I confess, I’ve never quite seen what the complaint was here:
A study of pictures of Earth by night has revealed that artificial light is growing brighter and more extensive every year.
Between 2012 and 2016, the planet’s artificially lit outdoor area grew by more than 2% per year.
Scientists say a “loss of night” in many countries is having negative consequences for “flora, fauna, and human well-being”.
The only downside I can see about light pollution is that you can’t see the night sky, which is admittedly very pretty. If this is a cost of living in a big city, being able to see where you’re going, and avoiding being mugged or assaulted, then it’s a small one. If it means that much to you, or any other stargazer, you have options: go and live in mid-Wales, or drive to Scotland or Bodmin Moor. Or take a job on Sakhalin: the visibility of the night sky there was often spectacular, particularly when we went camping way out of town.
It showed that changes in brightness over time varied greatly by country. Some of the world’s “brightest nations”, such as the US and Spain, remained the same. Most nations in South America, Africa and Asia grew brighter.
Yes, they’re getting richer and people generally don’t like having to go to bed at sundown or remain indoors. Africa is still mostly in darkness, as is North Korea (famously). This is not generally considered a good thing.
The nocturnal satellite images – of glowing coastlines and spider-like city networks – look quite beautiful but artificial lighting has unintended consequences for human health and the environment.
In 2016, the American Medical Association officially recognised the “detrimental effects of poorly designed, high-intensity LED lighting”, saying it encouraged communities to “minimise and control blue-rich environmental lighting by using the lowest emission of blue light possible to reduce glare. The sleep-inducing hormone melatonin is particularly sensitive to blue light.
What’s this got to do with overall levels of outdoor lighting?
A recent study published in the journal Nature revealed that artificial light was a threat to crop pollination – reducing the pollinating activity of nocturnal insects.
That explains the reduced yields in inner-city wheat fields.
Research in the UK revealed that trees in more brightly lit areas burst their buds up to a week earlier than those in areas without artificial lighting.
Causing children to die of surprise.
A study published earlier this year found that urban light installations “dramatically altered” the behaviour of nocturnally migrating birds.
The BBC didn’t even bother linking to this one or naming the study. Which is a shame, because I was curious as to where these birds were ending up.
Prof Kevin Gaston from the University of Exeter told BBC News that humans were “imposing abnormal light regimes on ourselves”.
We’d much rather blunder around in the dark, we just don’t know it.
“You now struggle to find anywhere in Europe with a natural night sky – without that skyglow we’re all familiar with.”
Bollocks. Drive into the middle of France, or up into the Alps.
“For light, it’s just a case of directing it where we need it and not wasting it where we don’t.”
Presumably this chap thinks lighting is something just thrown up willy-nilly with barely any thought.
Dr Kyba said that we could make our urban areas much dimmer and not actually cause any problems for visibility.
“Human vision relies on contrast, not the amount of light,” he explained.
Something hithero unknown to those who make their living in the multi-billion dollar global lighting industry: they’ve been doing it wrong all these years.
If we’re reduced to complaining about light pollution, we’ve solved the big issues facing mankind, haven’t we?