“When it is dark enough, you can see the stars.”
― Ralph Waldo Emerson
On a clear night, as I look up to the night sky and count my blessings, I take for granted the hundreds of stars twinkling above me. When I get away to Vermont, I am even more amazed by the night sky. Why is it that in Vermont the stars are so much brighter and bountiful? Perhaps you know the answer, it is simple. The sky is darker and so the stars show up better. And the reason the sky is darker is because there is less artificial light in Vermont. This phenomenon describes what is known as light pollution. According to the Oxford dictionary, light pollution is “the brightening of the night sky caused by street lights and other man-made sources, which has a disruptive effect on natural cycles and inhibits the observation of stars and planet.
Think about it… Plants and animals have lived on earth for millions of years before the introduction of artificial light. The first light bulb was invented in 1802 and Thomas Edison patented his light bulb in 1879 which led to commercial manufacturing of the common light bulb. A mere 140 years ago. Before that, light and dark revolved around the 24 hour cycle of day and night. The circadian rhythm is based on this 24 hour cycle which all plants and animals use to maintain health and regulate their sleep/wake cycle.
New research suggests that light at night may interfere with normal circadian rhythms resulting in health and mental health problems. Lack of sleep is a well-known cause of many poor health issues. While research is still ongoing, it is becoming apparent that both light days and dark nights are necessary to maintain healthy hormone production, cell function, and brain activity, as well as normal feeding, mating, and migratory behavior for humans and other species as well. Wildlife is negatively impacted by light pollution, from newly hatched sea turtles to migrating birds, fish, frogs, salamanders, and lightning bugs, artificial night lighting disrupts the cycles of nocturnal creatures in potentially devastating ways.
The good news is that we can make a difference in the proliferation of light pollution. The first step is to acknowledge the problem and bring awareness. Of course we live in the reality of an industrial civilization. I am not suggesting we all turn our lights out at night. But there are things we can do to help. I myself am just beginning to learn more about light pollution. Below are some great resources that I have personally found to be very helpful in understanding the dangers of light pollution.
International Dark-Sky Association (IDA) – “IDA is the recognized authority on light pollution. Founded in 1988, IDA is the first organization to call attention to the hazards of light pollution, and in 22 years of operation our accomplishments have been tremendous. We promote one simple idea: light what you need, when you need it.”
Starry Night Lights – “Starry Night Lights is committed to fighting light pollution and restoring our heritage of star-filled skies. We offer the widest selection of night sky friendly outdoor lighting for your home or business.”
GLOBE at Night – “The GLOBE at Night program is an international citizen-science campaign to raise public awareness of the impact of light pollution by inviting citizen-scientists to measure their night sky brightness and submit their observations to a website from a computer or smart phone.”
Melissa Blundon, CANP, AOLCP
Madison Earth Care | Phone: 203-421-4358