Reducing Light Pollution

Light pollution is the unnatural brightening of the night sky caused by street lights and other man-made sources.

Reducing Light Pollution is for the Birds. Light pollution is the unnatural brightening of the night sky caused by street lights and other man-made sources. Image: Pixabay

Reducing light pollution is an increasingly important consideration in the world. Light pollution is the unnatural brightening of the night sky caused by street lights and other man-made sources. Artificial lighting can negatively affect natural cycles and inhibit observing stars and planets. Light pollution can also interfere with some animals’ natural sleep cycles. Some nocturnal creatures, such as bats and owls, can have difficulty finding food, attracting mates or staying safe from predators due to light pollution.

Reducing Light Pollution is for the Birds

Many migratory birds rely on natural light cues to help them navigate on their journey. Bright unnatural lights can throw them off course, leading to disorientation, exhaustion and even death. Almost 365 to 988 million birds die yearly from collisions with buildings caused by light pollution. Reducing light pollution in migratory bird flyways will help reduce this number.

Reducing light pollution is also important to human health as it can disrupt natural sleep patterns and circadian rhythms. The disruption from the artificial light interferes with the body’s melatonin, leading to insomnia, fatigue, and other health issues such as cancer and diabetes. Light pollution also means increased energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions and can contribute to the urban heat island effect. This can lead to greater energy use for cooling and increased air pollution.

But it isn’t all bad news. We can do quite a few things to reduce light pollution around the world. Worldwide events such as Earth Hour was created as a “lights off” movement to show our collective support for the planet. Citizens from across the world turn off their lights for an hour in support. Many landmarks have also taken part in Earth Hour over the years. In 2018, 17,900 landmarks participated in Earth Hour simply by turning off their lights.

During spring and fall migration, when birds are passing through the US, the BirdCast team has joined a growing international Lights Outs effort which includes over 30 cities in North America. These efforts include encouraging measures to make buildings and homes more bird-friendly and providing people tips on reducing light pollution and energy consumption during migration periods to help eliminate hazards for the birds.

Some other things we can do all year to minimize light pollution include:

  • Using only the light that you need. Consider installing motion detectors and timers or switching to dimmer bulbs/LEDS. This will help you in reducing light pollution and cut down on your energy costs.
  • Installing lights that focus downwards instead of outwards which will reduce light spillover.
  • Using lighting only where it is required. The more shielded the light is, the less light you will have reaching the sky.
  • Turning off exterior lights when they are not required.
  • Lighting only areas that need light, such as sidewalks, doorways and other high-traffic parts of your property, creates dark areas to reduce light pollution.
  • Choosing light colours other than white which will provide better visibility for animals travelling at night. These animals often look for the moon or stars for guidance, so you’re best to avoid lights that look like these features.

We depend on light for everyday use, but there is such a thing as too much light. As mentioned, excessive artificial light can harm animals and humans. Do your best to reduce your light consumption and help us reduce light pollution across the world.

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