in Environmental, Social commentary

Light Pollution

Happy 2009, the International Year of Astronomy!

A new form of pollution has been brought to my attention in the newest issue of the journal Nature, which highlights the International Year of Astronomy. Light pollution. At first this seemed like some wacko idea brought up by astronomers to drawn attention to their discipline. But after reading an article by Malcom Smith, I’ve started to think a bit more of this idea.

Smith’s article discusses the excessive amount of light emitted by cities at night via empty sky scrapers, street lights, etc. Did you know 1/5 of the earth’s population can’t see the Milky Way because of light pollution? Two thirds of us in North America are denied this sight. Light pollution can also interfere with bird migration patterns. Migrating is not easy, we really shouldn’t make it harder on those poor birds. There was also a potential connection mentioned in the article between light/dark cycles and our bodies ability to ward off cancer (this requires more research, but it sure gets you thinking!).

So another totally unexpected (by me anyway) reason to turn off the lights.

So if you happen to be the CEO of a business that’s in a sky scraper, or a city planner, or a mayor, or something of that sort, think about putting some policies in place to prevent excess light pollution. It probably will only save you money in the end. And if you’re not, turn off your own lights. Maybe go to bed a little earlier. If you’re watching TV, do you really need both of those lights on? Or have a romantic dinner over candles. Aw. If you work in one of those aformentioned sky scrapers, talk to the boss man about not leaving lights on at night. Lots of ways for you to celebrate the International Year of Astronomy.

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