Quality of Light Affects Quality of Life
Light pollution affects the lives of people around the world. It comes in a variety of forms and can be a nuisance, wasteful, and harmful. It may be a street light shining in a window, a high energy bill, or the absence of stars in the sky. Light pollution is a growing problem as human populations continue to thrive, land is increasingly developed, and Earth’s precious resources are consumed. In order to reduce current levels of light pollution and to keep the problem from escalating out of control, action must take place.
Common consequences of light pollution have been named, defined, and are now synonymous with the term “light pollution”. Light trespass occurs when a neighbor’s lighting crosses property lines. Skyglow is the light seen in the sky even on the clearest of nights, blocking the view of the stars. Glare is one of the most common problems caused by bright and poorly aimed light, resulting in discomfort of the eyes. Quantifying these terms and researching at which points they become problematic will play an important role in creating and enforcing light related laws.
Light pollution does not just cause inconvenience, it can cause physical illness. Many people, especially those that live in apartments, dorms, or other large housing units, are unable to sleep in complete darkness. Bright lights that are poorly aimed can enter the windows of bedrooms, even through curtains. This results in reduced production of melatonin, a hormone generated in darkness that is responsible for feelings of alertness and sleepiness. Current research on melatonin is testing possible benefits of the hormone such as reducing the risk of cancer. In addition, lack of sleep can cause headaches, moodiness, susceptibility to disease, and many other unpleasant conditions.
The invention of artificial light, and arguably the abuse of it, has disrupted circadian rhythms for many living creatures. Over thousands of years, animals have evolved to take advantage of both the light and dark hours of the day. Only in recent history has artificial light been invented and changed the way humans live. The presence of artificial light is responsible for people working odd-hour shifts, sleeping during the day and staying up at night, spending less time sleeping, and overall disrupting natural circadian rhythms. This leads to poorer sleep quality and quantity. Animals also fall victim to artificial light. The most famous example is that of baby sea turtles. After hatching, sea turtles use the moon light to guide themselves to the ocean. Bright street and home lights confuse the babies and lead them in the wrong direction towards dangerous predators and roads. This problem has become so severe that local communities are being forced to take action to prevent the species from becoming endangered.
Losing sight of the night sky is an unquantifiable loss to mankind. For all of human history, the...