Illuminating trouble

The phrase, ‘You light up my life’, has been romanticized to such an extent that we often forget that too much of anything is bad for us and too much light can get toxic.

Across cultures, light has always been a symbol of understanding, intellectual thought, righteousness and almost every other positive thing. Whereas darkness has been symbolic for frightening, sinister and things we cannot understand. But as a wise person once said, “Anything in excess is a toxin” (yes, excessive lights too can be harmful). The sky that we see is very different from what it looked a century ago. This is due to a phenomenon called ‘light pollution’ yes you heard it right, light pollution. Light pollution means 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 planets. This might not seem like a big problem until you read its effects. Light pollution has a serious impact on the ecosystem, from interfering in reproductive cycles of fireflies to attracting moths, lights have caused a significant reduction in the insect population. Turtle hatchlings have an instinctive behaviour to follow the brightest light, which is generally the moon reflecting off the ocean, but due to our bright lights near coasts, hatchlings get disoriented and move towards city lights which makes them more susceptible to predators, road accidents dehydration and a number of other threats. But we don’t seem to care about it most earthlings so let’s talk about something (I hope) we do care about. Our bodies are designed to induce sleep after the onset of darkness, unnecessary lights can interrupt our natural sleep cycles and metabolism negatively affecting sleep quality, which can have prolonged negative impacts like depression, insomnia, cardiovascular problems to name a few. Glare from bad lighting leads to unsafe driving conditions, particularly for older motorists. But one of the biggest problems that can be linked to light pollution is also climate change, it ultimately requires fossil fuel to keep our lights switched on and millions of such lights are in use every day burning fossil fuels and releasing tons of carbon into the atmosphere every hour of unnecessary usage.

But unlike other pollutants, light pollution is reversible and here’s what you can do to help:

1) For starters simply switching off lights that are not in use.

2) For parking lights or outdoor lights, switching to eco-friendly lights with low power consumption can be used.

3) Directing street lamps, outdoor lights to illuminate only required areas and avoid scattering of light towards the sky.

4) Avoid lighting all together in certain places like beaches where sea turtles lay their eggs, jungles, places where fireflies.

5) Reduce the use of festive lighting and also try eco-friendly festive alternatives.

If you wish to do something at a larger level

6) Installing motion sensor streetlights, housing society/complex lights.

7) And now the two most important things you should do

● Learn about the problems our actions might be causing, and how to solve them.

● Inform others of the same and spread awareness regarding the same.

Small changes in our everyday life can have a major impact if done collectively, so let’s take a step and motivate others to do the same.

Kayden Anthony

Programme Assistant