfere with various types of astronomical research, and can even have adverse health effects. Light pollution also wastes an incredibly large amount of energy. There are three main types of light pollution including skyglow, light trespass, and glare, in addition to clutter and over illumination.

  • Glare - Comes from unshielded lighting and can be a public health hazard.
  • Light Trespass - Comes from unwanted light that intrudes on one's property, for example, light shining into the room of a person trying to sleep.
  • Skyglow - Refers to the glowing effects from lights that can be seen over populated areas. Skyglow is a combination of unshielded light and reflected light.
  • Over Illumination - Simply put, the excessive use of light.
  • Light Clutters - Comes from excessive grouping of lights, for instance,lots of brightly lit advertising in a concentrated area.

Little more than one hundred years ago, it was possible to take a walk at night, even in a city setting, and be able to see the Milky Way galaxy and its thousands of stars. These views inspired countless artists including writers, and composers among others, but with the introduction of artificial lights, the views that inspired these artists began to be washed out. With over half of the world's population living in cities, it is believed that three out of four people have never seen a true, dark night sky. Many people are not even aware of the issue of light pollution and its effects on the planet and it's inhabitants.

Light Pollution Effects

Lighting is believed to be responsible for more than a quarter of all electricity consumption throughout the world. Not using lighting responsibly can lead to a huge waste of energy in both carbon footprint, and cost. Light pollution can also have a negative effect on ecosystems. In particular, light pollution poses a serious risk to nocturnal wildlife, and impacts both animal and plant physiology. Light pollution can disrupt the migratory patterns of animals, change relations between predator and prey, and disrupt the competitive interactions of animals. Humans as well as other animals are dependent on their natural body cycles, known as circadian rhythms, and melatonin production, which are regulated by night and day. When humans are exposed to light during the natural sleep cycle, their production of melatonin can be suppressed. This can lead to health issues such as sleep disorders, stress, increased headaches, and other such problems.

Reducing Light Pollution

While the use of lighting throughout the world is incredibly important for countless reasons, there are things that can be done to reduce light pollution, and use lighting more responsibly. To reduce light pollution, there are a number of steps that can be taken.

  • Adjust the type of lighting be used. Consider switching to bulbs that cause less light pollution both indoors and outdoors.
  • Redesign lighting plans and adjust lighting fixtures to determine which areas actually need to be lighted in order to reduce energy use.
  • Use a timer or occupancy sensor so that lights are only on when necessary.
  • Petition your town or city to update their lighting to reduce pollution.

With some of the steps listed above, it is possible to start to reduce light pollution and in turn the issues that can be caused by it. Cutting down on light pollution will help stop the change of ecosystems, in addition to not causing issues with human's and animal's natural circadian rhythms. As well as reducing health issues, reducing light pollution will allow people that have never seen the true night sky to experience it's magnificent beauty.

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