In the past, anyone in the world could enjoy the night sky in all its glory. Stargazing was a common practice, and thousands of stars could be seen every night. Around the beginning of the twentieth century, cities began utilizing electric lights excessively. As a result, the night sky no longer resembled a night sky. Instead, the sky became illuminated, inhibiting views of distant stars or planets, and interfering with natural cycles.
Light pollution has adverse effects on all lifeforms as organisms need the daily light-dark cycle for essential processes like mating, sleeping and eating. When true night-time darkness is interrupted by artificial light, organisms no longer can feel the light-dark cycles that they desperately need to function.
When true night-time darkness is interrupted by artificial light, organisms no longer can feel the light-dark cycles that they desperately need to function.
The presence of artificial light during the time that is supposed to be filled with natural darkness will obviously throw off natural cycles of all organisms because their biological clock is compromised.
Humans also experience the negative effects of light pollution: not only are stars no longer visible, but health is affected, as well. When there is a lack of natural darkness in one’s schedule, symptoms can include depression, diabetes, obesity or even breast cancer (International Dark-Sky Association).
The biological clock is dependent on the hormone melatonin, which is inhibited after exposure to excessive artificial light. This causes hormonal imbalance that can lead to the health issues previously listed.
Light pollution also prevents the view of the night sky that has comforted the human race since the beginning of time. Even the earliest humans were greeted every night with thousands of stars above, which provoked thoughts of a human’s place in the universe.
Without the night sky, our ancestors may never have advanced our knowledge of the universe as well as our own planet. Through observation of the stars, philosophers proved that Earth was not the center of the universe as was thought before. The stars were also used as navigational tools while sailing before the days of the GPS. The use of stars for navigational purposes led to the accurate approximation of the earth’s size and shape.
The presence of a night sky was a constant reminder that there was something more than just this planet; there was a whole universe that was filled with the unknown that could unlock the answers to questions asked for millions of years.
The presence of a night sky was a constant reminder that there was something more than just this planet; there was a whole universe that was filled with the unknown that could unlock the answers to questions asked for millions of years. Today, this interest in astronomy and the search for answers is less prevalent. There is no constant reminder of a vast, unimaginable world.
Fortunately, light pollution can be reversed by a demanding population. By closing shades at night, using lights with timers, and drawing attention to the issue, anyone can make a change to inspire a darker night. Speaking with representatives at both the city and state level can make an impact as well, seeing as street lights provide light that is unnecessary and wasteful.
The night sky can be brought back if humanity cares enough to fix the problem. Like all types of pollution, light pollution brings damage to the human population and many ecosystems. Unlike many types of pollution, light pollution can be reversed.
Photo courtesy of Science Alert