Credit: P. Cinzano, F. Falchi (University of Padova), C. D. Elvidge (NOAA National Geophysical Data Center, Boulder). Copyright Royal Astronomical Society.
Dark nights: the global effort to tackle light pollution
31st August, 2010
The energy, financial and health costs of lighting up our homes and streets could be saved through better lighting and an end to wasteful illuminations
Darkness reigned at night until 200 years ago, when English inventors discovered how to make electrified carbon glow. The invention of the light bulb loosened the grip of darkness, gradually illuminating our world after sundown.
Now, bright billboards, stadiums, parking lots, roadways and buildings cast a collective glow into our atmosphere, and offer enough ambient light to make land visible from space at night.
But with all of our modern technology allowing us brighter evenings, we pay a price: artificially lightened nights change our environment in many ways, including disrupted ecological dynamics and an obscured landscape.
Living in around-the-clock light can harm our health, too: scientists are associating artificial illumination at night with breast cancer. Diminishing dark skies also means cultural loss - constellations are a part of our heritage, and astronomers depend on darkened skies to study our universe.
In a practical sense, light pollution wastes energy - and fossil fuels - as well as money, including taxpayers' money.
Like global warming, light pollution extends to the far reaches of the globe and affects us all. And, as with our attempts to...
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