Have you ever looked up at the sky during the night and wondered where all the stars were? In any city in America it is hard to even tell there were ever stars at all. We have become so used to lights being on all night that hardly any of us ever question the effects it has on the world and its environment.
For this blog I decided to focus on the light bulb and the affect that this artificial light is having on our world. From as early as ancient Greece street lamps have been used. However, in the past few hundred years it has become increasingly worse with the invention of electricity.
In 1792 the gas lamp was invented. This allowed people to do more activities in the middle of the night. Quickly after the invention of the gas lamp streets in both England and the United States were lit up at all hours of the night. However, gas lights were not very favorable for various reasons. It caused fire and the smell of gas wasn’t very pleasant. When the light bulb was invented in the 1870s more and more streets were lighten up. It was safer and eliminated the smell of gas. People could walk the streets and drive their cars as late as they wanted. Eventually all homes were using artificial light at any given hour.
Over a hundred years later, I think people have finally taken it too far. Today when you walk down the street at any time of the night it is most likely lighten up by artificial light. In fact, 22% of all energy generated in the U.S. is used for lighting, with 8% of that used for public outdoor lighting, according to the International Dark-Sky Association. This over usage of lighting has caused light pollution all over the world and is something that can severely hurt it.
Light pollution can have enormous negative effects on the world that many people do not know about or even care to think about. According to the International Dark-Sky Association again light is excessive and inap¬propriate artificial light. It is an increasing problem which threatens “astronomical facilities, ecologically sensitive habitats, all wildlife, our energy use as well as our human heritage.”
There are four components of light pollution which are sky glow (the brightening of the night sky over inhabited areas), light trespass (light falling where it is not intended, wanted, or needed), glare (excessive brightness which causes visual discomfort) and clutter (bright, confusing, and excessive group¬ings of light sources, commonly found in over-lit urban areas). Ibid.
In this post I wanted to mainly focus on the effects the light bulb has had on ecosystems. Insects cluster around outdoor lights. One website claims that on average one street light can kill about 150 insects a night meaning 54,750 insects are killed by on street light a year. Think about how many street lights there are in cities and imagine how many insects are being killed a night, a week, or even a year. Even though many of you might think that insects are insignificant and are just an annoyance, the death of insects greatly affects other living things on this planet. Many birds rely on insects for protein. Lizards, frogs and bats also need insects for their food and if there is a shortage of insects then these animals will starve to death.
Birds are affected more than just by their source of protein. National Geographic states that some birds, like blackbirds and nightingales, are singing at unnatural hours because of artificial light. Artificial light has also encouraged early breeding for some birds which can in turn harm of the unborn birds. In addition, longer days made possible by light, have allowed for longer feeding and this affects migration schedules. Migration is an exactly timed biological behavior. This means that leaving early can affect the condition for nesting.
Nesting sea turtles have also been affected. Typically, female sea turtles nest on quiet dark beaches but because of the use of artificial light this has become harder and harder to find. If the female turtle cannot find a place to nest then she will nest in the ocean and it limits the chance of survival for the hatchling. Lighting can also affect the hatchling after it has hatched. Hatchlings are supposed to move toward the bright sea horizon (because of the moon’s reflection) but because of the light they become disoriented and walk inland where they can die from dehydration or predators. Some can even be run over by cars or drawn in swimming pools near the beaches.
Insects, bats, birds and turtles are not the only living things affected by light pollution. There are numerous such as toads, fish, trees and many more we do not know about yet. Even more, there have been studies done that shows that this light can even hurt humans in various ways such as causing anxiety problems.
Obviously something needs to change in order to keep our animals alive and ourselves healthy. However, I doubt many people will be willing to stop using street lights and use less of the lights within their homes. I think for many people if don’t see the immediate consequences they don’t care enough to fix the problem. Hopefully we can limit the amount of street lights there are currently or change the type of lighting that streets have. Beaches were sea turtles are known to nest should ban the use of artificial light at night during nesting season.
How does the future of the world look? Does it look as bright as it does at one a.m. in New York City or Los Angeles? Do you think you could do without your street lights to save the future of the ecosystem? Or do you believe you need the artificial light to survive even if it can hurt animals and trees?