Causes and consequences of light pollution

SOURCE: FREEPIK – View of the city of Madrid

Light pollution is the alteration of nocturnal darkness by artificial light sources which cause the brightness in the night sky to increase.

the lights have become an almost indispensable symbol of the Christmasgiven that the light pollution they produce continues to be a serious problem for our planet. During the celebration of these festivities, despite the replacement of traditional light bulbs by LED lights in recent years, cities around the world adorn themselves with lights of all kinds, even going so far as to compete between the different cities of the national territory to see which has the best lighting.

In the case of Spain, the Christmas illumination in the city of Vigo is very famous due to the waste of energy caused during the celebration of these festivities. Although it may seem to many people a sight to visit, many residents of the city of Vigo have spoken out against this situation. They claim to have the feeling of being in a theme park, because of the noise produced by these Christmas attractions, in addition to the waste of energy and the enormous light pollution they cause in the night sky.


What are the causes of light pollution?

The electric energy It is an indispensable element in our daily life. Light pollution is a serious problem that affects the whole planet, especially cities, due to the large amount of light that is wasted.

Federico de la Paz Gómez, technical manager of the Sky Quality Protection Office of the Instituto de Astrofísica de Canarias (IAC), says the following:

Electricity has become essential, but it is clear that more light does not always mean better lighting.Federico de la Paz Gomez

The main causes of light pollution are:

  • The main cause of light pollution is poor quality of city lighting. The vast majority of streetlights emit light skyward, while they should emit light downwards and to the sides to be most effective.
  • Excessive power used in artificial city lights is a huge waste of energy.
  • Reduced visibility of celestial bodies in the night sky, as they cannot be seen clearly due to the effects of light pollution.
  • The lack of regulation of an effective schedule for switching on and off street lights and monuments in cities.
  • Laser cannons or searchlights are great light sources that illuminate cities.
  • Big cities waste a lot of energy through excessive street lighting that they use for advertising purposes.
  • The effects caused by light pollution do not only spread in cities, but its consequences spread through the atmosphere.
SOURCE: FREEPIK – Aerial view of Barcelona

What are the consequences of light pollution?

Light pollution has very serious consequences for the animals and human beings that inhabit the planet. Additionally, the luminosity observed in the night sky caused by inefficient lighting has consequences in the atmosphere, leaving its mark millions of miles from its origin.

The main consequences of light pollution are:

  • The main consequence of light pollution is the wasted energy. This happens when a huge waste of energy is generated in public lighting in cities. Moreover, it increases our carbon footprint and accelerates climate change on the planet.
  • It has very negative effects on biodiversity of the Earth, since sunlight and darkness are essential for the development of the fauna and flora that inhabit our planet. When artificial lights illuminate the night sky, a serious disturbance occurs that prevents the proper development of nature. Migratory birds are disoriented due to light pollution in cities, in addition to altering the life cycle of nocturnal animals and negatively influencing the natural growth of plants.
  • In humans, light pollution can cause alteration of the biological clock, since sleep is affected by lack of darkness. In addition, it causes the modification of the biorhythms of the organism such as hormonal imbalances and intense headaches such as migraine, as well as anxiety or fatigue, among other factors.
  • Great wasted energy it causes generates huge amounts of waste during its production, thus contributing to the acceleration of climate change.
  • serious events glare, very dangerous for drivers, have a very negative effect on road safety in the city. In addition, air traffic and maritime traffic are hampered.

What are the solutions to stop it?

Poor lighting is that which is produced inefficiently, throwing large amounts of light into the night sky, causing glare in animals and humans that severely affects their natural cycle.

Therefore, good lighting is one that is produced efficiently. As we mentioned earlier, effective lighting takes place when the light is directed down and to the sides, as it is uniform and does not cause glare.

The main solutions to stop light pollution are:

  • Change the orientation of the streetlights by illuminating only the areas that require lighting, always directing the light sources towards the ground.
  • Approve regional legislation that regulates lighting in cities to prevent light pollution, improve energy savings and efficiency.
  • Prohibit laser cannons or searchlights that emit large amounts of light skyward.
  • Reduce power consumption during low activity hours, such as dawn.
  • Regulate the switching on and off of the lights of city monuments.
  • Use efficient, low-consumption light bulbs to light cities.
  • Use motion sensors so lights only come on when needed, so they don’t stay on all the time.

To find out which cities are the most affected by this type of pollution, Light pollution map it’s a interactive map this allows us to check which territories are most affected by light pollution and in which we can continue to enjoy starry nights.

What should our goal be?

The main objective that we must achieve is that the sky becomes darker again, taking advantage of the celestial bodies that can be observed in the night sky if we solve the problems caused by light pollution.

Reducing energy consumption in large cities is a problem that concerns the entire world population. Not only does this help us save light, but it also allows us to contribute our little grain of sand to improve the sustainability of the planet.

Video produced with the kind permission of Ecología Verde.

Fountain: Ambientum writing

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